Yesterday, Ed Miliband got a shock when confronted by people campaigning to stop Salford Council's proposed closures of drop-in groups and centres for those with mental health issues (see here and see here for previous Salford Star articles).
The group USUC – United Service Users Committee – gatecrashed Ed Milliband's Question and Answer session in Manchester, got a private audience with the Labour leader afterwards and gain national news coverage at the same time, appearing on BBC, Channel 4 and SKY.
"We managed to ask Mr Miliband about Salford Labour Party's plans for these cuts, and at first he wasn't very forthcoming so I had a bit of a go at him" says Vee Ball, chair of USUC "To my surprise he responded that he'd speak to us later and he kept to his word as he met myself Steve Cullen, vice chair of USUC and Salford UNISON's Steve North. He talked to us and listened with great concern when we explained how Mr Stewart and his deputy Mayors of Salford were planning to close these really important venues.
"More importantly we tried to explain to him that there weren't really many savings to be made" she adds "We explained to him the consequence of closing the drop-ins - more work for the police, the A&E departments, the crisis teams, the paramedics, and told him that when you added it all up it made more sense to stop the proposal and keep these very beneficial centres open to support these people. He seemed, in hindsight, to be thinking about that and he said he would speak to Mr Stewart, so we were absolutely delighted."
Today, USUC was out again, by the Labour Party Conference HQ, joining hundreds of demonstrators, including Manchester Users Network, trying to embarrass Labour Councils making health cuts and to persuade delegates to the Conference to promise to repeal the ConDem Government's hated Health and Social Care Act, privatising the NHS.
Amongst the campaign groups were Salford Pensioners Association, Salford Against The Cuts and representatives from the city's trade unions. Other groups had come from all over the north, some dressed as doctors and nurses, some real doctors and nurses…and one bloke dressed as an albatross, campaigning for sea bird safety.
Let's hope Labour Party policies on health, both physical and mental, don't become an albatross around its neck.
Tomorrow sees the big Public Meeting against mental health cuts in Salford. Ed Miliband was invited by Vee and co but couldn't make it. But will the Mayor of Salford and his Assistant Mayor's attend to defend their policies?
Defend Mental Health Services
Monday 1st October, 7pm
Swinton Royal British Legion
Cheetham Road, Swinton, M27 4UQ
Main photo by Andrew Goudie