Thugs in suits and ties, Glasgow council budget 2016

On 10 March, Glasgow’s Labour council passed its budgets for the next two years 2016/17 and 2017/18. A further £130n is to be cut from jobs and services throughout the city. Headline cuts include

- The loss of 1,500 jobs

- Changing job conditions of Cordia care workers, who are responsible for home visits to old and vulnerable people throughout the city, with six public holidays cut, less flexible working hours and apparently restricting overtime hours too. This comes on top of controversial changes to shift patterns which were implemented last year, forcing some care workers to work seven days in a row. The overwhelming majority of care workers are women with caring responsibilities in their own families.

- More cuts in grants to third sector charities and community funds

- a lower standard of cleaning in schools, museums, libraries and offices with janitor posts to be cut from one per school to four in every five schools. This comes despite recent janitor strikes against low pay.

- School children’s breakfast clubs to increase from £1.00 to £2.00. This means an extra £40 a month for 2-child families. School teachers reporting hungry pupils will become more numerous as families struggle to make ends meet.

The overwhelming majority of the cuts have so far not been made public. Glasgow Labour Council is determined to continue austerity, even if it means cementing their defeat to the SNP at the next council elections in 2017. For all their posturing, neither the SNP nor the trade unions are willing to effectively oppose cuts. The SNP, like the Labour Party, are determined to make the working class pay for the crisis.

Positioning themselves to the left of the Glasgow Labour council, the SNP and Green councillors called for amendments to the budget appealing to the trade unions for approval. In the SNP’s case this amendment still included £35m cuts, with the other £40m cuts being held off until next year. In Dundee the Labour councillors positioned themselves to the left of the SNP-controlled council, abstaining on a budget vote of £23mn worth of cuts, which were nevertheless passed by the SNP. In Edinburgh the SNP/Labour coalition council passed a budget of £85m cuts for 2016/17 with the remaining £63m to be cut before 2020. The councils blame the Scottish SNP Government for cutting local council budgets, while the SNP Government blame the Tories for cutting the Scottish budget. And so it goes on, round and round, up and down, in the world of capitalist politics, a supposedly democratic mask for the dictatorship of the banks and big business. None accept responsibility, but all are to blame.

In Dundee, 200 jobs will be lost and there are wage cuts of between £1,500- £2,500 a year for some social care workers and leisure centre attendants. In Edinburgh 2,000 jobs will be cut, charges for council run care homes will increase, and Gorgie Mills and Panmure St Ann's special schools will merge in order to ‘save’ £900,000. Scotland’s 32 councils may be implementing up to £1bn worth of cuts, but council chiefs pocketing over £1m on top of their salaries for their duties as returning officers.. Glasgow city council’s chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell, after 18 months in charge, will be paid £75,000 on top of her £160,000 salary by the conclusion of the EU referendum in June.

How much longer can this wave of austerity and arrogance of wealth continue before workers and communities mobilise, in whatever form necessary, to fight back?

Just over a year ago Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined the protest outside Glasgow city chambers as the council passed the £29.5mn cuts budget for 2015/16. Now we are onto the next round of cuts in Glasgow which again target the poor and vulnerable. Trade union opposition has not materialised and the cuts went through with minimal opposition from the unions. Proposed cuts in the 2016 draft budget included cutting social work and family services as well as a £1mn cut to home care services. According to the equality impact assessment this home care service cut would affect the following groups

‘Currently 92% of services users are over 65 and categorised as older people who are frail and entitled to free personal care. The remaining service users comprise of the following categories: • Adults or older people with dementia • Children, adults and older people with physical disabilities or sensory impairment • Children, adults and older people with learning difficulties • Families who are vulnerable • People who are homeless’

One of the most recent examples of independent anti-cuts action by a small group of homeless activists and their supporters shows what concessions can be won from Glasgow city council when respectability and obedience for the ‘rule of law’ are bypassed.

In response to the rising homelessness in the city – demand in Glasgow for homeless services has increased by almost 100% over the last year mainly as a result of cuts to homeless services and welfare - a Glasgow homeless tent town was set up at the end of March occupying George Square and at one point the city chambers. The protest made a number of demands on the council. As a result of this two-week-action they forced the council to grant some of their demands: twenty five people got emergency accommodation with support to rehab if they wished and six were given transport back to the local authority they wanted to go back to. This shows what can be achieved even with small numbers. If the thousands of members of the big trade unions could be brought into action, as shown by the four-month-long homeless caseworkers strike last year, alongside these independent actions, then a real fight back against cuts could begin.

Dominic Mulgrew

 

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