United against 'unfair' public spending cuts
PUBLISHED: 11:03 23 September 2011
WESTON Anti-Cuts alliance has criticised North Somerset Council's draft budget proposed last week and described the Government's insistence on public spending cuts as 'lies'.
A selection of speakers representing teachers, libraries, the criminal service and transport said the most vulnerable members of society would be at risk if the draft proposal is carried out.
The council has to make £47million in savings over the next four years – equivalent to one in every three pounds currently spent.
Last week the Mercury revealed how libraries, youth centres and bus services could be lost unless volunteers take over running them.
Council leader Nigel Ashton labelled the slashing of budgets as the ‘most severe financial challenge the council has ever faced’.
But the alliance called on people to show their dissatisfaction against the cuts claiming that the mantra of ‘we are in it together’ did not stack up.
Helen Thornton, of public sector workers’ union Unison, said worse is to come and questioned the long-term vision for the council.
She said: “The council will tell us they have no option that they have to (make cuts) because centralGovernment, which is true to some extent, but this is a council which has misspent a lot of money.
“If the people of North Somerset and Britain do not stand up to defend public services then the outlook for every single one of us is bleak. We have to act now before it’s too late.”
The decision to cut bus subsidies was also labelled as short-sighted, after lengthy campaigns instructing commuters to use public transport rather than a car.
Pill councillor Donald Davies said the current services were poor compared to other UK cities such as Manchester and London. He said, even before the cuts, trains and buses were regularly overcrowded and infrequent.
And changes to public sector pensions were heavily criticised with a spokesman from the National Pensioners Convention warning that the state pension would soon not be sufficient to keep the elderly above the poverty line.
Ms Thornton said: “The people of Britain, including those living in North Somerset, have not yet woken up to the dangers posed by the Tory-led government’s plans for Britain, which amount to a complete dismantling of the welfare state.
“We believe that the cuts are unfair because they hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest and unnecessary because there is an alternative to cutting the deficit - taxing the banks and other financial institutions that caused the economic crisis.”
She said that a vote would be taken with regards strike action if the Government continued with plans to change public sector pensions. Any potential strike would take place on November 30.