Socialist Worker

It’s official—services face collapse from council cuts

As the government’s own auditor admits cuts have pushed council services to breaking point, Annette Mackin looks at their effect on services and workers

Issue No. 2431

Protesting against council cuts

Protesting against council cuts (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Council services are facing collapse after more than four years of budget cuts. 

The government’s own auditor published a report last week, outlining the horrific impact of Tory austerity.

It warns that services across the board have already been stripped back so much, there is little left to cut.

 The National Audit Office said that 52 percent of authorities are at risk of not being able to provide services, such as education and social care.

Manchester’s Labour council bosses said £59 million had to be “saved”—and its main targets are mental health and homelessness services. 

Similarly, Cardiff’s council bosses are coming back for youth services after being pushed back last year. 

The Local Government Association has said the cuts will mean that key services such as adult social care will “buckle under the strain”.

This will hit society’s poorest and most vulnerable hardest. The report admits, “Local authorities with the highest levels of deprivation have seen the greatest reductions in spending power.”

It explains that, despite increasing demand, adult and children’s social care will be hit harder in the next five years. 

More than 20,000 children live in poverty in Kirklees, west Yorkshire. But council bosses there threatened to cut £69 million, which would mean the loss of 1,500 jobs.

But after 73 percent of workers in the Unison union voted in an indicative ballot to strike, the council suspended the job threats this year.

Kirklees Unison branch chair Nick Ruff told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “We have to fight the idea that council cuts are necessary because savings have to be made. 

Balances

The council has £88 million reserves and £44 million balances. Kirklees council is not alone in the amount of cuts it is rolling out.

Manchester council announced that it plans to cull 600 jobs last week—that’s on top of the almost 3,000 lost in the last four years.

Birmingham city council is the biggest local authority in Britain. Labour council leader Sir Albert Bore welomed the report. He said it backed-up his claim that the cuts mean the “end of local government as we know it.” 

But Birmingham council has said it will cut £800 million and by 2018 slash the number of jobs from 13,000 to 7,000. 

Bore admitted that the number of job losses between 2010 and 2018 would be double those axed when Birmingham’s Longbridge car plant shut in 2005. 

This sort of massive attack can be a demoralising blow to workers. But that’s because the union leaderships haven’t given a lead in the face of massive attacks. 

Yet Kirklees shows that council cuts can be pushed back—and the need for the unions to be part of that fight. 

As Nick said, “We are getting a campaign going to fight for the alternative, against the idea that the money isn’t there”. 


Barnet council announces more privatisation plans

As the report was published, council workers in Barnet, north London, were hit with the news that 81 percent of workers are to be outsourced.

This includes some 363 adult social care workers and 336 education and catering staff.

One third of council staff have already had their jobs outsourced under the One Barnet privatisation scheme. 

Privatisation means cuts and job losses. Helen Davies, Barnet Unison branch chair, told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “Workers feel completely overwhelmed. Everything is happening so fast, and it’s so big.”

“People are already struggling—workloads are much more intense than ever before,” she explained. 

“We constantly have to argue for more resources.

“Social workers went into the job to help people, but we’re always having to give people bad news.”

The report projects that local authority funding will fall by 37 percent over the next two years. 

And much more is expected to come. 

The Treasury has said government department’s resource budgets will be cut by around £11 billion in 2015-16 and further £10 billion in the two years after that.

Helen outlined the impact of across the board cuts on an already thin council service.

“Adults with severe disabilities are being attacked on so many fronts. 

“Their benefits and care services are under attack. This exacerbates their life as a whole.

“And if they are disabled parents, then they are being hit by the cuts to children’s education.

“It’s a desperate situation and an increasing number of social workers are struggling to cope with it all.”


Youth schemes axed in London  

London mayor Boris Johnson could cut around 90 percent of funding to youth schemes in some the poorest areas of London. 

Documents reveal that his advisors drew up proposals to cut investment in education and youth activity from £22.6 million to just £2.3 million.

Services hit would include and services for young people excluded from school. 


Wheels come off food service

A third of local authorities have cut the “meals on wheels” service to older and vulnerable people.

And a further 50 percent are set to make even more cuts in the coming months.

The number of meals provided by “meals on wheels” and lunch clubs more than halved from 40 million to 19 million in the past decade.


Housing offices cut by a third

The auditor’s report outlined how housing and planning services have been hit with deep cuts.

Since 2010, housing services have been cut by 34 percent. 

And 46 percent has been axed from planning and development.


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