Fight Leeds Labour council’s massive cuts

Leeds Labour-run council has announced plans for massive cuts in services and jobs across the city in the coming months and year, on the basis of pressures on the council due to Covid-19.

Michael Johnson, Leeds Socialist Party

In September alone, the council made plans for cuts of around £32.6 million, with a reduction in jobs of almost 530 full-time staff! And now, a month later, there are proposals for further cuts amounting to nearly £8 million and 88.7 full-time equivalent roles on top of September’s plans.

These most recent proposals include closures of two care homes and one day centre. This is a shocking attack on some of the most vulnerable people in the city, at a time when they are already dealing with the impact of Covid on their care, and carers who have been putting their lives at risk throughout the crisis.

The closure of these services will ultimately serve no purpose other than forcing residents and staff into private care homes, with no guarantee on the quality of the service.

In addition, at a time when Labour MPs are joining a chorus of criticism of the Tories’ suggestions that people working in the arts retrain, Leeds council is proposing major cuts to arts and leisure throughout the city, including reductions in grants to theatres and stopping public events like Christmas lights.

Recommendations for increased fees for bulky waste collections are made, something that will mainly be a penalty for those who don’t drive or have access to a car, typically the poorest and most vulnerable.

To add insult to injury, among other proposals is a second increase in as many months in fees for bereavement services!

Following these proposals becoming public GMB, the union representing a number of the workers impacted, particularly workers in the care homes and day services, put out a statement rightly calling the proposals “unforgivable and a total kick in the teeth,” and making clear they do not accept them and “will be campaigning at all levels to stop any closures.”

This campaign should be joined by the other local government unions in particular, alongside the wider trade union movement, to send the message that these cuts are not only wrong but unnecessary.

Cuts due to Covid, passed on by Labour councils on behalf of the Tories, can be fought. If Labour councillors aren’t prepared to take up this fight, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is prepared to put forward an anti-austerity socialist programme at next year’s elections.

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