Anti-cuts, public services

Questions and answers on the cuts

Q. The Lib/Tory coalition says that the government just has to make social cuts, in the same way as anyone who has "maxed out" their credit cards needs to cut back. Is that true? A. No. In the first place, there is nothing impossible about the government continuing with a large budget deficit for a while. Governments can't "run out of money" in the same way that households or businesses can. In the last analysis the question "where can the government get the money from?" can be answered simply: from the Bank of England printworks. There are limits on printing more cash, but the government is...

Health and social care must both be public

Article and video. The Guardian reports a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson saying there is “no foundation” to claims that the government plans to bring social care under the umbrella of the NHS. But rumours are widespread enough that the denial comes at the end of a longish article on the claims. The Guardian has since covered the possibility fairly extensively, as have other media outlets. We want social care made a free public service, publicly-owned and provided, with its staff on secure public-sector pay and conditions. Health and care campaigners are divided on the general issue of NHS/care integration. Last year’s Labour conference voted both that “our publicly-owned NHS needs to be fully integrated with Social Care systems which should all… be public”; and that “consequences of marrying social care to the NHS include medicalisation, isolation, indignity, maltreatment; bringing social care under a struggling NHS umbrella is not the answer.” Most campaigners are to one degree or another sceptical, at least on the basis of what it would mean when social care is extensively privatised, radically fragmented and in a partial state of collapse. “We have to say that the state of social care, its fragmentation and privatisation, means that at present there is nothing acceptable for the NHS to integrate with”, as Keep Our NHS Public’s John Lister put it at a recent conference on social care. We need more debate in the labour movement about the relationship between social care and the NHS, going beyond undefined buzzwords like “integration”. But no relationship will work well unless on the basis of the kind of policy Labour Party conference has called for – comprehensive public ownership of care.

Luton cuts

Luton’s Labour council has passed an emergency budget (with support from Tories on the council) which cuts 365 jobs and frontline services. Luton is particularly hard-hit because the council has depended heavily on revenues from Luton Airport, which have dwindled with the lockdown. Other councils also face budget gaps from extra spending in the lockdown, only partly covered by central government aid, and reduced incomes. Labour should be campaigning for the Tory government to restore the cuts made by the Tories to local government funding since 2010.

"We're showing them we're not weak" - Tower Hamlets workers strike again

After strikes on 3, 6 and 7 July, Tower Hamlets council workers will strike again 15-17 July to overturn the “Tower Rewards” scheme attacking their terms and conditions. Tower Hamlets Unison’s adult social care convener Amina Patel spoke to Sacha Ismail about their fight. For ways you can support the strike, including picket lines, donations and solidarity messages, see the Tower Hamlets Unison website. Please also add your name to this statement. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had since the action began. This dispute has been on the cards for over a year, but with the pandemic we...

“The irreplaceable strategy of ‘simply keeping going’”

Ruth Cashman, who is standing for election to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group (London region), discusses “holding the line” for militant trade unionism in local government. Part two of three articles. Part one, 'How I Became a Socialist'. Picture, Lambeth Unison's campaign to stop cuts to Local Children's Centres I came into local government, getting a job in the Lambeth Library Service, almost exactly the same time that the government was making lots of cuts (2008). My entire experience of trade union activism has been about dealing with austerity. About six months into the job, the...

£6 billion council gap

Stevenage’s Labour council has threatened to declare bankruptcy. The Local Government Association (an umbrella body for councils) says councils need £6 billion extra from central government this year — if not the full £15 billion taken away from councils since 2010 — to keep basic services going after their extra spending and their loss of income in the pandemic. Labour activists are building a campaign for Labour councillors to unite with unions and communities to fight back. • Check out the campaign online here.

Fight coming council cuts

Without an urgent cash injection, sweeping cuts of 20% could be seen in local authorities right across England. So the Local Government Association has reported. In real terms, the net funding shortfall from the pandemic emergency is estimated at £10 billion. Labour-held Stevenage Borough Council has been one of the first to break cover, reporting a £4.5 million black hole, expanding to £8 million by the end of year: see here. The council’s whole annual budget is £9 million. Without a bail-out this deficit could force the council to declare bankruptcy and issue a Section 114 notice, allowing...

Call for action on social care

Late May has seen significant developments in the fight around social care. After months of refusing to even address the issue of sick pay and isolation pay for care workers, the Tories have announced a £600m “infection control fund”. Guidance for the fund states that part of its purpose is to “maintain the normal wages of staff who, in order to reduce the spread of infection need to reduce the number of establishments in which they work, reduce the number of hours they work, or self-isolate”. This is potentially an enormous victory. But the announcement has been very quiet, no doubt because...

Safety inspection shut down

Britain’s official Health and Safety Executive responded to the virus danger in the many workplaces still operating throughout the lockdown, by… suspending its workplace inspections. It phased out everything that couldn’t be done by its staff working from home. Between 9 March and 7 May, the HSE received 4,813 reports about workplace issues relating to the virus, but it has started no proceedings against any employer. From 2009-10 to 2016, successive Tory cuts reduced the HSE’s budget by 46%, and the number of inspectors it employed fell by over a third. On 20 May the HSE announced it would...

Threat of London Transport cuts

London Mayor Sadiq Khan needs to brush up on his negotiation skills. Mere hours after he announced Transport for London was on the verge of running out of money, and services may stop running if additional funding wasn’t forthcoming, he managed to secure... a package of less money than is needed, with more strings attached than a marionette. In exchange for the £1.6 billion package, Khan has agreed to return the Tube to 100% service levels “as soon as possible”, and to a long-term review of TfL’s finances — which the Tory government will no doubt use to demand cuts. Khan also agreed that...

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