Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24790
Salford: Unions demand that Corbyn-supporting mayor protects services
Steven North, Salford City UNISON branch secretary (personal capacity)
Approximately 100 people attended a lively demonstration on Wednesday 22nd February outside Salford City Council's budget meeting. Their collective demand was that the Labour council, led by Corbyn-supporting city mayor Paul Dennett, should refuse to make cuts that would negatively affect the lives of people in the 24th most deprived locality in the UK.
The bulk of the protesters were drawn from a community campaign to save Salford's only disabled children's home and from the city council's Regulatory Services department, which despite providing essential services dealing with environmental health, rogue landlords and anti-social behaviour is facing a cut of just under half a million pounds.
The other central reason for the lobby was to demand that £140,000 of cuts to the Health Improvement Service (passed last year but not implemented) should be written off due to the vital nature of the service.
At the protest, workers commented that relations with the council had greatly improved since Paul Dennett replaced the much-despised Ian Stewart last May. This meant that the trade unions had access to the requisite information to put forward an entirely legal alternative budget that would protect the most vulnerable.
Furthermore, in a welcome change of tone from that of Stewart, mayor Dennett and many Labour councillors came out and spoke with protesters for some time - listening to their concerns and promising to "look into" matters raised.
Unfortunately, despite the warm words from the mayor and the efforts made by the unions to propose an alternative budget, Dennett and his colleagues passed cuts of almost £16 million, to be made over the next 12 months. When moving the cuts, Dennett made clear that the budget could be amended and that reserves could be used if further talks with unions and service users led to agreed outcomes.
The submission from the unions shows that a legal budget that protects key services is possible if the council is prepared to use its reserves. Reserves can only be spent once though, so along with Salford Unison, Socialist Party members argue that Salford City Council should use the next 12 months to campaign for the replacement of those reserves by central government and for an end to the austerity that is blighting working class communities like Salford.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 28 February 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.