Based primarily in South West Birmingham, Communities Against the Cuts has stabilised itself as a small but very dynamic left of Labour/anti-austerity party and has begun to draw around it a layer of experienced activists and younger people writes Bob Whitehead.
At its last meeting, CATC decided to break out of its ‘comfort zone’ in the south west of the city and call a city centre meeting to address the huge crisis facing Birmingham Council services. This will be on Wednesday January 16th at the Birmingham University Conservatoire, Paradise Place, 7-9pm.
The statement below was drafted collectively by Communities Against The Cuts
The council’s budget plan aims to make £600 million worth of cuts by 2016/7, with cuts of £110.9 million coming in the next year alone (2013/14). This is following on from huge and incredibly painful cuts already delivered – since 2010 there have been cuts of £275 million and a reduction in the number of staff by 27%. Birmingham has got the highest rates of unemployment in the UK. Of the 650 Parliamentary constituencies, Birmingham Ladywood has the highest proportion of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, followed by Birmingham Hodge Hill. Middlesbrough is in third place but then it’s back to Birmingham again, with Birmingham Erdington in fourth place for the highest proportion of claimants. Not only this, but Birmingham has now also become the UK city with the highest rate of homelessness.
Despite all the above, despite being perhaps the most deprived UK city, we are having the most taken out of our local services. Birmingham is being asked to make £600 million pounds worth of savings while many rich councils are getting off relatively lightly. It is the poorest who are being made to pay the most. The average reduction in Government funding for councils as a whole is £74 per person. However, Birmingham’s reduction has been more than double the national average, at £149 per person.
Yet the council bosses are famously overpaid and ruthless in their incompetence. There are currently no planned redundancies or pay cuts for the council’s 47 directors who earn between them over £4.6m. A simple 27% cut proportional to the rest of the council would save £1.15 million – enough to offset the £0.5 cut to disabled children’s services, that takes away support for disabled children in care and the £0.5 million cut that removes the hospital social work team.
The council’s incompetence is costing yet more. Its ideological and dogmatic belief that the private sector can do it better has lead it to hire in dozens of managers and officials from agencies paying them well above the normal rate. The top ten agency earners at the council are raking in £294 – £359 per day. Some have been in their posts for more than a year and include a team manager for children’s and families services, social project workers and review officers. These private sector consultants, reviewers and managers are costing the council a bomb. The Birmingham Post recently obtained figures which show that over the last two financial years the council has forked out £67 million on agency workers. If these managers were placed on normal contracts it would save the council even more money, enough to spare £1.6 million to keep the children’s homes open, or £3 million to stop the closure of children’s centres or perhaps reverse the £4.43 million the council are taking away from local charities.
Borderline corrupt deals with the private sector are costing even more. The City Council’s private sector IT provider is enjoying profit margins two and a half times greater than set out in an initial agreement. It’s going to be paid almost £1 billion over the remaining nine years of its contract. The council seem unwilling to crack down on being ripped off by a company which it part owns and whom one of its councillors chairs, despite in the past having given free hand-outs to this same private company to stop its rich owners losing money. The council contract with this private company was meant to cost £67m a year but it is now costing £120m a year. Why do all our politicians tolerate public services being corruptly robbed by the private sector?
These cuts come from central government and the Conservative Lib Dem Coalition. However, the Labour party who govern the City Council are running the council incompetently and showing every indication of implementing these savage cuts anyway. Vague platitudes are sometimes offered by Labour party members against the cuts. However, they are not leading a campaign of opposition in Birmingham.
We want a cross city movement to defend the city from the plans of all three major parties; the Tories, the Lib Dems & Labour. We want to use all methods at our disposal to hold protests, direct action and to plan a substantial challenge to the three major parties at the ballot box at the next Council elections in 2014.