Leicester’s Labour Council Continues to Implement Austerity: Why the Cuts Must be Fought

With the Tories intent on destroying local government, Blairite-run Councils up-and-down the country just wring their hands and claim that there is nothing they can do except carry through devastating cuts.

Yet many lay members of the Labour Party disagree with this spineless non-response to austerity, and in recent months two Constituency Labour Party’s (Islwyn CLP and Enfield North CLP) have passed motions that called upon their Blairite-run Councils to fight all cuts and set legal “no cuts” budgets.

Here in Leicester when the UNISON City branch requested that our Labour Council seek out ways to implement a “no cuts” budget their reasonable demands were completely ignored by the city’s 52 Labour councilors. The Council had asked what they could do to help the working-class, UNISON had said what they could do – set a “no cuts” budget — and the Council did nothing except continue carrying through Tory cuts.

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Leicester’s Labour Council’s dedication to cutting services, whilst simultaneously claiming to be listening to the public, has led to some truly spectacular political doublespeak — and none more so than in their ongoing “consultation” over the past year, which, with no sense of irony, they describe on their web site as: “We Asked, You Said, We Did.” https://consultations.leicester.gov.uk/we_asked_you_said/

So here follows is the illogical consequences that follow when a Labour Council refuses to stand up to a brutal pro-austerity government.

Sheltered housing support: The Council consulted on a proposal to end the funding that is “used to provide support services to residents living in 31 non-council sheltered housing schemes.” Respondents opposed the cuts and the Council decided to go ahead with the cuts. (Consultation ended October 19, 2018)

Aid for the disabled: The Council proposed a “reduction to the minimum standard level of income that a service user can keep for Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) within the financial assessment, from £20 to £10 [a week] for a single person (and from £15 to £10, if one of a couple).” Most people who responded to the consultation (449 people) disagreed with the proposal. The Council responded by noting that “The Assistant City Mayor for Adult Social Care and Wellbeing has approved the proposal”. (Consultation ended September 28, 2018)

Support to people with brain injuries: The Council had a contract with the charity, Headway, “to deliver low level outreach support to adults with an acquired brain injury.” The Council reported that “Respondents felt that the service helps avoid social isolation and helps them with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and independence.” The Council decided to cut funding for the service, supporting their argument for doing so by making the bizarre claim that the services they were cutting “only supports around 12 people at any one time.” (Consultation ended September 21, 2018)

Leicester Stroke Club: The Council “consulted over a proposal to end adult social care funding to the Leicester Stroke Club.” Comments from the public noted that “The club provides a useful service – it helps to stop people from becoming isolated.” While another concern raised explained that “People without a service will develop mental health problems.” The Council in-turn responded by stating that it had “decided to end funding to the club.” One strange reason put forward by the Council for cutting funding for the Stroke Club was that “of the 33 people using the club at the time of the review, only 22 were city residents. This means the city council’s funding was effectively supporting non-city residents.” (Consultation ended August 3, 2018)

14 lunch clubs: “The council consulted on a proposal to withdraw funding from the 14 lunch clubs in the city” which costs a total of £140,027 a year. One respondent noted “Funding cuts are short-sighted as people will need formal care and support earlier if they are not accessing lunch clubs.” Another comment made observed that “Changes to lunch clubs will affect ethnic minorities more because they are culturally appropriate.” The Council’s response to this latter comment was particularly ludicrious as they wrote, “there are also ethnic groups who are not catered for in the lunch clubs, so the status quo also represents an unfair pattern of provision.” The Councils solution was therefore to “phase out funding for lunch clubs over a three-year period (starting in January 2019) rather than end funding in one go as was proposed in the consultation.” (Consultation ended June 29, 2018)

Aid for those with visual or dual sensory impairment: The Council “consulted on a proposal to re-commission support for people with visual or dual sensory impairment.”  The proposal included streamlining (i.e., reducing) service provision. As a result of comments from worried respondents the Council stated that it will continue to “re-procure the service along the lines set out in the proposal. However, as a result of feedback on the consultation, specialist reablement for deafblind people will be retained, and some funding for equipment will also be retained.” (Consultation ended April 9, 2018)

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