The last of four cuts ‘consultation’ meetings being held across Birmingham took place in the Council House in the city centre. 300 mainly angry people attended it, organised to ‘consult’ on where to make an additional £70 million of cuts on top of the £40 million already identified.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore presented a lot of technical financial arguments with associated graphs and pie charts to try to give the impression that there is no alternative to cuts.
They could have saved at least 45 minutes and the small rainforest used in printing a 56 page document for every attendee by just saying ‘we won’t fight the Con-Dem cuts’.
Previous statements such as the ‘jaws of doom’ and ‘we will have to decommission whole services’ were repeated.
These arguments impressed nobody; there wasn’t a single speaker in favour of the cuts and many people were visibly angry, with at least two openly calling for Bore’s resignation.
There was a large contingent from the Youth Service wearing black ‘Save Birmingham Youth Service’ t-shirts and concerned service users and council workers.
One young lad made a moving contribution detailing the financial cost of the inevitable rise in crime that will accompany the closure of the Youth Service. At least one speaker predicted a repeat of the 2011 riots.
The sham nature of the consultation was exposed when Bore said that there was no chance of a deficit budget (based on people’s needs) being set whatever the outcome of the public consultation.
He attacked the stands of both Clay Cross and Liverpool council’s past battles with Tory governments by saying that those campaigns were defeated but he failed to mention that future Labour governments could have cleared their names and refunded their surcharges but didn’t.
He also tried to claim that the real referendum over council policy took place in May when the Labour council was elected, forgetting to mention that Labour’s landslide victory was in reality a massive vote of opposition to the previous Con-Dem council’s vicious cuts programme which Labour is now emulating.
He couldn’t resist referring to TUSC’s small vote in the one ward it stood in, in a vain attempt to ‘prove’ that there was no generalised opposition to cuts.
Council workers, service users and trade unions in Birmingham will have to build their own campaigns against cuts and will have to field many more candidates in the next council elections in 2014.
Over 100, including several members of the local anti-cuts group, were in attendance at the Saturday morning meeting in Cotteridge, a working class area first built to house workers at the Cadbury factory.
Albert Bore was heckled from the off as he trotted out his mealy mouthed presentation. The sense of frustration at Labour doing the Tories’ dirty work was best summed up by the school aged members of the Unite-led campaign to save youth services, who simply said “Why aren’t you standing up and fighting the government?”
- See below for report of council consultation meeting in Erdington of 11th December