Tagged: Helen Metcalf

Sunderland faces new £36m ‘attack on the poor’

Sunderland faces another three years of misery after it was revealed another £108million of savings will have to be made in an ‘unremitting assault and ‘attack on the poor.’

The Labour cabinet at Sunderland City Council agreed a report which will guide the budget setting process for the next financial year.

By adopting the budget planning framework 2015/16, which shows the reduction in national funding remaining at 13.16 per cent for the next financial year, cabinet members have agreed that cuts of £36.3million will have to be made.

Presenting the report, cabinet secretary Mel Speding said the cuts would mean frontline services would be cut – but pledged the council will still push forward with regeneration projects.

The sustained level of cuts means frontline services will unavoidably be affected,” Coun Speding said, adding that: “This council continues to lobby against government proposals.”

Coun Graeme Miller added:

“This is an unremitting assault on the public sector and local authorities in general. Quite how they expect us to deliver the services the residents of the city are expecting from us I have absolutely no idea. To have lost £100million already, then to have to find another £108million, beggars belief.”

Coun John Kelly said:

Other authorities and areas have not taken the significant cuts we have taken. Whether this is because we are a Labour-controlled authority or because we are in the North East, the Conservatives have done nothing but attack this area. If they are voted back in, they will continue to attack the poor. They will continue to dismantle, bit by bit, the way we look after the most vulnerable people.”

Commenting after the meeting, Tory group leader Lee Martin said the Labour councillors failed to see the bigger picture.

“It doesn’t gel with what’s happening in people’s lives,” Coun Martin said. “We’ve had the fastest fall in poverty rates, along with Scotland, at five per cent. This comes from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is hardly a Conservative organisation. We have the fastest growing economy in Europe.

> So… the more resources are cut, the more poverty rates fall ?  How does that work ? Well of course it doesn’t…

“There has been no commitment from Ed Miliband or the Labour Party to spend more on local government if they get in. Labour like to talk about it as a great big crusade against the North East, but they did nothing to address regeneration, employment and welfare.

“We have money going into business parks, roads, regeneration, but the difference now is that everything comes with strings attached.

“Nobody believes that we have no money. If that was the case, why would we spend £12million on a public square. Yes, the council is smaller than it used to be, but there is no commitment from them to go back to how it used to be. It’s all about where their priorities are.”

Sunderland Unison organiser Helen Metcalf said:

“From our point of view we want to protect public services as far as possible. Where there is outsourcing of services, we need to protect contracts and working conditions, and ensure we get a fair deal for our members. We have offered to work with the council. We can’t stop services being outsourced, but we want to ensure we don’t move towards zero-hour contracts and a two-tier workforce.”

Source –  Sunderland Echo,  10 Oct 2014

Strike set to hit Sunderland

Sunderland could grind to a halt tomorrow as thousands of local government workers go on strike.

Members of unions including Public and Commercial Services (PCS), Unison, GMB, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Unite will walk out nationally.

Although it is not clear how many employees will take part, Sunderland City Council has warned the action was likely to affect most of its services, with many council buildings closed.

Most schools in Sunderland will shut, although some will remain open and others will partially open for some year groups. Some children’s centres will be closed.

All customer service centres will be closed along with libraries, with the exception of the City Library.

All leisure centres and wellness facilities, including Sunderland Aquatic Centre, will also be closed – though the Raich Carter Sport Centre will remain open. All museums will be closed.

Bin collections will be hit, while Beach Street household waste and recycling centre will be closed. The industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on the day.

We have to make the point that this is not just about pay, but the future of the services that our members provide,” Unison’s Sunderland organiser Helen Metcalf .

One per cent is a cut in real terms of 20 per cent since the coalition government came to power, and that would see almost 90 per cent of our school and local government workers receive a further pay cut, rather than a pay award.

“The chancellor committed that everyone earning under £21,000 would receive and extra £250, but this has never been paid.”

She added: “We don’t take strike action like this lightly, but people coming out when they are already suffering, shows just how strong the feeling is, that people just can’t afford to live on this anymore.”

Chief executive Dave Smith said: “This is a national dispute affecting public services across the country. And although it’s not entirely clear at this stage how many employees will take part in the industrial action, we are anticipating widespread disruption to council services and we have planned ahead on that basis.

“We will be doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable members of the community and ensure that services to them are maintained. We ask members of the public to bear with us during this time and we apologise for any disturbance to normal services resulting from this national dispute.”

Durham County Council says that although it has taken steps to minimise the impact on emergency and essential services, most council buildings will be closed to the public.

An up-to-date list is available at http://www.durham.gov.uk/schoolclosures. There will be no waste collections, but household waste recycling centres will open as normal.

Firefighters will walk out – between 10am and 7pm – as part of the long-running dispute between the FBU and government over pensions, and people are urged to take extra care to protect themselves from the risks of fire.

Source –  Sunderland Echo,  09 July 2014

The Deputy Mayor’s New Clothes

Sunderland City Council may have had to close libraries in this great age of austerity, but it’s good to learn that some important expenditures are safe.

The council’s cabinet has approved an increase of the deputy mayor’s allowance, from 3,827  to 5,735 pounds.

To put that in to some kind of context, someone receiving just the basic Jobseekers Allowance will get 3,728 pounds a year.

And he’s not even the mayor – just the deputy.

For the record (and I have to admit I didn’t know) the current deputy mayor is one Stuart Porthouse (Lab), St. Chad’s ward.who says –

“I think I’m like all other councillors. When you offer to become deputy mayor, the allowance is the last thing you think about.

“I don’t think people realise that, as deputy mayor, you have to represent the city at functions, and if you are invited to a mayoral event, you have to pay for it yourself. That didn’t use to be the case. For example, I’m going to the Newcastle mayor’s Christmas function. That is going to cost 60 pounds.

“There are a number of mayoral events at this time of year. I’ve supported the mayor of South Shields at charity events and the mayor of Stockton.

“The allowance that I get has to cover a number of things. You have to buy extra suits and also clothes for the deputy mayoress, so it goes towards that. Then you have to buy all the raffle tickets, and if you want a glass of wine or a pint of beer, you have to pay for that yourself.”

It’s a hard life, isn’t it ? Having to buy your own drinks and raffle tickets, just like ordinary people. Why, though, do you need all the extra suits (which you presumably keep), why does the wife need to be clothed at taxpayer’s expense ? Dont either of you have any clothes of your own ?

Do we really need a deputy mayor at all ?  If he’s attending all these jollies (albeit having to buy his own drinks) where is the actual mayor ?

Come to think of it, who is the actual mayor ? I’ve got no idea. That’s how important the office of mayor is in my life.

Unison regional organiser Helen Metcalf wasn’t very impressed either –

“While the actual amount in real terms isn’t huge…”

No ?  In real terms it’s more than some people have to live on – and pay Council Tax  from – for a whole year. Sorry, Helen, please do continue –

“…it is more the principle that  Unison strongly disagrees with – to see a 50% increase when 110million pounds has to be cut from council budgets over the next three years, and that on the back of 100million pounds already cut.

“Considering Sunderland, and the North East in general, has been one of the worst hit regions for cuts, the deputy mayor really should set more of an example.”

Yes, we’re all in it together…