Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mayor's Media Machine in Overdrive Ahead of More Liverpool Cuts

Labour mayor Joe Anderson is denying all responsibility for his cuts
Labour mayor Joe Anderson is currently running scared of the people of Liverpool, ahead of a fourth round of massive cuts to the city's budget on his watch. Since before Christmas, the council has been pumping out stats and charts, in a "campaign" designed to show that yet more devastation is necessary, and trying to pin full blame on the Tories. This misinformation has now reached fever pitch, with the Trinity Mirror-owned and Labour-supporting Liverpool Echo doing its best to let Labour off the hook, and prepare the ground for more acts of fiscal vandalism.

Last year, Anderson and Labour passed the following measures in their March budget:
  • The closure of more than half the city's libraries
  • Withdrawal of funding for housing "socially excluded" people at risk of homelessness
  • Youth and play services turned over to volunteers
  • School uniform grants eliminated
  • Sale of four nurseries
  • Sale of council centre providing short breaks for disabled children
  • Rubbish collections halved in many areas of the city
  • Closure of two municipal golf courses
  • Rise in council tax charges, with abolition of exemptions for many of the poorest
In the run up to this, Anderson had felt pressure from members of the public at a number of events. In early January, protesters had tarred him with the same brush as David Cameron, when he met the prime minister to launch a business festival. A few weeks later, the council chamber was briefly occupied at the same time as Anderson was holding a "fair austerity" conference, and he had to rush back to confront the occupiers, before calling the police on them. Then over the next month or so, protests grew outside the town hall as councillors met to discuss cuts. This culminated in a stormy demo on the day councillors voted the budget through, which prompted Anderson to tweet his "support" for the demonstrators, many of whom had come from feeder marches in different parts of the city, and stretched far beyond the longstanding activist base.

By the looks of things, Anderson is fearing even greater hostility - and possibly active resistance - this time around. That seem the only way of explaining the barrage of Twitter infographics such as this one, explaining that, well...they haven't got much money, and therefore 'must' make "#toughchoices". And over the last week, the Labour cheerleaders in the Liverpool Echo has given Anderson's team space to make his case for "balancing the books" by "saving" £156 million.

This effort started at the end of last week, with a manufactured row between Cameron and Anderson - whose positions on local council funding have remained unchanged for years now - across the Echo's pages. Yesterday, amidst talk of halving 'discretionary' spending, and cutting mandatory services by a quarter, Anderson told the paper:
"I know people will be worried about how they may be affected, and the truth is it will impact on every service in the city. The stark reality is that it will mean less of absolutely everything, whether it is libraries, leisure centres, children’s centres or social care buildings."
This morning, the Echo quoted council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald threatening the job security, pay and conditions of all 5,500 council employees, before kindly summarising: "The ECHO understands that the council will target the cuts at certain non-essential areas in order to try to protect the most vulnerable."

Before the 5th March budget meeting, the Echo will continue to trumpet Anderson's variations on Thatcher's old famous phrase - 'There is no alternative'. Meanwhile, it's becoming ever more clear that the only alternative to the liquidation of council services must be provided by the local working class, as part of a national and even international struggle.
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