Greater Manchester council cuts

Greater Manchester is set to welcome its first Mayor into office later this year as the centrepiece of the Devolution Agreement imposed on its three million inhabitants in 2014. However, no matter what grand promises will be offered during the upcoming mayoral election campaign, the fact is that 2017 will witness the continuation of brutal cuts to public services, as Labour-controlled councils in the region continue to do the government’s dirty work.

Manchester City Council announced late in 2016 it would be implementing a cuts package totaling £30m. Despite a proposed 8% hike in council tax, the council still seeks to trim £12m from the social care budget, directly affecting some of the city’s most vulnerable. This will be accompanied by savings in the deployment of school crossing wardens – jeopardising child safety – and cuts to parks and recreation budgets, affecting many public spaces in the region. The council undertook a ‘public consultation’ regarding the impending cuts. Its supposed aim was to ‘use what you tell us as part of our budget setting process’. Yet, with just 1,700 residents taking part and the limited scope of options offered, the exercise was less a consultation and more an attempt to frame any proposed cuts as having public approval.

Labour claim these ‘savage cuts’ are unavoidable; yet council chiefs have still managed to find enough cash to increase their own salaries by a staggering £450,000 per annum. Defending this outrageous pay award, the Council stated, ‘We recognise that this is always going to be a contentious area but in these challenging times we need to be able to attract and retain the most talented officers by paying them salaries comparable with those of other equivalent roles. Failure to do so would not be in the best interests of the city and its people.’ A sentiment never extended to poverty-paid employees.

Across the River Irwell in neighbouring Salford, another Labour-controlled council has also announced a devastating series of cuts for 2016/17. Looking to make savings of £16m, social care will yet again bear the brunt of the cuts. As millions of pounds are squandered in loans and incentives to private developers as part of Salford’s so called regeneration (see FRFI 254), essential services are being cut and streamlined to plug the funding hole.

Paul Searle

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017