Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fury as Warwickshire County Council approve massive cuts

(Article and picture from Warwickshire Telegraph

Report will follow from Rugby Against The Cuts Members)

PLACARD-waving protesters gathered outside Warwickshire County Council’s headquarters as councillors met to approve massive budget cuts.

A petition signed by 13,000 people against cutbacks to youth services was handed in by campaigners at Shire Hall in Warwick.

Councillors voted through bitterly-opposed plans which would close old folks homes, libraries and youth clubs.

About 1,800 jobs will go over the next three years.

Ruling Conservative councillors yesterday pushed through their plans for £21million cuts this year, rising to £60million over three years, which will see up to 1,800 job losses.

Set to close are nearly all the council’s 10 elderly care homes, up to half of its 34 libraries and youth clubs.

Cuts will also hit the Connexions careers service to young people, street lights will be switched off at night, while the county music service and children’s centres also face cuts.

Conservative council leader Alan Farnell said it was a “firm but fair” response to unprecedented 26 per cent government funding cuts to councils to tackle the £150billion national deficit.

He told yesterday’s budget-setting meeting it was also an “opportunity” to transform council services.

Tory councillors echoed Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” call for community volunteers to step in to run services, including libraries, youth centres and care homes.

They also favour more commissioning of private firms and social enterprises to run services.

Council tax will be frozen this year, and charges will rise for many services, including home care of the elderly and transport to schools.

Labour leader Coun June Tandy accused the Tories of hiding behind government cuts.

She referred to national charity leaders who have criticised cuts made via councils to charities that provide volunteers, at a time when Mr Cameron was promoting his ‘‘Big Society’’.

Coun Farnell said “difficult decisions” were needed, adding: “We’re trying to do as much as we can with the finances we’ve got... in striving to achieve value for money.”

He said the council would shift towards becoming a “business-led commissioning organisation”.

Earlier, Tory plans to scrap the entire youth service were attacked by Lib Dem councillors, who said the partial U-turn of £1million funding would still see many losing out.

Conservative councillors hit back, saying £1million extra would provide for youth workers in multi-disciplinary teams supporting the most vulnerable young people.

Labour councillors’ alternative plan included keeping open all libraries, youth services, and protecting charities, partly by cutting councillors’ pay by 25 per cent.

Lib Dems and Tories pointed to Labour plans to close all museums and four recycling centres, and uncosted savings plans for 2013/14.

Lib Dem leader councillor Jerry Roodhouse said that, despite the “ya-boo politics”, all three parties’ plans were for difficult cuts, and he blamed the last Labour government’s deficit.

Labour councillors said Tories were in denial about the global banking collapse and international recession, which saw spending increase to support jobs and savings. They accused Tory councillors of slavishly following the “slash and burn policies” of their national leaders.

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