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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 February 2018

Northants council crisis - protesters demand an end to cuts and privatisation

No cuts, no PFI, Tories out of the council, photo Katie Simpson

No cuts, no PFI, Tories out of the council, photo Katie Simpson   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Score and Katie Simpson, Northants Socialist Party

Hundreds of people protested against the devastating cuts and dire financial state of Tory-controlled Northamptonshire council on 17 February. Labour councillor and parliamentary candidate Gareth Eales told the crowd how his first attempt to run for council was denied after he expressed a strong opposition to private finance initiatives (PFI).

According to Eales he was deemed "not suitable to be a Labour councillor." Gareth stood alongside fellow Corbyn-backing Labour councillors, 'Save Northants Services', the Socialist Party and many other campaign groups in calling for the end of PFI, privatisation and cuts.

The council has issued a 'Section 114 notice' banning all new expenditure other than on statutory services. It says it risks 'overspending' by 21 million in 2017-18 and plans a total of 33.6 million in cuts for 2018-19. But this is on top of 400 million cuts since 2010.

As a model Tory authority it has outsourced (privatised) virtually every service, cutting its directly employed workforce from around 4,000 to 150. Unbelievably it has a billion pounds of debt for PFI schemes according to Save Northants Services! Repayments cost nearly 50 million a year.

Such is the scale of the crisis that the government has sent inspectors into the council. Campaigners, however, have no trust in the government to solve the crisis in a way that will help local services.

In contrast there needs to be a trade union and community-led investigation into the financial books, what services the county really needs and an alternative strategy. The cuts must be immediately reversed, services brought back in-house and PFI debt scrapped.

Campaigners are also demanding the council should resign and force new elections to give local people a genuine alternative to Tory cuts. However, even if this were to happen it is vital that candidates aiming to replace the Tories adopt a no-cuts budget approach, including a readiness to use reserves and borrowing powers.

With or without an emergency election, a mass campaign needs to be built linking trade unions and the workforce - both direct and outsourced - with the community across Northamptonshire to force extra funding from the government.

This is a glimpse of the future for all councils unless the Tory plans for the destruction of local services are stopped. We need fighting no-cuts councillors and national trade union action to back up mass local campaigns.

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The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

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In The Socialist 21 February 2018:


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