For the third year in a row Leeds City Council are passing another budget of savage cuts to the city. On top of the £145m savings from the past two years, this budget will add a further £55m.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
This years budget plans include closing 8 residential homes across the city, inclreasing council house rents by 5.9%, increasing children’s nursery fees by £2 a day and a further 334 job cuts. Although council tax will remain frozen, there will be increases in police and fire authority precepts.
For the third year in a row, anti-cuts campaigners staged a protest outside the council chambers, although security has been tightened somewhat since our first protest two years ago where protestors stormed the council chamber and delayed the cuts being passed by a few hours (see https://leedssocialistparty.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/report-protestors-force-council-cuts-budget-meeting-to-be-delayed/). Delegations from GMB Leeds Civic branch, Leeds Met UCU, Hands off our Homes and others lobbied councillors and leafletted passers-by.
Several passers-by expressed their anger at the council, including one man who told us ‘People voted Labour to stop those Tory bastards, but they’re just the same – they’re all the same these days’. Whilst various Labour councillors have bemoaned the cuts, they have still been dutifully carrying out the Con-Dem governments dirty work in implementing them locally, including the now hated bedroom tax where opposition is growing across the city.
Labour nationally fail to offer any alternative too. Shadow Chancellor and local Labour MP Ed Balls wrote an article about cuts to local services a few weeks ago in the Morley Observer. In the article, he laments how the cuts are affecting Morley and the disproportionate cut in funding for Leeds City Council alongside many other metropolitan councils, but then went on to say ‘Of course cuts and savings needed to be made.’
If there were Labour councillors who really want to stand up for working people in Leeds then they should follow the example of the Southampton ‘rebel’ councillors and vote against the cuts and move an alternative budget that would maintain services using reserves and borrowing powers. This would gain time to build a mass campaign against cuts in the city and demand the money from the government to fund the public services the city needs, rather than implent these austerity measures to pay for the bank bailouts, tax dodging and tax cuts for the rich that seems the be the priority of the Con-Dem government.