Anti-cuts round-up

Submitted by Matthew on 9 September, 2010 - 10:36

Cuts-happy bosses at Labour-controlled Kirklees council are fixing for a head-on confrontation with one of the best-organised union branches in the public sector as they attempt to cut up to £400 million from their budget, resulting in 2,000 job losses.

It has already identified several places to swing the axe, including taking on vulnerable temporary and agency staff and introducing new formulae for calculating sickness absence, which will make it easier for bosses to dismiss absentees.

The local Unison branch, led by left-winger Paul Holmes, has launched a ballot for industrial action and begun organising workplace meetings to build for a yes vote. It is also mounting a public campaign and has planned a rally for Saturday 11 September in Huddersfield. The ballot closes on 29 September.

Barnet

Barnet’s Tory council leader Lynne Hillan clung on to her position as leader of the Tory group, defeating rival Mark Shooter probably by only one vote, on Tuesday 7 September.

Hillan has been publicly excoriated by her opponents, who are angry at her inept handling of the Tories’ Future Shape/easyCouncil privatisation agenda, Allowancegate scandal, etc. Hillan faces a vote of no confidence (tabled by the Lib Dems) at the council meeting on Tuesday 14 September.

It is conceivable that eight Tory councillors will vote with the opposition against Hillan. Then the Tories would have to pick a new leader. Shooter is not favourite: he has rocked the boat and he is a new councillor, with little experience of local government. In fact, he is a stinking rich hedge fund manager. But the Tories will have trouble finding anyone at all who is not tainted with the unpopular decisions made by the Tory administration in recent times.

The trades council, council unions and assorted Barnet campaigners and bloggers can take much of the credit for the Tories’ disarray. We have kept up an unrelenting publicity campaign against the Tories, at the same time as they have multiplied their attacks on us. We might not end up with someone much better leading the council in a few weeks’ time, but this administration will struggle to impose its desired policies.

At the same time as Barnet is trying to outsource most of its services, it is faced, as are councils nationally, with what to do after the collapse of Connaught. The company had the contract for maintaining social housing. Barnet has ended its contract with Connaught; Barnet Unison has launched a petition calling on them to bring the Connaught workforce and the repairs service back in-house. Connaught workers had been TUPE’d out of the council once to the arms length housing management company Barnet Homes, and then a second time to Connaught.

Barnet Homes is also in the news, since it had to bow to political pressure and back down on its wildly unpopular decision to move 83-year-old Edward Meakins out of his house into a flat.

There is a lobby of the council meeting at Hendon Town Hall from 6pm on 14 September with the title “Don’t cut our services! Don’t privatise our services! No to easyCouncil!” The campaign against cuts will be formally launched at a public meeting on 23 September, 7pm, Emerald Suite, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, N11 1GN.

Greenwich

Greenwich Council says it needs to make around £70 million in cuts but are yet to say where the cuts will come from.

Last year, a leaked document revealed the Labour council was planning £26.8 million in cuts.

Greenwich Save Our Services plans to protest outside Woolwich Town Hall on 21 September calling on the council to fight government cost-cutting.

Lewisham Academy

On 6 September 50 people attended a public meeting in Deptford to discuss opposing moves to turn the “outstanding” Tidemill primary school into an Academy.

Under the Tory-Lib Dem government it has become much easier for schools to take themselves out of local authority control. All that is now required is a simple vote by the governing body. Part of the attraction is more money — which will come from local authority funds.

Academies also have the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff.

South London NHS

South London and Maudsley NHS Mental Health Trust (SLaM) is to reduce its caseload by 25 percent in order to meet a £3.7m funding cut.

It’s hard to imagine how this reduction, irrespective of other cuts that are coming, will not involve job losses, fewer service users, fewer service providers. SLaM provides the widest range of mental health services in the UK across seven south London boroughs often with high levels of social deprivation, substance misuse and mental health.

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