Created: Thursday, 25 February 2016 11:46
Written by Newcastle Branch
On Wednesday, 2 March, Newcastle Labour council will vote on its next cuts budget. Another £30m will be cut from the city’s public services, bringing the total to £220m since 2010 - £785 per person living in the city. The list of proposed cuts is the stuff of nightmare.
The North East as a region has the highest suicide rate in England and is second to Wales for Britain. There were 13.8 suicides per 100,000 people in the North East in 2013, compared to a London rate of 7.9 per 100,000. The council’s proposed cuts strip away support on an inordinate level. 100% of ‘non-statutory’ mental health services are to be cut. With nothing left to cut, they go further: the mental health recovery team will cease to function unless alternative funding can be found, 21% will be cut from adult social care and 28% will be cut from care in the home services.
Alongside this, the council will begin its assault on the elderly. In September, 2015, Newcastle Labour council leader Nick Forbes stated, ‘We are at a dangerous time for the city, where the next round of spending cuts risk being so severe they could undo decades worth of work helping the disadvantaged and the elderly.’ He wasn’t lying. Preventative services for the elderly - for example, the council providing a handyman to repair items in the home - will cease entirely. Lunch clubs for the elderly will be cut by a third. Byker Lodge - a 20 bed dementia care home - will close. No discussion as to the fate of its residents has been made public.
And still, the budget goes on. Libraries across the cities will face a reduction in opening hours of over half: from 400 hours per week to 181 hours. The assault on the city's leisure services, which resulted in the closure of Elswick pool last year, is set to continue: Newburn Leisure centre and Kenton Park Sports centre will both face a reduction in support, amounting to a total cut of £145,000.
Family and women’s services will suffer dire blows. Presently, the council partially funds domestic violence services, in partnership with volunteer-led services. Its contribution, which amounts to £20,000, will cease: a 100% cut. All childcare available in statutory homeless accommodation will be cut. The council will introduce a charging policy where it does provide childcare. This is on top of cuts to Sure Start of 65%, agreed in 2014.
The list does not end here. Cuts will also be made to learning disability services (3%), early help and inclusion services (61%), youth services (22%) and the education service Connexions (13%). Public museums will be gutted, their pieces sold to the highest bidder. 240 jobs will be lost. To top it all off, council tax will increase by 3.9%.
Newcastle’s services and the lives of its residents are being destroyed. At every opportunity, the Labour council has voted unanimously in favour of the cuts. It has offered not an iota of resistance. Instead, it has repeated that it must pass a balanced budget and that if it does not then a Conservative commissioner will be sent to Newcastle to institute a cuts budget far worse than that we could ever imagine. This is smoke and mirrors. Here is the reality: there is nothing left to cut. The council have already implemented devastating cuts, and are following the instructions of their leader Jeremy Corbyn not to set an illegal budget. Don’t listen to him! We say it is better to break the law than break the poor. Bring on the commissioners! The people of Newcastle will deal with them.
There is one path left: resistance. The council has shown, over the course of 6 years, that it will not do anything close. It stands against the working-class of Newcastle today, as it always has done, bleeding the city dry. We must organise now. Class war has been declared on us, and it is to class war which we must respond.
James Bell and Anna Snaith
No Cuts to Council Services! March and protest on budget day
5pm, Wednesday 2 March.
On the 2 March, Newcastle Labour council will pass a cuts budget of £30m. Enough is enough.
Assemble at 5pm at Newcastle Monument.
We will march up Northumberland Street to the Civic centre where there will be a protest.
No cuts to council services! No cuts at all!