Last night, at Unison’s Annual General Meeting for their Leicester city branch, local union secretary Gary Garner reaffirmed our union’s commitment to demanding that Leicester’s Labour Council immediately desist from cutting jobs and services in our city. In his report to the branch, he explained:
“The City Mayor has said that they have, up to now, managed the budget through a Corporate Spending Programme and Organisational Reviews, which has resulted in approximately 900 jobs being lost since 2012. This process has also allowed hidden cuts through the manipulation of council procedures, which has led to vacant posts being deleted and the downgrading of other staff that have been left behind!”
This is why it is so important that our union has made history by standing its ground against the Council, which they are doing by demanding that our councillors investigate setting a “no cuts” budget for the next three years (as outlined in a detailed report that was submitted to the Council on 9th February). The City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has regularly said that the Council was trying to avoid a ‘cliff edge‘ situation with respect to service cuts, but it is quite clear, as stated by Gary, that our city is “already falling over the cliff!”
To illustrate the growing threats to our city, on the Leicester Mercury (March 8) reported how: “Eleven of the council’s [children’s] centres are set to close as part of a package of cuts designed to save £3.5 million from its annual early years services budget.” In this area alone 115 posts “are expected to be axed”.
At a recent special meeting of the children and young people’s scrutiny committee, Peter Flack, the assistant secretary of Leicester’s National Union of Teacher (NUT) said:
“The consequences of this review will be an absolute disaster for the neediest children in the city. Child poverty in Leicester is growing. Children here in the early years perform worse than virtually anywhere else in the country and this will create even bigger problems, with children not being school ready and developing behavioural difficulties.” (March 8, Mercury)
It is for such reasons that the NUT affirmed their unanimous support for the Unison “no cuts” budget at their Annual General Meeting the other week. Labour Councils across the country must pose a workable alternative to Tory attacks on the future of our children!
Such is the nature of the crisis facing our education system that even teachers in senior leadership positions are openly fighting back against the Government. For instance, earlier this week the Leicestershire Secondary Headteachers organisation wrote to the Prime Minister to raise their serious concerns with her ongoing support of grammar schools. As the Mercury (March 10) reported:
“The head teachers… argue that grammar schools give the ‘false belief that intelligence is more or less fixed and an IQ test at 11 can predetermine the future academic success of a child. In reality it is the academic environment, levels of ambition and quality of teaching that impacts equally on academic attainment. Late developing children therefore are disadvantaged,’ they say.”
If not now, when? Now is the time for everyone to fight back against Tory cuts. If we don’t resist cuts to all services, including children’s services, then we will all suffer the human costs of our Government’s prioritising the needs of the super-rich before the needs of the rest of us.