The Socialist 17 February 2010
Fight Council Cuts!
Notts Tories attack the vulnerable
Kay Cutts, the aptly named Tory leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said when elected last June that she would run a "business administration". She is now showing what this means - closure of vital services, privatisation, attacks on council workers' terms and conditions, and 470 jobs to go this year.
Socialist Party members
In the first round of cuts is closure of County Contact, well-used advice and information centres. There is no point telling people about council services they could use when the services are being withdrawn!
All 13 elderly persons' care homes are to be sold to the private sector. Dedicated staff in these know that this means job cuts, minimum wages, less training and worse conditions, leading to higher staff turnover and poorer service for the elderly residents. Relatives and residents have set up campaign groups to fight to keep these homes open and council run.
Day centres for people with disabilities and the elderly are being merged. Fewer centres mean further to travel. Prices for day care, home care, meals on wheels and community transport are increasing by 50% and more, meaning a typical user could need to find an extra £28 per week. The state pension goes up by only £2.40 in April.
After a storm of protest when the original list of £33 million worth of cuts was announced, the council withdrew or postponed £4.5 million, phasing in some steep price rises over two or three years. One cut announced last October has been stopped; the council was intending to save £50,000 a year on road gritting. Councillors probably skidded on icy roads as they were driving to meetings to plan these cutbacks!
The Unison regional officer described this £4.5 million as a victory, though as a national pay freeze is to be imposed, low-paid council workers will themselves be paying to keep the services going.
Unison has said that £28 million could be found without making cuts. They propose less use of agency staff, replacing them with council employees, which makes sense. £350,000 is being wasted on consultants to advise where to make cuts and £100,000 on a new spin doctor to try to disguise the scale of the cuts.
But Unison also proposes a 3% council tax rise. Many workers have suffered pay cuts, job losses and cuts in hours. It should not be hard-pressed workers who pay the price for this economic crisis. The government found billions for the banks - why won't it find money for public services?
It isn't enough to say 'this is what happens when the Tories get in'. Labour-controlled Nottingham City is also cutting services and jobs. Notts County Council may have jumped the gun as far as national Tory leader David Cameron is concerned - with their wrecking plans out of the bag before the election - but Tory, Labour and Liberal are all united on cutting public spending.
It is not too late for new candidates to stand in the general election on a 'Defend Public Services and Jobs' platform, linking up with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Labour is happy to be seen attacking the Tories, saying 'this is the future if the Tories win the general election'. They won't explain that the Tories only won Notts County Council last June because of widespread anger at Labour's record in government. And they won't ask what a Labour government is doing handing out billions for bankers' bonuses while pensioners lose the services they depend on.
Sherwood robbers serve the rich
In the small ex-mining town of Ollerton, 80 people crammed into a town council public meeting last week to oppose the cuts. The councillors, all Labour, denounced the cuts planned by Tory Notts County Council. People in the meeting explained that the cuts would hit adult education, teenage pregnancy prevention, Sherwood Forest visitor centre jobs, concessionary bus fares before 9.30am (essential for hospital appointments that are long bus journeys away) and road improvements, to name a few of the targets.
The Bishops Court Action Group of relatives and residents at a local elderly persons' home campaigned successfully against closure last year (when the council was still Labour-controlled). They told the meeting they are fighting again to keep the home open and run as a public service - not a profit-making business.
A Unison convenor called for everyone to attend the Mansfield rally on 20 February and one in Nottingham on the 25th (see below).
Two cuts protests planned for February
The Socialist Party in Mansfield has been campaigning since before Christmas against the cuts, with many successful stalls around the town. A Socialist Party public meeting last month was attended by members of the Bishops Court Action Group. The meeting decided to call a protest rally in Mansfield on Saturday 20 February.
This was subsequently backed by Notts County Unison, who emailed members across the county urging them to attend.
Another protest rally will take place outside County Hall in Nottingham on 25 February, when the council sets its budget for next year.
The Ollerton meeting agreed to put on a coach, and two coaches have been booked from north Notts, organised by Labour MP John Mann. Labour parliamentary candidate for Sherwood, Emilie Oldknow, told the Ollerton meeting she would be outside County Hall with the protesters. When asked by a Socialist Party member if she would vote against cuts when in parliament, she said she would - and 80 people will remember her saying so.
Fitness isn't "fair"
Fury has broken out in the mining village of Warsop, after Mansfield District Council decided to close its swimming pool. 100 people attended a protest meeting last week.
The council is run by Independents, but people were not impressed to hear the mayor say 'it isn't fair that Warsop should lose its pool, but life isn't always fair'! After relentless pressure, he agreed to look again at alternatives.
But the pressure needs to be maintained if the council is to keep the pool open while funds for the new building needed are fought for.
Olympic gold medal swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, is Mansfield's most famous resident!
In this issue
Socialist Party campaigns
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis