Labour’s Public Sector Cuts in Belgrave ARE the Problem

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CORRECTION: NOVEMBER 24, 2014. IT APPEARS THAT ALTHOUGH THE LABOUR COUNCIL KNEW ABOUT THE PROTEST, THIS MESSAGE DID NOT GET OUT TO THE CITY’S LABOUR COUNCILLORS, AS COUNCILLOR SUSAN BARTON POINTED OUT IN COMMENTS MADE ON FACEBOOK THAT SHE RECEIVED NO EMAILS ABOUT THIS ISSUE. ANYWAY IT IS GOOD THAT SOME LABOR COUNCILLORS WISH TO STAND BESIDE PROTESTERS, AND SO I WILL LOOK FORWARD TO THEM PUBLICLY OPPOSING CUTS IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS AND STANDING ALONGSIDE STRIKING WORKERS THIS MORNING IN THE NHS AND AT THE TRELLEBORG FACTORY LATER THIS WEEK.

At yesterdays Belgrave Road protest, the Leicester Mercury reported Raj Patel saying: “I’ve run a homework club in the area for nine years at the Sure Start centre, but it’s not ideal – it’s hard to do anything there. A base of our own would be ideal.”

Yet in my own recording of the interview conducted by the Mercury with Mr Patel, he actually provided further context to the journalist to help the public understand how the ongoing cuts to public services are undermining the provision of meaningful youth services. Therefore, it is unfortunate that the Mercury article seems to present Mr Patel as complaining about the Sure Start centre; when what he was actually complaining about were Sir Peter’s 30% cuts to Sure Start service provision. Mr Patel thus said the following:

“We’ve been running a homework club in this area for the last nine years, and we’ve been established for the last fourteen years; and we run it from Sure Start ourselves, and this year we had an issue. After the holidays we turned up, and the place was shut. We didn’t know why: so we went to find out, and because of cut-backs Sure Start had decided to not to open all hours ike they used to before.”

He then added that because of these cuts to Sure Start provision (as reported here in my November 2013 article, see “The Tories Made Us Do It!”),  the Homework Club can no longer access the photocopier at the Sure Start centre, which it needs access to in order to carry out their work. Yet because the photocopier is in a locked room, where confidential papers are stored, they cannot use it unless a premises officer lets them it. This is something that is no longer possible as the Council now only employs someone to open and shut the building, who doesn’t have the authority to let the Homework Club use the photocopier.

The Mercury journalist also reported Coun Wayne Naylor as saying that the vacant Council-owned site “should be a community resource. I’m very keen for it to stay open for people round here to transform into a community hub.” Yet no mention was made by the Mercury about Coun Naylor’s patient explanation about how unnecessary Labour budget cuts were in fact the only reason why the Belgrave Road youth centre had been closed down in the first place.

The Mercury’s article ended by quoting a Leicester City Council spokesman saying: “Given the commercial nature and state of the building, and the interest that has been shown [by various community groups in running it], the only fair way to dispose of it is through the open market.” This Council sanctioned statement seems like a strange way to keep Council-owned assets available to community groups!? Furthermore if we followed this twisted logic through to its logical conclusion, that would mean that the only “fair way” to determine whether existing community groups should continue to run public services in Leicester would be to force them into competition with non-Council run entities (which would include corporate interests) on the “open market”?! That is privatisation of public services by another means.

But then again this does tell us a lot about the Labour Party’s servitude to the super-rich corporate elites who are gutting our country; again highlighting the urgent need for a political alternative, like that defiantly presented by Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts.

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