Sunday, 7 March 2010

Demonstrations, strikes... start getting used to it

Demonstrations, strikes... start getting used to it. I don't say that with glee, quite the opposite. But if we are threatened with massive public service cuts, job losses, etc., then we must resist.

A recent BBC survey of councils in England gave an estimate of 10% cuts in council workforces over the next 3-5 years. If anyone thinks you can shed 25,000 jobs and not affect frontline services, think again!

Barnet council responded to the survey. For the question "Excluding schools, what do you expect to be the overall reduction in spending in real terms in the next 3-5 years?" Barnet answered 15-20%. If anyone thinks that sort of decrease can be done through efficiency savings and not affect residents' service from Barnet council, think again!

Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP's Nick Griffin aims to be the next MP, and the fascist party aims to make gains in the council elections, replied that it expects to make 25-30% cuts. That'll really reconcile alienated voters to the mainstream! Council job cuts in Barking and Dagenham are expected to be 500-1,000.

Barnet did not answer the job cuts question (they say they have 3,706 full-time equivalent staff, excluding in education). But they did explain how they expect to "save money", the by-now familiar Future Shape plan:

Consolidation and outsourcing of support services
Improved corporate procurement
Integrated citizen contact, including with partners
New service delivery models at arms-length to the Council
Joint commissioning and assessment with the PCT
Increasing and differentiating charges
Reducing core service entitlement
Barnet Press reports this week on the passing of the Barnet council budget, with its freeze on council tax. I don't believe that it is necessary for council tax to be raised in order to defend council services against cuts, but I do think the councils, and we the people that live in them, should be demanding no cuts in our money from central government. We did not cause the banking crisis, why should our services suffer to pay for it?

Barnet Press also reports on the recent impressive demonstration against the proposed closure of Whittington Hospital A&E, which Barnet TUC took part in.
John Burgess from Unison in Barnet marched alongside other union members holding a banner on Saturday [27 February]. He told The Press: “We’re trying to build awareness about these plans.

“We need to see some changes in the mainstream political parties’ manifestos before the election, or the future will be more protests like this, more people on the streets, at MPs’ offices, outside council offices and so on.

“People need to think about how the taxpayer bailed out the banks from a financial meltdown, and now the private sector is eyeing up our NHS – it’s the hypocrisy which winds me up.”
Tomorrow and on Tuesday, civil servants in the PCS union will be on strike to protest against the government's unilateral downgrading of their redundancy scheme, the precursor to a jobs cull on the cheap. Demonstrations, strikes - yes, start getting used to it.


If you would like to support local PCS picket lines (a quaint old practice, but one I can heartily recommend) I've received the following message:

Please note the details of PCS picket lines outside JobCentres for DWP North London Branch tomorrow and Tuesday - your support is very welcome, as are branch donations and collections for our hardship fund:

Wood Green – 7.30am-10.30am
Tottenham – 8.30am-10.30am
Finchley – 8am-10am
Barnet – 7.30am-10am
Palmers Green – 8am-10am

There should also be a presence outside Hendon JobCentre tomorrow morning, and Enfield JobCentre Tuesday morning.

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