In the face of protests, Leeds City Council passes its cuts budget
Despite protests which were likened to the poll tax demonstrations 20 years ago, yesterday Leeds city council passed a budget that included £90 million of cuts. Ged, one of the protesters, was quoted as saying “We think the council should set a deficit budget like Liverpool did in the 1980s. Instead they are implementing Tory cuts that will harm many people.”
In an opportunistic move, even the Tories and Lib Dems on the council opposed the cuts. Despite Keith Wakefield’s claims to be protecting services for the most vulnerable people, the cuts hit many of these services. Closures are to include:
- Leeds Crisis Centre, the only source of free, face-to-face emergency counselling in Leeds.
- Two mental health day centres – Stocks Hill in Armley and The Vale in Hunslet are also to close, as well as four day centres and four residential homes for older people..
- East Leeds Leisure Centre, and the swimming pool in Middleton.
- Twenty library branches are also at risk.
Council staff are faced with a wage freeze, as well as over 1,400 job losses. Even in the event that these job losses can be achieved without compulsory redundancies, it will mean more pressure for those who remain. It will, of course, also have a knock-on effect for the economy of Leeds, and there is still no evidence that private-sector growth will make pu for public-sector job losses. Tony Pearson, regional organiser for Unison, predicted further demonstrations. “The Government’s statement that ‘we are all in this together’ is going to hang like a mill-stone around the coalition’s neck. What we are going to see is an alliance between the people who use these services and the people who provide them. When you put the two together that is a powerful alliance and it is emerging across the country.”
We would welcome your comments on the demonstration, and the way forward in defending our services.