Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/672/12109
Review: The street that cut everything
Journalist Nick Robinson follows the residents of a street in Preston who have agreed to go without any council services for six weeks. No one can use leisure centres, libraries or youth clubs. The street lights are switched off and the rubbish starts to pile up. The kids aren't picked up by the school bus, after-school club is off limits and school meals are refused.
The film-makers gradually up the ante. Although the residents have been rebated their council tax and have decided to pool it, Robinson returns one evening to explain that the rebate does not actually reflect the cutting off of all council services. One resident's 82 year old disabled father is receiving £300 worth of care a week. Another resident receives £92 a week in housing benefit and £150 a week in Local Education Authority support for her student daughter. The rebate is less than the street's expenditure!
Robinson makes them choose what they will and won't spend money on leading to massive arguments.
Nick Robinson says several times that "cuts are about choices". This is the 'official' message of the programme, but it is not true. The only choice that has been made is the choice of pro-big business politicians to make the working class and middle class pay to fix an economy devastated by the bankers and their profit system. We are getting no choice. There is an attempt to force these cuts on us.
Despite the 'official' message, the response of the residents goes further. One woman - a nursery manager - argued at the start of the programme that she didn't feel she got "value for money" from the council. By the end of the six weeks she says she "supports everything the council does and everyone it supports". Most residents express similar sentiments.
Towards the end of the six weeks the residents write to the local councillors and condemn them for allowing real council cuts to go through. The councillors visit the street and are asked by angry residents how they can sleep at night.
Now that the residents have experienced what cuts could mean they do not support them at all. This is an important point for socialists and anti-cuts campaigners. At the start of the experiment most residents repeated the myths put out by the mainstream media that 'some cuts are necessary' or that the public sector 'does not give value for money'.
Acceptance of these myths is shattered by reality and turns into boiling anger. This will happen on a mass scale up and down the country as the cuts bite and a mighty anti-cuts movement will emerge.
The street that cut everything was shown on BBC1 on 16 May
In The Socialist 25 May 2011:
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