The government is being devoured by the Brexit monster. Meanwhile the other priorities – social care, housing, local government funding to name but a few – that a functioning executive should be addressing urgently are untouched and becoming more critical by the day, writes Jonathan Carr-West.
Yesterday was the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, though it was rather overshadowed by the rest of what was happening in parliament.
To be fair, the Spring Statement is deliberately positioned as a minor event compared to the main budget in the Autumn and there were some substantive announcements such as free sanitary products in schools and £100m to tackle knife crime.
But the main thrust of the Chancellor’s speech was about the impact of Brexit on the economy and the potential for a £26bn “deal dividend” if MPs vote for a deal.
It’s understandable that with March 29th just over three weeks away Brexit is the main item of discussion but it also serves as a reminder of a non-Brexit to do list for government that gets longer and more urgent with each passing day.
In local government, we still await the social care green paper, we eagerly anticipate (though with decreasing confidence) the Fair Funding Review, clarity on Business Rate Retention and the Comprehensive Spending Review all promised this year.
In broader terms there are questions about productivity, climate change, NHS reform, artificial intelligence, the future of work and housing to name but a few that are being addressed by universities, charities and, dare I say it, by councils but which do not figure at all in the parliamentary circus.
Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum and somewhere, sometime these issues will need to be grappled with. We can only hope it is soon.
Jonathan Carr-West is the LGiU’s Chief Executive.