We are led to believe the lie that the world has been plunged into an economic recession and ridiculous ‘austerity’ measures have to be introduced to redress the balance of the economy.
The propaganda has been relentless, with every area of our society affected by very severe budget cuts, job losses, and citizens plunged into the depths of poverty.
The vulnerable and low earners have been most effected, with middle-earners feeling a gradual creep of financial strangulation. But not everyone has suffered financially because of ‘austerity’ measures.
The richest families in the UK have DOUBLED their net worth since 2008. The richest 1000 families now control a total of £547 BILLION.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, their assets have increased from £258 billion in 2009, a rise of 112%, with the biggest rise happening in the last 12 months – the biggest rise for the past 6 years.
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Library users, keen swimmers and pensioners will unite to take part in a rally through Gateshead town centre on Saturday.
The demonstration against Gateshead Council’s budget cuts will bring dozens of protestors together, as well as three MPs, who will speak out on Central Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.
Those affected by proposed library and swimming pool closures, and cut backs of hours at Gateshead facilities, will meet with people who use the borough’s older people’s and mental health services.
Gateshead Council’s leader Mick Henry must make up to £46m worth of savings over the next two years and proposals include reviewing how they run the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre.
Other cut backs – including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time – could lead to job losses.
Together service users will march from the Gateshead Interchange towards the Civic Centre at 2.15pm on Saturday (07 Feb), in a protest organised by the Gateshead Public Services Alliance which is part of the union Unison.
Speeches will be heard from Labour politicians, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon, Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow and Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead.
Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said: “We have people coming on behalf of the libraries, and older people’s services in Gateshead which are all under threat with closure of the scaling back of hours.
“We know that the council have to make cuts because the Government is reducing their budget.
“The council has to decide how these cuts are going to be implemented and we are trying to show that they are not just dealing with statistics.
“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals.
“It is Central Government who are cutting the council finances and we do understand the difficulty the council is facing but they need to make the decision in the face of people’s actual experiences and needs.”
Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said:
“Setting our Budget is a fine balancing act as we have so many competing priorities. It’s getting harder and harder to continue to protect those services that people want and need, but we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.
“We know that in future there will be some significant changes to services that people hold dear, but we need to start making those decisions now as the money simply won’t be there to continue to provide them in the same way.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Feb 2015
Further funding cuts could cripple policing on Tyneside and take bobbies off the beat.
That is the claim of Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) who says the force has been squeezed to the limit.
Vera Baird has today revealed the highs and lows of her first two years in office after being voted in as our area’s first elected police boss.
And in the first of a two part interview the Labour commissioner tells how the cuts in central Government funding have left the force with nothing left to save.
Now as she moves into the second half of her first term in the post Mrs Baird says she’s proud of what she and the force have achieved so far, and she is determined to continues to do all she can to meet the public’s policing priorities.
But the PCC warned that any further budget cuts could threaten the commitment to maintaining the number of cops working on the frontline.
“The concern about money is huge. We have rung out every last penny from everything we can without taking cops off the frontline. In the neighbourhood has got to be where they stay. If there are any further cuts we will do out best not to touch the frontline. But where we go next is a mystery.”
At the start of this year Northumbria Police announced that it was being forced into a major re-structure after learning that a new wave of central government funding cuts mean the force will be required to save an additional £46m by March 2017.
This came on top of a previous rationalisation of the force following the coalition Government’s austerity measures.
In order to balance the books in January Chief Constable Sue Sim announced to closure and sale of 25 police buildings, including 12 police stations. Neighbourhood officers in the areas affected will instead work from cheaper buildings, such as leisure centres, which can be shared with other organisations.
Northumbria will also reduce its number of ‘area commands’ from six to three, and plans to slash 200 senior officer and 230 civilian staff posts from the payroll.
Mrs Baird says she is confident the plans put in place will enable the force to continue policing effectively. But she admits money is tight.
“The Chief Constable is a very good business woman as well as being a very good police officer,” she said. “It’s absolutely essential that cops stay out in the neighbourhood, It’s good for the community and they are a massive source of intelligence
“What they need is a place to clock in, a place to keep their weaponry secure and they need a base where they are available to the public.
“Crime has changed over the years. We now have cyber crime and there is an increase in reporting of things like rape. At the moment we are managing. We are coping but it is obviously a challenge. But we can’t allow crime to go on. Cutting costs has to be about doing stuff smarter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 10 Nov 2014
Senior officers have warned ongoing budget cuts mean Hartlepool Council will soon reach the point were it has to stop some services.
Officials issued the stark warning as the initial budget talks for the next financial year, 2015-16 got underway – with the council needing to cut £5.626m in 2015-16 and £8.663m in 2016-17.
Councillors on the finance and policy committee met to discuss two reports, outlining early plans to cut £515,000 from the chief executive’s department and £2.4m from regeneration and neighbourhoods.
Regeneration and neighbourhoods director Denise Ogden said they hadn’t set individual targets for each division, instead looking at the “best options available that would cause residents the least pain”.
At the meeting savings of £650,000 were put forward from that department including:
* Reducing the Community Pool funding, which supports voluntary and community groups, by £220,000, as previously reported.
* Savings of £265,000 in property management. That includes property costs associated with the ongoing review of community centres and youth centres, and the closure of Adult Services Warren Road and the Community Safety premises in York Road.
* Savings of £115,000 from support services and £50,000 from the community safety budget.
Mrs Ogden added: “We are now in a position were the only alternative option is to stop some of the services.”
In the chief executive’s department, the majority of the £515,000 savings will come from removing posts left vacant, voluntary redundancies and early retirement.
The legal services division has to make savings of £65,000. Peter Devlin, chief solicitor, said they had no vacant posts and were trying to bring in more income.
More than 90 per cent of the savings in the chief executive’s department will be made by reducing staffing levels with some changes to day to day running costs.
Officers say they will be in a better position in October to say how jobs are affected by the 2015-16 cuts. Labour councillor Marjorie James wanted to know what the impact would be in terms of job losses when the reports came back.
Labour councillor Chris Simmons added: “The amount of stress put on the staff will increase with the cuts to come. While I appreciate we have to make the cuts we need to be careful with the health and wellbeing of remaining staff.”
Andrew Atkin, assistant chief executive, said: “There is a move away from were we have been spreading resources to were we stop doing a particular service.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 23 July 2014
A Couple of stories from Kate Belgrave – http://www.katebelgrave.com/
“They threatened sanctions because they couldn’t read my handwriting”
For about a month now, I’ve been spending time outside London jobcentres with the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group talking to people who are signing on about their experiences with JSA, sanctions and jobcentres. Last week, we went back to Kilburn. Recently at the jobcentre, we heard from one man who said he’d been sanctioned for several months. He was furious and screamed that he was “going to come back with a fucking hammer.”
I asked him if he wanted to talk about the sanction and he told me to fuck off. “Why the fuck would I want to talk about it?” he yelled as he disappeared towards the high street. Which was fair enough. I wouldn’t want to discuss a months-long sanction with some old blogger with a notebook. I’d want someone to fix the sanction. Who wouldn’t. I give you this as an example of the sort of fury and desperation that this vicious JSA sanctions regime generates and to put it to you that there’ll be more of it when conditions for JSA become even more demanding.
“I’m 62 and they threaten me with sanctions.”
A lot of people we talk to outside jobcentres seem completely stuck. They say their problems aren’t being resolved at all.
We’ve talked to plenty of people who are furious about that. At Lisson Grove, I talked to Penny*, aged 62. She was angry all right. She said that she’d worked in the voluntary sector until August last year, when she was made redundant, because of budget cuts. She was particularly angry about being told by the jobcentre that she wasn’t trying hard enough to find work.
“Some of us in our previous lives actually taught jobsearch. We actually took people through to the point of appointment, so [it’s very hard] to come here and be told “why are you late, you’re not doing proper jobsearch, that’s why you haven’t got a job,” when you’re 62 years of age. I’m being told this by people who are half my age. I’m being told that if ever I arrive late, they are going to cut the whole of my benefits.
PROTESTERS who gathered outside Sunderland civic centre have said £35million budget cuts will be the final nail in the coffin for city residents.
A group from North East People’s Assembly met to lobby councillors ahead of the annual budget-setting meeting yesterday, during which the multimillion pound cuts for 2014/15 were given the green light.
Carrying placards in the shape of coffin lids to signify each public service, which they say will suffer because of the cuts, the group handed out leaflets.
Among the protesters was Sunderland University chaplain Chris Howson.
He said: “The coffins represents the killing off of council services. We wanted to make a point as the councillors went in.”
Despite huge division in political opinion, all 53 councillors who attended the meeting – just over two- thirds of the 74 current elected members – voted through the motion presented by council leader Paul Watson.
One of them, Southwick Councillor Rosalind Copeland, attended the lobby in Park Lane before the meeting, supporting the demonstrators.
Pointing out that she was not there to criticise the council, but to defend what it is legally-bound to do in the face of Government cuts, Coun Copeland said: “I am here to defend my council and the decision my council will have to make – the agony we are facing as councillors.
“As council members, we are having to do things we don’t want to do. The Coalition is pilfering the working class. It is not this Labour group at fault.”
> The revolution will not begin in Sunderland…official.
To streamline finances, the council is focusing on three approaches; recommissioning services, reprioritising spending and exploring alternative ways to deliver services.
This includes reviewing car-parking charges, pest control and burial and cremation fees as well as reducing the authority’s fleet of bin wagons and the introduction of a four-day working week for recycling staff.
At the meeting, Coun Watson said: “Two years ago I said we were experiencing the most difficult economic period in living memory. This position has not changed. Even more pressure has been put on the council, with further reductions in public sector finances.”
He added: “The council has risen to the challenge and has managed these considerable risks.”
Opposition leader Robert Oliver agreed that the budget was “realistic”, and that while the Tory group welcomed the council tax freeze for a fourth consecutive year, the Labour administration should not complain about cuts, which he claimed had arisen as a result of lost revenue.
He said: “The workforce has been reduced and services have improved so it’s a case of go figure.
> And Sunderland is the 5th worst place in the UK to find work. Go figure that. Reducing the workforce might save money, but it also means more people unemployed. More chasing a pitiful few jobs. More coming under the frankly vile regime in the Jobcentres.
“The leader of the council has given us a slightly two-faced speech. You can’t complain about cuts which could have been avoided if there had been a council tax increase.”
On top of the £35million slashed from the coming year’s budget, the authority will have to find an identical amount to cut the following year.
Coun Watson says some of the savings are being mitigated by “hundreds of milllions” worth of capital investment planned until 2018.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 06 March 2014
A £38m cuts package has been passed as a city leader says to do otherwise would be to hand council control to the Government.
Newcastle’s Nick Forbes said he had no choice but to pass the latest round of budget cuts despite calls from some protesters to pass an “illegal budget” in which services are ran into debt.
The council cuts are the latest in a three-year budget made up of a reduction in Government grants and a rise in spending pressures.
As a result, libraries are being passed on to volunteers, leisure centres face the axe and some 1,300 jobs will go, 350 of them in the next financial year.
The cuts were debated as ‘bedroom tax’ protesters called on the council to stand up to the Government. Insisting he had no choice on the budget, Mr Forbes said: “I’m not prepared to countenance futile political gestures, or handing over direct control of this council to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
“I will not apologise for behaving responsibly and taking tough decisions to balance the books.
“Doing anything different would make Newcastle a target for national disgrace, and would deal a devastating blow to the image and confidence of this city.
> The revolution will not start in Newcastle…official.
“Nor, however, am I prepared to give up the fight for our missing £38m – money which has, in the large part, been collected from the businesses in our city through business rates and redistributed to other, more affluent, parts of the country. Any business being shortchanged by the amount that we are would be – rightly so – fighting its corner in every way possible. I will not apologise for standing up for the interests of this city. For seeking to protect the people of Newcastle from this Government, which seems hellbent on attacking those least able to stand up for themselves.”
> But you’re still making all the cuts that affect least able to stand up for themselves anyway ? I could be wrong, but it does tend to look like they’re talking big and disassociating themselves from blame, then going away and initiating ConDem policies anyway.
Liberal Democrats said the figures being debated were misleading, with former council leader David Faulkner saying councils had always had to cope with cost increases.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 06 March 2014
Ministers have been accused of declaring “war” on the North East as MPs and council leaders gathered at Westminster to plan their fight-back against funding cuts.
> Well it’s taken them long enough ! Have they only just noticed what’s been going on under their noses ?
The region’s Labour politicians warned the debate about funding and grants obscured the real impact of cuts, which was worse public services and the prospect of councils running out of money.
Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland Council, said families in the North East would receive poorer police and fire services than those in wealthier parts of the country.
And the region’s politicians accused the Government of quietly scrapping the long-accepted convention that funding was allocated in part on the basis of need – so areas with higher levels of poverty, a higher proportion of older folk a low skills base or other pressing needs were given the cash they needed.
The change means a council like Newcastle is facing budget cuts while those in much wealthier areas are enjoying increases in funding.
The warnings were issued as council leaders delivered a presentation to MPs in a Commons committee room at Westminster, following a meeting with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis.
> And they all said: “Bugger me, we had no idea this was going on. When did this start, then ?”
GatesheadMP Ian Mearns told the gathering: “There is a war being fought against our communities and it is being inflicted on us in the most ruthless fashion I can remember in my 30 years in politics.”
North Durham MP Kevan Jones added: “This is a war. They know exactly what they are doing. They are diverting money from our areas to areas in the south.”
A presentation produced by the Association of North East Councils (ANEC) warned that cuts in council budgets in the North East amounted to £467 for every household between 2010 and 2016 – compared to just £105 in the South East.
The discrepancy is partly a result of the Government abandoning the principle of funding based on “need”, which traditionally meant some councils received more than others.
A higher proportion of the North East’s population is elderly than the national average. The region also has more adults who need social care and long-term unemployment, as well as more children in care, all of which would traditionally have meant councils received higher funding.
But ANEC estimates that by 2019-20, Newcastle City Council’s spending power per household will be equal to the money available to a council in a wealthy areas such as Wokingham, in Berkshire.
Meanwhile, Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, has revealed that a poll of her constituents shows that more than 90% of respondents expect their standard of living to get worse or stay the same over the next three years.
The survey on her website found that 79% of respondents were concerned by energy bills, 56% by food prices and 39% with the cost of transport.
> So now our Labour representives finally seem to have caught on to what’s going down. Question is, what are they going to actually do about it ?
Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 Jan 2014
More jobs will have to go at Durham County Council as civic centre chiefs look again at one of the region’s biggest series of budget cuts.
Over six years Durham will lose some £224m, and the latest plan to find £100m is seeing the council prepare for further service cut backs.
Council leader Simon Henig said the council has already lost more than £113m, and is well into current plans set to make some 2,000 staff redundant by the next financial year.
But even that total is now likely to be passed as the council look to the next three years of cuts.
After a lengthy consultation process in which the public was asked to use a Monopoly board-style game to identify priorities, the council is now ready to go with further cuts to museums, arts, some library support services and grass cutting.
Mr Henig said: “We are looking at the arts, but no one will see their entire contribution cut. We have a number of facilities across the county, the museum, the theatre and so on, but no one will lose out completely. It could lead to changes such as opening hours, but trying to avoid being too dramatic in these areas.”
Other savings confirmed include a reduction in school crossing staff and the switching off or dimming down of some street lights.
The leader said that, of the new savings identified, many would be met by back office cuts and efficiencies. “But you cannot keep cutting this,” Mr Henig said, “Sooner or later all you are left with is front line services to cut.”
He added: “Next year is when we will have to make some incredibly difficult choices about our services. The Government can’t just keep cutting this. You can’t look for efficiencies each year, they run out and then it is front line that goes. All councils will reach this point. We have been in a better position than some as we are the biggest council in the North East and have been able to find more savings, but we will reach that point next year where it is our front line that has to suffer. It’s inevitable.
“What we have asked for from the Government is fairness, for the North East to face the same reduction as all councils, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
“But we have instead seen councils in the South East and Home Counties having increases in spending powers, on the Government’s own figures.
“If we had the same reduction all round there would still have to be cuts but at least it would be fair across the country.”
> Is he really suprised ? As I’ve said before, neither Tories or Lib Dems, seperately or in unholy alliance, are likely to win power in the North East, so why should they care ? Well, yeah, plenty of reasons, but none that would occur to them.
More to the point, what we want to know is what Labour will do to rebalance things, should they win the next election. Very little, I suspect, but I’m up for a nice suprise. Not holding my breath though…
Council treasurer Don McLure set out the jobs risk of the Government not listening to those concerns.
He said: “The forecast we did on the first plan said 1,950 job losses, and that is likely to be the same as imagined over four years. That takes us up to 2015. There is another £100m to come, we need to look at them in more detail, but we are predominantly an employer, 70% of our budget is staffing we will have to look at that again.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Jan 2014