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Leicestershire - No more austerity!
Heather Rawling, NUT union life member and Unison (personal capacity)
'We will pay you £60 to attend a consultation session with Leicestershire County Council.' I couldn't believe that I had heard the man correctly. £60 to tell them what I think of them. Count me in!
The evening was designed to get people to appreciate how the poor councillors were agonising over the cuts they had to make.
The council has had a £100 million cut in its revenue support grant and the director of finance said it needed to make £75 million in cuts even though the population is set to rise by 107,000.
Also, Special Education Needs costs are set to rise by 22% and the numbers of children in council care are set to rise by 13% each year.
So, already families are struggling to cope. Here is where we, the public, came in. The consultation was to imagine we were councillors, look at the figures and say where we would make the cuts. Then the councillors could claim this is what we wanted!
So I asked how much the council had in reserves. It's £100 million. The council is a hung council with a small Tory majority. Councils don't have to make cuts. The director of finance muttered something about illegal budgets, but he was informed that using reserves is not illegal.
Leicestershire County Council has already cut £200 million since 2010. Children and young people's services and adult social care, the biggest budgets, have already been cut to the bone. Any further cuts would mean that the council would be in danger of not fulfilling its statutory duties. Leicestershire is not the only council in this situation.
We have already had more than a decade of austerity and misery as working-class people have been forced to pay for the capitalist economic downturn. The labour and trade union movement should organise a fightback to defend jobs and services.
Labour councillors should refuse to vote for cuts and instead organise a mass campaign of communities and trade unions to demand funding from the government. Liverpool socialist council in the 1980s showed the way.
I have given the £60 to the Socialist Party fighting fund to further that fight!
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