Socialist Worker

Tories wield knife in first lot of cuts

by Viv Smith and Tom Walker
Issue No. 2203

Tory chancellor George Osborne attacked every one of us on Monday as he slashed more than £6 billion from government budgets.

He wielded the axe over everything from education to civil service workers.

“This is just the first step,” crowed Oxbridge toff Osborne.

The government is imposing a recruitment freeze across all civil service departments, meaning workers who retire or leave will not be replaced.

There is a new attack on university places—a £200 million cut meaning that 10,000 fewer students will get to university this autumn, despite a surge in applications.

Osborne said he wanted to send out a “shockwave”. He added, “we are being very draconian and very inflexible, deliberately,”.

Assisted by his Lib Dem mini-me, David Laws, he set out his plan for pain.The biggest cut is £1.2 billion from local government grants.

This means every council in the country will see its budget slashed. Councils fund vital services, from the fire brigade to bin collection. They will be cut.

It is an attack on everyone who works in or relies on public services—in other words, every working class person.

These cuts have already started. The budgets for 2010/11 in Edinburgh and Glasgow are signs of this. They already contain sweeping cuts that will decimate jobs and services.

Last week the new SNP-Lib Dem coalition council in Edinburgh announced cuts to the council wage bill of £61 million. This is on top of the existing £92 million worth of cuts in the current budget.

The new cuts set targets of 12 percent reduction in staff costs—around 1,200 jobs. And the council is already employing 400 fewer staff than it did a year ago.

Proposals already rejected for the current council budget are being brought back to the table, including closing schools, scrapping hot school meals and closing nurseries.

The council is also to enforce a single status agreement (equalising pay between men and women)—by cutting the wages of 15,000 workers.

If workers don’t sign up to the new terms and conditions they will be issued with a 90-day dismissal notice.

Privatisation of council services is being accelerated.

Vital services may be outsourced—ranging from revenue and benefits to street cleansing, human resources, the council call centre, transport, museums and galleries and ground maintenance.

In January, Glasgow council voted for cuts totalling £66 million for 2010 alone—including slashing 4,000 jobs over the next three years. Twelve community centres are being shut across Glasgow.

Removal

For many children, pensioners and families, this means the removal of the only resource they have access to in their community.

Some 2,500 council workers who have left are not being replaced. And the Care Link project has been shut down.

It provided daycare activities and respite for parents and vulnerable families who are known to social workers.

Three learning disability centres have been shut. And there is an onslaught of cuts across the NHS in Scotland, despite the new government claiming it would not attack frontline services.

Four of Scotland’s 14 health boards have so far revealed they plan to axe 4,300 jobs. Thousands of essential nurses and midwives are going to be sacked.

Meanwhile, in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, council staff have been told that the council wants to slash 20 percent of its budget.

The council is aiming to cut 1,100 jobs this financial year. The plans include compulsory redundancies.

The council has also gone back on an agreement reached with the unions in 2007 which promised that there would be no wage cuts because of the implementation of the single status agreement.

Around 8,500 council workers now face a drop in wages between £20 and £120 a week.


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