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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2007

Lambeth council attacks services for vulnerable people

IN SPITE of demonstrations and protests, south London Lambeth council voted through £700,000 worth of cuts to voluntary sector organisations at its meeting on 28 February.

Andy Tullis

Despite intense pressure from the Save Our Services campaign it has only meant the council continuing its so-called "consultation" period before attempting to introduce huge increases in services charges and new charges for previously free services to adults.

Socialist Party members went along to one of these consultation meetings on 5 March. Service users and their carers were enraged that no Labour councillors had bothered to show up. Nervous service directors pleaded with an angry meeting to remain calm and not take their frustration out on them.

Part of the discussion centred around Lambeth's plan to increase the threshold for 'eligibility' from 'substantial' to 'critical' need. By doing this the council hopes to save money by reducing the care packages of an estimated 700 people!

Socialist Party members pointed out that if care packages were withdrawn from elderly and vulnerable people who don't qualify under the new criteria, those people could be in "critical" need quite quickly. So what savings would Lambeth make?

Then the lead Labour councillor on the Adult Services Committee suddenly appeared and starting banging on about the importance of consultation, provoking much laughter from the audience. People reminded him that the council had already voted through its overall budget, so how could this be consultation?

Nevertheless the meeting unanimously told the council they didn't agree with its proposals, which would lead to more isolation and hardship for the most vulnerable.

When the council officials asked the meeting for alternative money-saving ideas, they got told that the Labour Cabinet should donate their inflated salaries to the Adult Services budget.

One man said: "I remember the days when our councillors did the job for nothing but the privilege of serving the community".

Those days are gone. They will only return when we have broken with the three main capitalist parties and elected our own socialist representatives. Representatives that will stand up and fight for local people and local services like the socialist councillors in Lambeth and Liverpool did in the 1980s.

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In The Socialist 15 March 2007:

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