Giving Up On Public Services?

Having served their locality for more than 40 years, the Highfields Community Centre is open for business as normal, despite Sir Peter Soulsby’s desperate and hysterical contortions on this matter.

However in contrast to Soulsby, who has categorically failed to oppose the Tories cuts agenda in deed, the dedicated team running Highfields Community Centre are firm in their opposition to Soulsby’s dictatorial mismanagement of Leicester’s public services.

At a meeting held earlier this month users talked passionately about the Centre’s role as a “second home” to many local residents living in grinding poverty. Users demanded a political alternative to what feels like “a race to the bottom”, with one person observing how the people of Leicester “want the highest level of equality for all, not the lowest level for all, as the Mayor seems to want.”

With a never-ending stream of cuts wreaking a trail of havoc through community groups, the speaker added: “I cannot understand why we are going backwards 25 years to how we used to run facilities in Church halls.”

Attempting to justify the indefensible, Soulsby, during a recent interview on BBC Radio Leicester (28 July) blurted out that the Highfields Community Centre was “scandalously under used” – mindful to the contrary fact that nearly 400,000 users had passed through the Centre’s welcoming doors during the preceding four years.

He then drew upon ‘hearsay’ and his own personal mis-observations to bolster his righteous Mayoral prerogative to determine the Centre’s financial fortunes: “I’ve seen the absence of people using it…” Now that must have been fun! But to add insult to injury Soulsby revealed: “It is true about 12 months ago, I gave up on them…”

This decision helps explain the real reason why the Centre lost their funding. Although that said, Soulsby’s giving-up can be back-dated to the day he assumed the pinnacle of unaccountability as Leicester’s newly anointed City Mayor (in 2011): his giving-up on the Centre being intimately related to it having gaining “independence from [direct] council control”.

Soulsby’s continuing irritation at the Centre was apparent in early 2014 when a Mercury article noted how he had “been ignoring” the Centre’s “requests for more discussions” about their finances, with the Centre’s staff observing how they had been “subjected to the city mayor’s autocratic whims, without any democratic and reasoned scrutiny of his actions” (March 18).

True to form, just last month, when local councillors organised a special debate on the Mayor’s controversial attacks on the Centre, Soulsby’s responded to the proposed scrutiny by emphatically stating: “there is absolutely no prospect whatsover of me changing my mind on this” (August 10, Mercury).

Protest outside scrutiny meeting
Protest outside scrutiny meeting

Certainly in the past, many, but not all, community groups and council employees may have felt pressured into silently accepting Soulsby’s dictatorial mandates, but now is the time for change. Now is the time to unite and say no to a Labour Council content on carrying through Tory cuts.

We should and can expect a lot more from our Labour Council, especially now their Party leader is firmly opposed to austerity; a leader who is ready and willing to differentiate Labour from the Tories despicable policies of cuts and mass impoverishment.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 17th September.



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