These cuts go beyond key sectors: Councils are being forced to undermine projects which empower and assist the most vulnerable

To some degree the disproportionate emphasis on government cuts to the big sectors (health, eduction, defence etc) represents the fact that they are broadly prioritised in the nation’s psyche and that they determine to a large extent peoples voting intentions. The list below illustrates how this coalition’s cuts affect smaller, marginalised and less well resourced communities. I would assert that in writing, saying “I” and using expletives within a sentence is invariably gratuitous. However, I would also assert that on reading the evidence presented below, I think what is happening is nothing short of a fucking disgrace.

1.Scottish Refugee Council: Offers independent advice and advocacy, finding lawyers, solving housing disputes etc. Cuts : £1m (62%). John Wilkes, its chief executive, says: “I think it could lead to more destitution, it could lead to more homelessness. That’s my fear. The things that help keep these people in the system, we just won’t be able to do.”

2.Youth counselling serivce (Greenwich, London) : the charity operates an early intervention scheme, run mainly by trained volunteers, working with children suffering from anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, and young people who self-harm. Cuts : £118,000 (45%). Local NHS mental health teams have described Youthreach as a service they “can’t manage without”. But the loss of its core funding from Greenwich council, equivalent to 45% of its total budget, is a hammer blow. After 1 April, its meagre reserves will keep its doors open for three months at most and then it will shut. Its young clients will be diverted to already overstretched youth mental health services.

3.Terrence Higgins Trust CHAPS Cymru project:The CHAPS project researches the HIV prevention needs of gay men, and develops and delivers campaigns and information for those at risk. Cuts : £80,000 (100%) Genevieve Edwards, executive director of communication and health improvement for THT, says the cut is short-sighted and risky. “It is not a huge amount of money but the impact on gay men in Wales will be huge. It is really going to add to the isolation for men who don’t see HIV prevention here, who won’t know if there is a syphilis outbreak. We can’t warn about increasing rates of HIV. It is really dangerous.”

4.Oldham Community Support workers: They give advice on nutrition and exercise for very young children and their families, offer tips on early parenting, run baby yoga and massage classes and support families either in groups or individually. Cuts : £700,000 (100%. Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity 4Children, said: “Local authorities have very difficult spending decisions to make. But when reshaping services and making efficiencies, councils must stretch every sinew to protect the vital frontline services that families rely on.”

5.Haringey Advisory Group on Alchol: HAGA, the only alcohol project in the borough, helps 1,000 problem drinkers a year, plus their partners and children. Cuts : £455,000 (40%). Gail Priddey, HAGA’s chief executive said “We are extremely worried about the consequences for problem drinkers and their families, as are they. We have been advised to send them back to their GPs or A&E, if appropriate, or children and family social services. Nightmare.”

6.Newham Asian Advisory Service: This project, founded in 1987, provides a raft of support services for South Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse Cuts : £22,000 . NAWP director Baljit Banga, says: “We have got a very high number of high-risk cases we are dealing with: women who are at risk of suicide, women who are experiencing extreme trauma related to domestic abuse. That is our client base. There is an assumption that women will simply move on to other services, but actually that really does not happen. When they don’t have access to services, they withdraw from services altogether.”

7.Devon Conservation Forum: The forum was founded in 1970 to champion conservation issues in Devon. Over the years it has formed study groups and working parties to investigate issues affecting the county’s environment. Cuts : £4,724 (100% of funding from Devon county council) James Wreth, CEO of Devon Conservation Forum claimed that  “I accept that if it’s a matter of caring for a child or the environment, the child comes first. But it’s sad that a forum that has existed for 40 years is being lost.” SM

8.Maplehome, Pensall House, Poulton House, Meadowcraft, Fernleigh care homes, the Wirral, Merseyside:
Five care homes will be closed on the Wirral by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat-controlled borough council as part of its £50m spending cuts. Four will close on 31 March, with the exception of Fernleigh, which is to remain open “while options are considered”. Closure will save £2.7m.Maplehome provides respite for adults with learning difficulties, while Fernleigh is a respite service for adults with mental health problems. Staff at the homes have been offered voluntary redundancy. The remainder will be redeployed. Gwen Seller, chair of Wirral Mencap, says: “The speed of implementation of the closures precludes any reasoned or meaningful discussion with service users and their families about how their needs will be met.”

9.KicFM :Kids in Communication has given more than 4,000 teenagers in Wolverhampton the chance to learn how to be a radio producer, reporter or researcher over the last 11 years. But it is due to close on 1 April. Rob Smith, Kic’s chief executive, says young people feel cuts like this are disproportionate and unwarranted, coming on top of the abolition of the education maintenance allowance and the rise in university fees. “We have an excellent track record of progression, taking young people from exclusion to employment. Measures proposed in the budget, such as expanding apprenticeships will not achieve that same result.”

Its time to fight back.


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UK Uncut Emergency Operation 28th May

Today we descended upon Camden to protest against the government’s NHS reforms. The government is trying to rush these reforms through despite massive opposition from the public, from NHS staff and healthcare experts. What’s more, this government got into power via an election ticket resting on an NHS ring fence; they now cry that reforms and cuts are unavoidable as they hadn’t grasped the severity of the public finances. Although Labour’s light-touch regulation let the financial sector run rampant and bring our economy to its knees, this was part of a global financial crisis; one which would undoubtedly have been worse under the bankrolled Tory party (who never opposed Labour’s deregulation, unsurprisingly), so we demonstrated today to say ‘Make the banks pay and save our NHS’. We protested outside Camden’s banks to put this misconception right, to show that institutions like the NHS are suffering because of a crisis caused largely by our financial sector and that these cuts to our welfare state are ideological and not necessary.

The protest was incredibly good natured and harmless. Whilst most of us were decked out in scrubs, some impersonated prosecutors and judges and brought Andrew Lansley, David Cameron and the bankers to justice, culminating in Lansley’s beheading. The highlight for me was a young girl beating up an HSBC banker, shouting “That money’s for the NHS!” We staged die-ins, suffering for our cause on the sick-stained streets of Camden, now pink with fake blood. An NHS monopoly board was laid down to highlight the private sector’s bidding for the NHS’s vital organs, with hospitals up for auction on the squares. All served very well to attract the public’s gaze, including many bemused tourists.

This was the first major operation by UK Uncut since the march and the Fortnum 145 debacle. It was extremely well planned and executed and there was a great deal of flyering and information of the public. It is vital to maintain the struggle and fight against these cuts and may there be many more afternoons like today’s.


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Growth forecast downgraded…again

Left Foot Forward reported the OECD’s revised stance towards our economy’s growth:

“For 2011, it has now downgraded its UK growth outlook from 1.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent and for 2012 from 2 per cent to 1.8 per cent, which is 0.3 per cent and a whopping 0.7 per cent lower than the OBR’s forecasts respectively.

On the same day as our hopes were dashed of an upward correction of Q1 economic growth, the chief economist of the OECD, Pier Carlo Padoan, warned the UK it may have to consider slowing down the pace of cuts if the UK economy continues to lag behind that of Germany, France and the aggregate of the eurozone.

This is especially worrying in light of the economy having flatlined over the last six months before the majority of cuts and tax rises set in. With no growth and a predicted continued rise in unemployment, the government will be spending more on benefits and will receive less in tax revenues as a result.

We are entering a devilish circle of low growth leading to higher borrowing, resulting in more cuts to meet the deficit target, which again brings about lower growth and so on.”


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More Big Society Bollocks

Image by Steve Bell.

Cameron is once again trying to resuscitate – for the fourth time – his grand plans for a Big Society. It’s not that the concept is vapid and insubstantial, he says, we’re just not getting it. As with the NHS, the problem lies in the explanation, or lack thereof.

Monday brought news of this resuscitation and today it is reported that Lord Wei – the Big Society tsar – has left his job after less than a year. This comes after the embarrassing admission in February from the government that Wei had cut down his hours because he didn’t have enough time, whilst we are all expected to ramp up our volunteering efforts.

The government has conceived some measures of merit, including the facilitation of Gift Aid declarations, but these rest among “concrete steps” such as making cabinet ministers volunteer for one day a year – leading by paradigmatic example as always. All in all it’s as fluffy as ever and will do little to combat the public’s bemusement (78% of voters currently don’t know what the Big Society is supposed to be).

Polly Toynbee wrote an informative and effective rebuttal of the steps the government has taken thus far and its plans for the future which totally undermine their Big Society rhetoric. These include cutting funding to charities by £1.4bn, rising to £3.1bn by 2013, abolishing Labour’s V for Volunteering scheme (in which I participated and found hugely rewarding) and rolling back the New Deal for Communities – a real and successful establishment of Big Society ideas. Read the article here.


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A good blog from Left Foot Forward

Here is a blog about Cameron’s failure to explain what he means by ‘rebalancing the economy’ and how his commitments lie with the financial sector, rather than manufacturing, which he purports to support.

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UK Uncut’s Emergency Operation: Save Our NHS

Andrew Lansley’s thinly disguised plans to privatise the NHS threaten to increase inequality in access to healthcare and create a system like that in the US, where a third of healthcare costs are invested in administration rather than patients’ best interests.

Healthcare professionals have spoken out against the plans, but Lansley seems more intent on hearing what private healthcare lobbyists want.

UK Uncut has organised a day of action on Saturday 28th May to highlight the contrast between austerity measures such as these and the runaway profits, bonuses and tax dodging practices of our major banks. Join the Emergency Operation!

Visit the UK Uncut website for more information and details of your local action.


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HM Treasury is full of bullshit!

I’ve just been browsing the internet for some stats and came across this on the Treasury website and was almost bowled over by the bullshit:

“The Spending Review sets out a new vision for a fairer Britain. It sets out a programme of reform that will ensure those who need it most continue to receive support, but with a greater focus on services that offer opportunities for social mobility.

Fairness starts with tackling the deficit. This ensures that future generations are not burdened with unsustainable debts, higher taxes and diminished public services. Tackling the deficit fairly means that all sections of society that are able to contribute, should do, with more support available to the poorest.”

In light of the ‘hardest hit’ march yesterday the government’s policies are clearly falling disproportionately and unfairly on the most vulnerable. Those who are unable to contribute without unwillingly sacrificing their dignity and independence are being forced to shoulder the brunt of these cuts, while the richest carry on unscathed. Some may be fooled by the gross falsehoods propagated by the Sun and the Daily Mail about benefit scroungers, but it would take a heart of steel to hear personal testimonies from those set to lose vital contributions to their care and not sympathise.

Although I agree that we should not burden our children with a massive amount of debt, this does not have to constitute cutting the deficit in one term, with measures taken that are already destroying lives. It is also grimly ironic that we are saddling young people with an unprecedented amount of debt if they want to go to university.

Let’s be clear – the cuts are falling on the poor the hardest. Whatever arguments you have for the rich maintaining their status, it totally contradicts the government’s talk of ‘those with the broadest shoulders will carry the heaviest burden’ or whatever bullshit suited Cameron’s needs at the time. I do think that Cameron genuinely buys into this vapid rhetoric and believes that he is improving lives across the country – if not now, then years down the line – but a growing number of people are testament to the contrary.


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