Saturday, February 08, 2014

Merseyside Councils Cutting Services To The Bone

Labour - hate Tory cuts, prefer their own
Labour-run councils across Merseyside are preparing yet more enormous cuts to their services, whilst pleading that it is all the fault of the Conservatives in central government. By pleading their own powerlessness in the face of austerity, they hope that voters will still turn out for them in the upcoming local elections. However, it seems far more likely that the electorate will consider the Labour-imposed Tory/LibDem cuts as an argument for abstaining altogether.

This week, Liverpool's mayor Joe Anderson outlined the catastrophic cuts he will be making over the next three years. Specifics are still to be decided at the council cabinet on 14th February, before being voted on by the full council on 5th March. But the trailed bullet points are appalling enough:
  • £42m slashed from the Adult Social Care budget over the next three years. This includes a proposal to significantly reduce the number of day centres provided by the council by 2015/16. A formal "consultation" will determine how much can be dumped onto the "voluntary sector" (a meaningless term in the age of workfare).
  • £16m slashed from Children’s Services. This includes a significant reduction in the number of council-run Children’s Centres by 2015/16. Again, some of the rest could be made "voluntary"
  • A £500,000 reduction in spending on library services year on year – in addition to a saving of £1m annual saving agreed last year – which will significantly reduce council-run services in some communities. On top of £1 million cuts agreed last year, this will likely see the number of libraries cut to a quarter of what they were before Anderson's mayoralty.
  • £4m slashed from the budget in the council’s Lifestyle Centres, including the closure of Park Road and Everton Park centres, starting with their swimming facilities.
  • The likely abolition of school road crossing patrols, to be offset by pelican crossings
In line with its backing of Anderson's two month long propaganda drive, the Labour-supporting Liverpool Echo uncritically parroted the mayor's claim that the council "will need to" closure Sure Start centres, as it "grapples with the Tory-led coalition’s cuts".

Anderson presents himself as heartbroken at the suffering he is imposing, and furious with the central government. Indeed, he is preposterously leading a 'rally' against his cuts in May, weeks before the local and European elections. But his argument against opposing the cuts he is making is that the Tories will just send auditors to do the same job. So in that case why not just let them? In reality, his central concern is keeping his own huge salary and perks, and if that means attacking the most vulnerable in society, so be it.

The same is true of Anderson's fellow Labourite counterparts across the region. Wirral council are close to revealing their own "difficult decisions", and will face protests next week. Similarly, council leaders in Labour-dominated Knowsley, Sefton and Halton councils have given no indication they will do anything other than pile on the misery when they set their budgets. This will be fresh in the memory come election time, and Labour are sure to be punished with mass apathy about which colour ties the butchers wear. Meanwhile, the "civil disobedience" which Anderson has warned of is surely drawing nearer.

The New Working Class Movement: How We Can Beat The Cuts

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