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Kirklees: Labour and Green councillors refuse to fight the cuts
Cormac Kelly, Huddersfield Socialist Party
Kirklees Council's finance director, Eammon Croston, told a public meeting on 22 January that it plans £10.9 million of cuts this financial year.
More cuts will follow between 2020 and 2022. And no one knows what is going to happen after that.
Kirklees is a working-class area including Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and surrounding areas in West Yorkshire. It has four Labour MPs, and Labour narrowly controls the district council.
The council claims it is going to spend more on adult learning. Also on child protection, following the recent conviction of the Huddersfield grooming gang. It is not clear if this is new money, or where exactly it will come from.
Socialist Party members challenged Kirklees councillors. We called on them to use reserves and prudential borrowing powers to stop the cuts, while building a campaign to win the money back from Westminster.
At the time of its last accounts in April, Kirklees had useable reserves of £185 million.
Instead, their policy is that reserves will be increased after 2018! Shabir Pandor, Labour leader of the council, claimed reserves would run out in a few weeks if the council was not careful! The leader of the Green group also argued strongly that reserves mustn't be touched.
After all, as councillors pointed out, there might be a snow storm leading to gritting, or someone might dump dangerous chemicals and then clear off. £185 million is a lot for gritting and chemical removal.
The Tory group leader reported the council's "cheap" bins contract with Suez is up for renegotiation, and it would cost a lot more for a new contract. The increased cost - doled out not to bin workers, but to fat cats at Suez - would have to come from reserves!
With the Socialist Party playing a leading role, the mass campaign to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary's A&E has pushed back the NHS cutters. Meanwhile, the Labour administration, backed by the other parties, has avoided pressure with 'salami slicing' tactics of cutting here and there.
Socialist Party member Mike Forster is standing in this year's local elections, on a platform of ending all cuts and fighting for the money we need, appearing on the ballot paper as Socialist Alternative.
In The Socialist 27 February 2019:
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