Social care and other county council services in Cambridgeshire face the worst austerity cuts yet in the coming year. They are some of the sharpest: the council proposes £41m of cuts for the budget year 2016/17, front-loading £119m of cuts planned by 2020/21. And they are the very deepest: after five years of Conservative-led austerity, only the most essential services still survive to be cut again.
The council proposes to cut most spending on services to children, families, and older people, to a total of £26.5m. Examples include:
- Cuts of £9.3m to spending on social care for vulnerable and older adults. The help some of us need to live in comfort and dignity will be withdrawn, with pressure further down the line on the NHS in avoidable hospital admissions and delayed hospital discharges. These services are already under increased pressure after the collapse of the older people's contract held by UnitingCare, and the earlier introduction of special measures at the Cambridge University Hospitals trust due to its record deficit.
- Cuts of £1.43m to spending on children in council care, by reducing the number taken into care. Children at risk of abuse and neglect in their families will have to be left in these dangerous situations.
- Cuts of £770,000 to spending on educational transport for over-16s. This will make it harder still for young people from low-income families to stay in education and so to expand and realize their aspirations.
The council also proposes to cut £6.5m from spending in its category of 'economy, transport, and environment'. Vital library and bus services will be degraded or closed, and school crossing patrols will end.*
The council will make its final budget decisions in its meeting on 16 February. The Cambridge People's Assembly supports the Abbey crossing wardens whose demonstration earlier this month set off community protest at the cuts, and will stand with other workers and communities as they organize to defend jobs and services. Through local protest we can blunt the edge of some cuts, voice our own priorities, and mark for the future the rightful claims we're denied in the present.
But these cuts have their root in Westminster, in the Conservative government's doctrine of austerity: strip public services, reward private wealth, blame the poor, flatter the rich. A motion put before a meeting of the county council yesterday by Labour councillor Jocelynne Scutt, defeated by six votes, would have had it explore every channel of protest against the 'devastating and unconscionable' cuts handed down from central government. Blocked in the chamber, that work only returns to the people – until the root is destroyed.
Cambridge People's Assembly
16 December 2015
* All figures above are taken from the report by Jon Vale, '£41m cutbacks will "devastate lives and put children at risk" ', Cambridge News, 27 October.