Recent government announcements have revealed just how enormous local government cuts will be, with the poorest areas suffering the most; it has also become clear how devastating “efficiency savings” will be for frontline health services.
In a move that even sections of the mainstream press are describing as “revenge”, the Tory-led coalition government has wielded the axe directly against Labour-controlled councils, in working-class areas, protecting Tory councils in richer areas from the worst of the cuts.
In London alone, areas like Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham face cuts of nearly 9%, while Richmond and Kensington face cuts of less than 1%.
The Tories plan to cut funding for local government by up to 28% over the next four years, and are “front-loading” a big part of the cuts into 2011-2.
Some local authorities, like Barrow-in-Furness (where Labour is the biggest group on the borough council) face cuts of nearly 25%.
As well as representing an extremely savage and direct attack on workers and the poor, the government’s Localism Bill also confirms many of the worst fears about their vision for the reorganisation of local government.
Central amongst the reforms is the plan for voluntary groups, social enterprises and other similar bodies to be allowed to bid for the right to deliver local services. This is the easyCouncil model, where the democratically-elected local government body is reduced to a hub whose only role is to tender out the running of services to unaccountable organisations.
These announcements came alongside news that the NHS will also see massive cutbacks, with Chief Executive David Nicholson estimating that the health service would “need” to make “efficiency savings” of between £15 and £20 billion pounds. Nurses’ association RCN estimates that the NHS cuts could threaten tens of thousands of jobs. Unison described the cuts as “a huge danger for services and the people who rely onthem.”
Even the Commons Select Committee on health (chaired by Tory Stephen Dorrell) has described the cuts as “historically unprecedented” and admitted that they will see the NHS “tested to the limit.”
Labour councils are still saying they “have no choice” but to make the cuts imposed by the coalition government in as mild a way as possible. But there is no mild way of making 28% cuts.
Trade union and Labour activists should take up the call by Unison in Scotland for Labour councils to decide to stand with working-class communities against the government, and not with the government against working-class communities.
Defy the cuts! Make the labour movement fight!