Birmingham’s Labour councillors cut vital services

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protest agaings buget cut birminham
Protest against buget cuts, February 2017

Rather than offer any opposition to continual reductions in its central government grant, Birmingham’s Labour-run council has imposed cuts totalling £650m since 2010, with a further £100m due in 2017/18.

Schools have had £108m slashed from their budgets, the equivalent of 3,000 teacher’s salaries, with a further £94m of cuts to come. Teaching assistants have been the first to lose their jobs, but teaching jobs will also be lost and class sizes will rise. As a typical example, Erdington Academy has lost nearly £500,000, £576 per pupil. Many schools are asking parents to donate to school funds. This means that schools in working class areas are affected even more severely because parents there have less money to donate.

The council has divested itself of responsibility for its children’s centres by handing them over to an independent trust. Now 26 centres are being considered for closure. Staff have been informed they will be sent three months’ notice in September and will have to reapply for their own jobs. Charges are also expected to be introduced for services that were previously free. On top of this, all integrated services are being withdrawn, so centres that currently offer access to health visitors or advice services will have these stripped away. Erdington is one of the poorest areas in Birmingham and three of its children’s centres are set to close. In some areas parents have started to organise against these cuts.

In order to support a new glamorous city centre library whose opening hours have anyway been reduced, community libraries have suffered crippling cuts:

  • Aston has been reduced to a child-only service that is closed during school holidays;
  • West Heath has been forced to move and reduce in size;
  • Selly Oak’s building has been closed and is currently replaced by a mobile library because its new building was not ready in time;
  • Bloomsbury ‘library’ is now located in a single corridor in another building;
  • Stirchley is in limbo because the building it was supposed to move into turned out not to have the necessary space.

Although 100 jobs are being lost, Unison has decided not to take any action. A community-led campaign following Birmingham’s withdrawal of funding has forced Sutton Coldfield town council to step in and provide funds to keep the local library open until at least March 2018.

Birmingham’s ‘Supporting People’ fund, which finances various homelessness services including shelters and rehabilitation programmes, is also being cut. £25m was slashed from its budget in 2015, after which the number of street homeless increased by 400%. Following an outcry at the death of a homeless man in 2016, the council promised action. All it did was to reduce the cut by a miserable £2m. The council’s contempt for the city’s homeless is made evident by this wretched concession.

Waste removal services are also facing cuts, and workers are striking over pay cuts and the planned redundancies of 120 workers, on top of 90 who were sacked before Christmas. Labour councillors have continually put their privileged positions before the needs of the working class – they must go!

Jacob Dexter

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 259 August/September 2017