Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/331/5602
Ealing's Financial Crisis
EALING COUNCIL in west London is facing a massive financial crisis, which local authority workers and services users will be expected to pay for. This crisis has been brewing for some time.
Brian Blake, Ealing UNISON
Councillors and senior management talk about the borough possibly having to deal with a £21 million 'overspend', particularly in social services. But our borough's vital services are actually under-funded.
'Overspend' can mean only one thing: cuts in services and attacks on the pay and conditions of the council workforce. There has already been £6 million-worth of cuts agreed by the cabinet on 9 December. These include £38,000 cut from the libraries, £227,000 cut from homeless provision and cuts in care for the elderly. They want to charge for day centre services as well as cutting services for people with learning disabilities by £17,000.
There are many more changes like increased charges for off-street parking to raise £550,000 and cuts in recycling and gully cleansing. They even want to make marriages more expensive!
Whilst cutting services, councillors are preparing to spend at least £7 million on a scheme they call 'Making A World Of Difference' (MAWOD). Incredibly they claim this will improve public access to services.
Everyone is in favour of good quality services with easy access being available to the people of Ealing, but the way things are going there will be no services to get access to.
This mess has been caused by insufficient grants from central government, resulting in a massive hike in council tax last year. This was compounded by bad financial administration. Why should we pay for senior management's incompetence? They should take responsibility for their actions and resign.
We demand the council open the books so that we can see where the money has been spent. We oppose a budget set by councillors and senior managers wedded to cuts, privatisation and the financial constraints of central government. The council unions need to come together with service users in a campaign against the cuts, which should include the drawing up of a budget based on the needs of our borough, with any shortfall in funding being met by central government not council tax rises.
Ultimate responsibility for the current financial mess rests with a New Labour council all too willing to carry out Blairite policies.
Council elections will not be held until 2006. Many workers will rightly feel that those carrying out the cuts should resign now. Trade union and community backed anti-cuts anti-privatisation candidates could get enormous support from workers fed up with New Labour's Tory policies.
In The Socialist 24 January 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis