Newcastle Labour Council: cutting to the bone

On 12 October, Newcastle Labour council opened its latest cuts budget to public consultation. The package details a further £70m of cuts to public services over the next three years, with £30m to be cut during 2017-18. Overall, Newcastle’s budget will be slashed by £291m between 2010 and 2020. Along with all other local authorities, Newcastle will rely entirely on business rates and council tax for its income by 2020.

In 2010 Newcastle council received £164m of support from central government. The council has cut further and deeper than has been demanded of it, using a reduction in funding of £164m to justify ripping £291m of resources from the city’s residents. Every Labour councillor in Newcastle has voted for every cut passed in Newcastle since 2010. Now they can hide behind a rule change agreed at the 2016 Labour Party Conference which makes them liable for expulsion for abstaining on, let alone voting against a legal budget.

Newcastle’s population has been thrown to the wolves. A November 2016 report by End Child Poverty reveals the abominable conditions faced by the city’s children. By 2015 32.9% of children living in Newcastle lived in poverty, compared to a national average of 29%. Council leader Nick Forbes’ own ward, Westgate, has the third highest level of child poverty in Britain: 53.6%. The council proposes to cut a further £8.7m and 12 full time jobs from children’s social care services over the next three years. Care intervention programmes and housing programmes for vulnerable children will be slashed.

The budget goes on to detail a cut of £11.9m to adult social care. The council’s Early Intervention Programme (EIP), which provides community care to people suffering from mental health problems like psychosis, will see 17% of its funding disappear. Newcastle has an exceptionally high rate of self-harm, standing at 229.7 hospital stays per 100,000 of the population more than the average for England in 2015. Cuts to mental health services are nothing new. In March 2016 Labour councillors unanimously voted to axe all non-statutory mental health services. The council plans to make up the rest of the £11.9m by way of cuts to long term and complex needs services. This follows the closure of the 20-bed Byker Lodge dementia care home this year. Around 18,000 people in Newcastle have been diagnosed with dementia – 5% of the population.

The list of economic brutality goes on. The budget proposes:

  • a 100% cut to park maintenance services, handing the running over the running of these spaces to charities and volunteers;
  • further cuts of £1.6m to waste disposal services in the city, with residents now having to share a ‘community bin’ between several households and a planned increase in enforcement and fines for littering;
  • an 82.8% cut to school crossing patrols, which will see all but two workers lose their jobs;
  • an increase to council tax of 3.95% – the most the council can raise it without a referendum.
  • 1,862 workers will have their salaries cut by £331-£3,381 a year to save £2.5m while five top executives have a hike of 15-16% raising their salaries to £144,000-£175,000.

It is up to working class communities to mount a serious fightback against the Labour council and its austerity project. We cannot let their brutal cuts pass without challenge.

James Bell


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 254 December 2016/January 2017

 

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