Earlier this month Unison released their Austerity Audit, which outlined the effects of the Government’s ongoing attacks on Council funding. 37% has been cut from the budget of councils in England since May 2010, or losses in monetary terms of £12.5 billion. At the same time local authorities are “being handed extra responsibilities but without the funds to pay for them.”
Just focusing on the national effects of cuts on the elderly, Unison point out how over the last five years the number of older people receiving home care has fallen by 32%; day care places have plummeted by 66.9%; the number receiving meals on wheels has plunged by 64%; and spending on day care has fallen by 30%.
With billions of pounds of cuts in the pipeline, the human consequences of such cuts don’t bear thinking about. Yet as Unison’s audit acknowledges, no mainstream political parties have offered any “pledges to protect funding for essential local government services.”
As other local NHS reports have demonstrated, life expectancy for Leicester residents is already below the national average, and the health gap between affluent and more deprived areas within the city is significant. In concrete terms there can be a difference of more than nine years life expectancy across our city. Further cuts to Council funding will only intensify such health inequalities.
It is for such reasons that Leicester city’s Unison branch secretary, Gary Garner, wrote to Mayor Soulsby and the Labour Group this week to demand a commensurate political response. “It is not good enough to simply announce cuts to services and jobs and blame the Tories,” Mr Garner said, “our members and the citizens of Leicester expect more.”
But sadly, in last weekend’s Leicester Mercury, Mayor Soulsby announced his first round of “savings” (£3 million), adding his evident regret at his ‘needing’ to make another £54 million of cuts (savings) in the coming years. This non-reaction will not do: and so unions and community groups will now be forced into demanding that our lackadaisical Council fight to represent our needs and actively oppose ongoing budget cuts.
Exactly one year ago researchers at Loughborough University provided a comprehensive audit of poverty titled “Making ends meet in Leicester.” Together let’s make sure that the next report they write has a more uplifting title, like perhaps “Leicester the city that dared to fight.”
This letter was submitted to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on Wednesday May 20, 2015.
- Unison, “An Austerity Audit : Coalition cuts to local communities in England since 2010”, May 2015.
- Donald Hirsch, Matt Padley and Laura Valadez, “Making Ends Meet in Leicester,” Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University, with the Oxford Centre for Social Inclusion, May 2014.
- Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust: Report to the Trust Board – 27 March 2014.