Newcastle Labour leader attacks RCG for fighting to save Sure Start

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In Newcastle Parents Against Cuts continues to campaign against planned cuts of £4.67 million to the city’s Sure Start children’s centres, including the loss of 28 full-time jobs. The RCG has been part of the campaign since the beginning. The council repeatedly delayed releasing details of the proposed cuts, but the information available suggests a reduction from universal provision to services targeted by postcode at those amongst the ‘30% most deprived children in the country’. The council claims that the poorest families living outside these areas will still be able to access Sure Start, but beyond referrals by Sure Start staff of parents who already use the service it is not clear how this will be implemented. In the longer term, the shift to a ‘targeted’ service paves the way for further cuts, by which time there will be fewer people directly affected and therefore less chance of opposition. There are already reports of a two-tier system operating in the Newbiggin Hall area of the city.

Having attempted to visit Council Leader Nick Forbes at his surgery in October (he didn’t turn up), on 12 December Parents Against Cuts organised a protest at a Northern Correspondent magazine event where Forbes was speaking. Campaigners marched in to the £10 ticketed event chanting and with banners unfurled and demanded answers from Forbes. The campaigners’ unwillingness to back down, despite threats of police involvement, resulted in the compère handing the protesters the microphone (see video at http://tinyurl.com/n-corres). Forbes responded by promising to release information, but failed to follow through. This was followed by a protest on 20 December in Newcastle Central Station’s lavish new glass foyer (which the council says is intended to attract business to the city). Protesters sang anti-cuts versions of popular Christmas songs while one dressed as Father Christmas mobilised the children to chase down ‘Nicholas Scrooge’ and force him to give the city’s services back (hear the songs set to images from our protests at http://tinyurl.com/xmas-protest).

Forbes is clearly rattled by the campaign and the media attention it has received. Following the Northern Correspondent protest he publicly lashed out on BBC Radio Newcastle, accusing Parents Against Cuts of ‘shouting, ranting and throwing things’, and dismissing the campaign as a front for the ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ (we assume he means the RCG, given the RCP disbanded in 1997). Parents Against Cuts issued a statement in response, saying:

‘Parents Against Cuts is an independent parent-led campaign, which is motivated by our belief that we must stand against the cuts to our children’s services. It is condescending to imply that we don’t have our own opinions and are being controlled by communists. We welcome support from any individual or organisation that agrees with our message of No cuts to Sure Start – No cuts at all.’

Parents Against Cuts is showing the kind of uncompromising determination that is needed to defend vital services. As we said in an RCG statement responding to Forbes’ attacks: ‘What [Forbes] is really afraid of is any working class opposition to the cuts he is implementing”. (full statement at http://tinyurl.com/forbes-response). We are committed to help build that opposition. Get in touch to find out how you can help.

No cuts to Sure Start!
No cuts at all!
Cal Shaw

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015

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