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Sheffielders call for a no-cuts 'people's budget'
Jeremy Short, Sheffield South Socialist Party
Around 40 local trade unionists and community campaigners discussed proposals for a no-cuts 'people's budget' ahead of Sheffield council's budget-setting meeting. They heard speeches from PCS union reps fighting the closure of Eastern Avenue Jobcentre, local government Unison reps campaigning against the closure of the council's last remaining dementia support centre and Sheffield Mental Health Action Group (MHAGS) fighting the loss of their grant.
A GMB union officer spoke on the problems of the outsourced waste management service with Veolia and the £2 billion-plus PFI contract with Amey for repairing and maintaining roads. This contract also involves the felling of trees about which another campaigner spoke. And there were also contributions from the firefighters union FBU.
All the speakers explained the effects of Tory government-imposed austerity cuts on the most vulnerable people in Sheffield, but were also scathing about the Labour council passing these on without any resistance.
We emphasised that all the protests had a common link - the failure of the council to stand up to Tory government cuts and the policy of forcing councils into the arms of private sector developers and contractors.
Sheffield Council is proposing £26 million of cuts in services for 2017-18 at the same time as increasing reserves by £13 million!
The meeting agreed an alternative 'people's budget' using reserves (including those allocated for redundancies) with a modest increase in spending, while campaigning with others to restore the funding stolen from local councils.
The demands include:
- Scrapping the bedroom tax and restoring full council tax support to those on benefit
- Bringing Veolia waste management contract back in-house
- Terminating the Amey PFI and bringing highways back in house with suspension of tree felling
- Keeping Hurlfield View dementia support centre open
- Restoring MHAGS day centre funding
- Stopping the sell-off of council assets such as the central library
- Introducing a £10 an hour minimum wage for council employees from 2018