Our response to Fife Councils, new budget proposals and consultation.
Today in Fife we have a Labour led council who are obviously resigned to either, a Tory Government next year or a Labour government who will still be pursuing the same ideological austerity agenda of further cuts and privatisation.
Fife People’s Assembly is an organisation whose members are from various campaigning organisations, trades unions and individuals, from throughout the Fife region. Our members are extremely concerned with the Councils latest budget proposals as detailed in their “Let’s Talk” publications and the information being presented at the public “Let’s Talk” meetings.
At no point is there any rejection of the imposed cuts to our public services. The Council appears to have resigned itself to the perpetuation and the continual attack on local Government spending and the extension and ongoing expansion of endless austerity. There appears to be a blind acceptance that a never ending cycle of cuts to public funding is inevitable in 21st Century Britain.
This austerity and these imposed cuts are not required; they are not a necessary evil, as they are always being portrayed. We are not all in this together.
This is no more than an ideological attack on the very fabric of our society. Austerity is designed to reduce the welfare state, reduce and privatise all our public services. It is a return to Victorian values and economics, where the poor and working class are to blame for the budget deficit. Where the poor and working class are now carrying the can and are blamed for causing all of the debt.
It was not the poor or working class that created the crisis of Capital in 2008, but it is the poor and working class that now have to pay the price for the collapse of the Neo-Liberal Free Market economy. We are in a position where we have privatised the profit, but have nationalised the debt. The creators of the crisis have continued to increase their wealth, whilst the poor and working class now foot the bill for the greed and folly of the privateers.
This is what Fife Council is accepting as a fact. This is true nature of the Budget cuts to Fife and all other Councils.
Fife Council has already stated its very admirable priorities of:
Tackling poverty and inequality
Improving the quality of life in local communities
Building a strong local economy
Building a sustainable society
How can this be achieved? When some of the savings, described as “Modernising Employment Practices”, but as reported in the press, that the entire workforce is being asked to accept, a “modernising” of their terms and conditions, or in fact, an attack on wages, working week, holidays, sick pay, etc.
This “Modernising Employment Practices”, is nothing but the usual Neo Liberal jargon, wheeled out by management, corporations and politicians. This in reality is nothing but an attack on the terms and conditions of the working class. It is the precursor to privatisation and the loss of our public services to the private sector.
Fife Council are proposing a reduction in school hours. How many job losses are expected from this proposal? How many teachers? Is it in excess of 200 as reported in the press? The reduction in the hours of the cleaning staff impacts on the lowest paid in our schools. How many ancillary workers jobs will go?
What are the implications of this schools policy on child care for those who are lucky enough to have a job? Who will cover the cost of the additional child care?
The stated job reductions of 2,000, plus the additional losses in Education are extraordinary. This pathway to further privatisation will continue to reduce wages for all, with the lowest paid suffering most. This cutting of jobs and wages will do nothing to help the local economy and it will certainly do nothing to reduce poverty.
On Health and Social care, it is, difficult to glean what the actual Council proposals are. Although cuts have already been identified they are not detailed in the document issued to the public. Everything appears to up for review. How can people make informed decisions when there is no substance to any of the proposals? How can a monetary value be calculated if everything is up for review? Or is it the case that the reality of the cuts is too severe to publish?
We are greatly concerned about the current situation in regard to home care services. Over the last year the criteria for eligibility has been paired back to only those people who are deemed critical or in need of palliative care. This was done without any consultation and has resulted in people who would have hitherto received a full package of care being referred to private agencies and having to pay the hourly rate. In our view, there is nothing left to cut, although the management structure and the levels of efficiency there could be improved.
Throughout this consultation document, there is no substance. No clear indication of the true nature of the proposed cuts. The public are being asked to agree with a set of unintelligible statements that have no real substance and do not give an indication of the expected outcome apart from a monetary value. What is the real outcome for the people involved, whether employed by the Council or the public and service users?
We call on Fife Council to reject and resist these cuts. Organise and work with other councils, unions, local and national campaigning groups, to organise coordinated resistance. To blindly accept the continued reduction in all our public services is to admit defeat. It will not serve in the Council’s aims of reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in local communities. It will only serve to continue the downward spiral in the living and working standards of the majority of the population.