Never has George Osborne's hypocritical catch-line "we are all in this together" sounded more hollow than with the news that 10% of the poorest areas, including my own borough of Hackney, have been hit by cuts that average over 25% of their local authority budget. Meanwhile some of the wealthiest areas have not just avoided the cuts, but have seen their grants rise under this government.
It is perhaps unhelpful to say that the Tories have protected their own. It truly may be a fluke of their new metric that has meant that West Oxfordshire council in Cameron's constituency and Surrey Heath in Gove's, not only avoiding cuts but gaining additional funding. We have all endured years of assurances about 'common sacrifice' and the pious exhortations for the British people to wait just a little while longer for the recovery. So it is disappointing (if not unexpected) to see another sign of the massive disparity between the way in which this cabinet of millionaires treats the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'
It is also important to note that these massive cuts represent a "double whammy' for the areas concerned. Not only will these cuts mean reduced services but they will also mean big job cuts. These are areas where the public sector is the biggest employer, particularly of women. George Osborne claims that the private sector will create jobs to replace the cuts that the public sector is having to make.
But the truth is that the preponderance of new private sector jobs being created in areas like Hackney are part time, agency work and zero hours contracts. Increasingly the labour market in places like London is being hollowed out. Permanent unionised employment is being replaced with casualised employment with no real job security. We used to think that the workforce in London had come a long way from the dockworkers of the early 20th Century, who stood outside the dock gates daily, competing for casual work. But the modern white collar 'consultant' often has no more security than the dockworker of old and equally fears for their future.
These cuts to the poorest areas also exposes the hollowness of the government's claims to be restoring power to local people. The Localism Act of 2011 was trumpeted as a devolution of power away from Whitehall. It was supposed to be an effort to return power to local communities. Obviously is just possible that it might have had precisely that effect under different circumstances. If councils like Hackney had the money, there might have been the possibility for genuine self-determination at a local level. But what has actually happened is that the combination of the "new localism", together with unprecedented cuts to local government funding, merely gives the Tories the excuse to abrogate all responsibility for the declining quality of public services on their watch.
This appears to be the shape of the long-promised recovery that is now going to unfold before our eyes. It will be one in which the majority of people will continue to experience a quality of life and economic circumstance which does not differ wildly from the conditions in which they now find themselves. Meanwhile the higher earners continue to enjoy perks, tax cuts and an overwhelming proportion of economic prosperity when it finally returns. We are returning to the oldest Tory social model in the book - two nations. Cameron's Victorian predecessors would be proud.
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