Socialist Worker

Campaigners protest as Northamptonshire council votes through brutal cuts plan

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2617

Northumberland County Councils head offices

Northumberland County Council's head offices (Pic: Hazel Nicholson)


Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) voted through swingeing cuts on Wednesday that will completely decimate council services. 

The council is technically insolvent and has had to completely cap spending. 

It has exhausted its emergency funds and has voted to cut its budget by around £70 million by March.

This means the council is only able to offer the bare minimum of services.

There was no information about exactly how the cuts would fall. Instead councillors voted to agree a report which detailed its insolvency. 

Councillors were also asked to agree a “decision-making hierarchy” that outlines what services the council will continue to provide. 

A protest organised by Save Northants Services lobbied outside the council chamber. 

Campaigners say the council's “core offer” will leave thousands of people at risk.

Vulnerable

Campaigner Sara told Socialist Worker, “The most vulnerable people are going to die. It’s very frightening. For instance, they’re saying they will only protect children who have ‘significant’ or ‘immediate’ risk of harm.”

Some see a mass non-payment of council tax as a way to protest. “I resent paying it”, said Sara.

“Why should we keep paying it if we’re not getting the services? It’s worse now than under Thatcher. 

Campaigners say that NCC is the “canary in the mine” for a national funding crisis of local authorities. 

Central government is keen to blame mismanagement at the the top of Northamptonshire council as the reason for its funding problems. 

But the Tories have cut £16 billion from councils in England in just eight years.

East Sussex is set to be the next council to vote for “core offer” council services. But figures from the National Audit Office (NAO) indicate it won’t be the last . 

The NAO says that one in five local authorities with responsibility for social care will have drained their financial reserves in five years. 

Austerity

Paul, from Save Northants Services, said the crisis was due to “a failure of austerity politics". "They want to destroy the public sector and make it available for the private sector," he said. 

And Labour councillor Bob Scott told those assembled in the council chamber, “We are represented in government by seven Tory MPs, why have they never come here to answer?”

He blasted the plans, saying they threatened the council’s “safeguarding duties” and would end up “endangering lives of children and vulnerable adults.”

“The campaign should happen outside of this chamber,” he said. “It should be aimed at the Tory government.” 

Addressing the councillors, anti-cuts campaigner Norman said, “You people are suggesting a massacre, taking a chainsaw to the services people need.”

Tory councillor Adil Sadygov urged the council not to appeal for extra funding from central government for fear the council “won’t learn from our mistakes”. 

But it is ordinary people who will suffer the Tories' mistakes. 

Bianca Todd told the councillors, “When people die this winter, they will die because of your cuts."

In the short term, Theresa May’s government should cough up the extra money  to fully resource what is needed by people in Northamptonshire. 

But ultimately the Tories need to be kicked out for good to end austerity. 


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