Basildon Council are inviting residents to participate in an online survey to find out their views on spending priorities: Setting a balanced budget for 2019/2020. Which on the surface, may seem to some people to be a good move as the council are consulting with their residents. However, as Basildon Council admit in the preamble to the survey, this exercise is being conducted in the context of a continuing squeeze on council spending. Without actually admitting it, in an age of seemingly permanent austerity, to all intents and purposes the council are seeking the views of residents on where the axe should fall on spending.

As we’ve written before, local authorities are charged with the task of delivering the government’s ongoing austerity agenda. A Tory run authority such as Basildon isn’t going to admit that outright as they fear being punished at the next local elections. However, even if Labour gained control next May, they would still find themselves having to do the dirty work of delivering austerity because that’s the way the system of local governance is set up. Whoever ends up running the council, they will find themselves having to deliver the government’s agenda.

Should residents refuse to do the survey? To be honest, it’s not our place to tell residents what they should and shouldn’t do. If they feel that filling in the survey gives them some kind of say in the way things work, that’s their choice. All we say is that anyone participating in this survey needs to be fully aware that it’s about helping the council to decide where the wield the axe and they shouldn’t be under any illusions about it’s intent.

Lastly, bear in mind that the permanent austerity we’re having to endure is a consequence of having to bail out the banks after the financial crisis of 2008. We’re being made to pay for the excesses of an unsustainable debt based, financialised economic system. It’s time to say we’re not going to suffer this crap any more.