On Thursday, February 24th Bradford Council met to set the budget for 2011-2012 in front of a packed out public gallery mainly, if not completely, consisting of local people concerned about the local implications of the Con-Dem axe. Anyone hoping for a noble stance of defiance from Labour, beyond empty words and apologies was soon to be disappointed.
Despite the Bradford People’s Coalition Against the Cuts tireless endeavour in recent months to get the council to defy central government and set up a deficit budget to protect the most vulnerable members of the community the axe was diligently swung. Green Party councillor Martin Love started off his speech with some good rhetoric and for a moment it looked like he was going to take a stance but like Labour after a bit of crowd pleasing semantics fell back into line.
Labour councillor David Green made a similar empty apology for the cuts but made it clear he wasn’t going to attempt to stand up to the government, advocating it was better that Labour swing the ‘little’ axe than let Eric Pickles come in wielding a much bigger one. This was met by fierce heckling from the gallery, suggesting he may as well let Pickles in as he was doing his job for him. David Green responded to the heckling by stating that he was more than willing to defend his position after the meeting. To this end I have sent an Email to Mr. Green inviting him to the next Socialist Party meeting in Bradford to defend his position, we shall see if he turns up.
It soon became very clear that the budget that would lead to the £47 million of savings demanded by central government would be passed without any significant protest from the council. In reality these cuts will lead directly to 2,000 people losing their jobs leading to a grand total of about 7,000 public and private sector workers losing their jobs as a consequence. All this whilst bankers still pick up their big fat bonuses and the likes of Sir Philip Green carry on with their tax avoidance schemes.
Strategy for reducing the budget include but is by no means limited to the following – closure of 5 of the districts smallest libraries with a view to closing 5-10 more, reducing opening hours, closing one floor of Bradford Central Library and reviewing home delivery service. Reduce Mela festival to just one day and remove direct funding to district festivals which are essential outlets of entertainment to the working class. Public sector workers are now not allowed to be ill for anymore than 11 days per annum without consequences. Removing subsidies for hot meals in adult & community services. Reduce costs of supported accommodation services for clients with mental health and learning disabilities. Removal of free city bus. Stop maintaining council land unless legally enforced to do so. Where possible Social Workers and Occupational Therapists to integrate assessments to improve efficiency and encourage cheaper solutions. Reduction to Physical Disability and sensory needs services. Closure of Local Authority Day Centres. Reduce direct payments to children with disabilities by 50% and ceasing inclusion services. Removing Fly tip teams. One last one which will hit a raw nerve with any Bradfordian – reduce winter gritting, is that physically possible?
A Bradford Socialist Party member