The widely quoted figure of 20,000 job cuts in local government over the next few years is starting to gain a grim credibility as councils begin to show their hands.
First off the mark was Birmingham City Council (run by a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, with the Tories the largest partner.) who are talking about slashing its workforce by almost 2,000 to help ‘save’ £69 million by April 2011. ( Click here to read a more detailed report on this) This figure is based on the remaining workforce accepting a pay freeze as well. This is grim news for the workers but also for the people of Birmingham. According to the BBC News these cuts will result in severe cuts in the Children and Young People department as well as ‘day care centres, residential homes for the elderly, sport and leisure facilities and libraries.’ Charges will also be increased across the board for council services.
Next we have Tory run Nottingham County Council, which has announced a plan to slash £200 million from their running costs over the next five years. This is courtesy of their grandly named Improvement Programme which itself will cost £21 million to run over the same period. So what brilliant plan have they come up with? Already they are due to cut 484 jobs next financial year and to this must be added a further 1,000 to be got rid off. The unfortunately named Nottinghamshire County Council’s leader Kay Cutts has explained this by saying, “We were elected to run a business-like council and that is what we will do." More like a council for business we say.
Are these just isolated examples? Well it seems not as local government union Unison are having to organise protest meetings up and down the country as council after council announces plans to cut jobs and services. When you put this in the context of the wider campaign by the representatives of big business to ‘cut the deficit’ of national state expenditure in order that the working class pays for the bosses crisis, then the need for a fightback by the Labour and trade union movement is essential. Both New Labour and the Tories seem committed to some programme of massive cuts after the general election – the only question is by how much. The response from the movement must be the same and should unite all those with an interest in fighting what is coming. Such a campaign should emphasize where the blame for the crisis really lies and the need for a clear socialist alternative.