The Tory-led North Yorkshire county council has embarked upon a series of “budget consultations” with the public over the impact of spending cuts in the region.
The council has already begun to implement a £69 million cut in spending over four years, up to 2015.
However, an additional £24 million in spending cuts is now ‘required’ over the next two years, representing a total reduction of £93 million in the council’s budget.
On 16th January the council held a “budget consultation” in Harrogate. At the meeting, the deputy leader of the council and the Police Commissioner (elected on a 13.3% turnout) spoke of the “inevitability” of cuts and the need for “difficult choices”.
We were even presented with what was described as a “graph of doom” to highlight the rising costs of social care for adults and were told that there needs to be a review of “every service the council provides”.
These cuts will have a devastating impact on services and jobs across North Yorkshire. However, the self-styled “consultation” was nothing more than a propaganda exercise in trying to persuade the public to accept the cuts.
Strangely, the “inevitable cuts” and the “graph of doom” have not prevented the council from giving the go-ahead to a £1.4 billion waste incinerator between York and Harrogate which has been condemned by both environmental campaigners and local residents!
Only 20 people turned up for the Harrogate “consultation” and five of those were local councillors. Socialist Party members attended the meeting and intervened in the discussion, querying which local services the council was planning to cut.
The council refused to state where the cuts would take place and which services would be affected. They did concede that they could use their reserves (totalling around £30-40 million) to support their budget and would “consider” using “some” of those reserves in 2013/14.
However, there was no commitment to a wider strategy of using the reserves to ensure that no cuts would take place over the next financial year and building a campaign across the region to defend our communities.
The Socialist Party will be at the forefront of the resistance to the cuts in Harrogate and across North Yorkshire.
At least one TUSC (trade unionist and socialist coalition) candidate will be standing in the May county council elections, providing an alternative to the pro-austerity agenda of the establishment parties.
The TUSC campaign will seek to build a broad layer of support in opposition to the cuts, encouraging local trade unionists and other community campaigners to unite in defence of jobs and services.