The Labour Party and the Conservatives are busily talking up their plans to cut after the election but the attacks on public services have already begun.
Both parties argue over who is or isn’t going to cut the most from public sector spending.
Yet education, local services and particularly the health service are already seeing the reality of “holding back public spending”.
Workers and patients at Dorset County Hospital know what cuts really mean.
Staff cuts are looming. Some redundancies have been delayed, but only because there isn’t enough money for the redundancy payments. Llandudno in north Wales, York and other hospitals announced cutbacks in emergency services last week.
NHS bosses predicted last year that the service would see £15 billion worth of cuts from 2011. This means a raft of ward and department closures, combined with more privatisation.
As much as £5 billion could be cut from NHS London’s budget by 2017.The cuts to hospital funding were set in motion by former Labour health minister Lord Darzi.
The cuts are made worse by the fact that parasitical private finance initiative (PFI) centres, which were supposed to replace the services being cut, are yet to be built.
But cuts and privatisation are being met with resistance. There is the growing campaign against the axing of the Whittington Hospital’s A&E department in north London.
Jeremy Corbyn, the local Labour MP, hosted a 400 strong meeting last week.
At the meeting, Rachel Tyndall, the £140,000-a-year NHS Islington boss, said, “I’m not scared to say ‘cuts’. If we take out the A&E it will fundamentally change the hospital. I have to balance the books.”
At first she promised any changes to the Whittington would be minimal. She later conceded that emergency care would be provided only during normal working hours and not through the night. This brought derision from the floor.
The meeting was packed with angry residents who bombarded Tyndall with criticism.
Anna Rathbone, a GP from Haringey, said at the meeting, “These are political decisions made by the national government.
“In London they will downgrade or close dozens of hospitals and open 150 polyclinics. The whole purpose of this was to allow the private sector access to parts of the NHS.”
Local residents, patients and community campaigners are organising a march on Saturday 27 February as the next stage in the campaign.
Shirley Franklin, the chair of the Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition, said, “We are going to have a big march.
“People are horrified and terrified—the bottom line is keep the A&E open as it is.
“We need you not just to bring yourselves but bring your whole street. We really need to make this as big as possible.”
Jeremy Corbyn told Socialist Worker, “If the casualty department at the Whitttington Hospital closes then as sure as night follows day then the hospital will eventually turn into a health centre.I have been impressed at the strength of feeling and the attendance at the local public meetings.
“It shows the commitment to a public funded health service. That is what the campaign is defending.”
Campaigners are also taking on the proposed closure of the Kings George Hospital A&E and maternity wards. They are organising a march on Saturday13 February in Ilford, north London.
Save the Whittington march assemble 12 noon, Highbury Fields, Saturday, 27 February
Save the King George Hospital march Assemble King George Hospital Saturday, 13 February, 1pm