The Weston Anti-Cuts Alliance is holding a public meeting at the Blakehay Theatre in Weston super Mare at 7 pm on 14th September. The Anti-Cuts Alliance was formed just over a year ago to fight the cuts to public services in Weston and North Somerset.
We are asking the people of North Somerset to come to the meeting to talk about how the public spending cuts are affecting their families and their communities. There will also be a variety of speakers who will talk about the impact of the cuts locally on children’s services, youth services, schools, libraries, police and emergency services, the NHS, housing, transport, and the effects on pensioners. We want anyone who is interested in finding out more about the impact of the cuts to public services, or who would like to get involved in our campaign to fight to attend the meeting.
North Somerset Council have already approved £17.5 million of cuts for the current financial year. These include massive cuts to services to older people, people with physical and learning disabilities, children and young people, people with mental health issues, people fleeing domestic abuse, refugees, and homeless people. Many of our Cultural and leisure services have been transferred to private companies – this includes the Winter Gardens, Playhouse, Tourist Information Centre, Churchill and Wyvern Sports Centres. The museum has been transferred to the Town Council. There have been cuts to Regulatory services such as Environmental Health and Protection, Trading Standards, Food Safety, and Commercial Health & Safety – impacting on the health, safety and rights of the people of North Somerset. The first round of cuts to libraries is just about to get underway – staff numbers will be reduced and staff replaced by self-service machines.
In the last week the council has announced how it plans to make another £30 million of cuts, amounting to almost £50 million of cuts over 4 years, or one third of their budget for services. We are particularly concerned by further massive cuts to Adult Social Services, which provides services to the elderly and disabled, and cuts to Children’s and Young People’s Services, including pretty much the complete decimation of the youth service. The council are also proposing a reduction in the numbers of already over-worked social workers. In addition it looks highly likely that most of North Somerset’s rural libraries will be closed. North Somerset Council tell us that they have no choice but to make these cuts, because central government has reduced their funding. But it is our view that instead of cutting vital public services, the leading group at North Somerset Council should be telling their colleagues in central government about the impact of the cuts on the people of North Somerset and persuade them to change their mind.
The cuts are really starting to bite in North Somerset with unemployment rising, and even those in work are finding their wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. The police are reporting an increase in crime involving people stealing food, and a Food Bank is about to open in Weston. There have been riots and looting in other parts of the region. Ordinary people are seeing their wages, benefits and services being cut, while chief executives’ pay packets now stand at 75 times that of their workers, and their pension pay outs amount in some cases to £1 million per year. It is looking increasingly likely that millions of public sector workers will take industrial action in the autumn over cuts to services, jobs and pensions.
We believe that the cuts to public services imposed by the Tory led government are unfair because they hit the poorest the hardest, and unnecessary because there are other ways to cut the deficit. The Coalition government’s savage spending cuts have already slowed down the economic recovery, and increased unemployment. We believe that the cuts are not an economic necessity, but are politically motivated by a government, which wants to see a scaling back of the welfare state. We believe that there is an alternative to the cuts, and that rather than slash funding for public services, the Coalition government could reduce the deficit by bringing in legislation to close tax loop holes and tax havens. There is potentially £100 billion per year out there in uncollected taxes, and a Robin Hood tax, which is a tax on financial transactions could bring in £20 billion a year. Quite simply we believe that the government ought to tax the banks and other financial institutions that caused the recession, instead of cutting public spending, which hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.