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SALFORD CITY COUNCIL CUTS
 

Star date: 16th February 2011 

JOHN MERRY ON THE CUTS, THE BIG SOCIETY AND THE LACK OF POLITICAL OPPOSITION
Part 2

"The Big Society is a joke" John Merry

With £42million cuts announced by Salford City Council yesterday, where's the political opposition and accountability in Salford coming from? Certainly not the Lib Dems and Tories, whose government is imposing the cuts. And the unions remained deadly quiet yesterday too*

Meanwhile, in the midst of the cuts, volunteers are being brought in to `help' run museums and art galleries, while voluntary sector organisations are being asked to take over fitness centres, despite 15% cuts to their funding. Cameron's so-called Big Society is already showing its ugly face in Salford.

Here Salford Council Leader John Merry shares his thoughts with the Salford Star…


It's 10:30am yesterday and Salford Council has announced its £42million cuts. Every councillor in Salford had advance information and notice of the cuts. But they are all deadly quiet. Where are the verbal fireworks from the Lib Dems and Tories? Why aren't the trade unions screaming blue murder?*

Hundreds of jobs are being lost and those who are least well off in Salford are bearing the brunt of the cuts. And no-one's saying anything. Where's the voice of opposition?

It's not coming from the Lib Dems and Tories it's their Coalition Government that has imposed the need to slash public spending. It's not coming from the Labour Partybecause it's the ruling party in Salford that has decided where to cut. It's not coming from anywhere.

Even Salford Council Leader, John Merry, is perplexed at the lack of opposition to the cuts from Salford's political parties…

"I agree that it is quite difficult for them to oppose it" he says "But, of course, what a number of Lib Dem council leaders did was to write to The Times saying these cuts were going too far, and basically called on the Government to think again. I was disappointed that our Lib Dem leader couldn't actually find that line. He's obviously more interested in propping up his government than he is in supporting the people of Salford."

Does John Merry find it worrying that there's no opposition, no proper accountability, no-one challenging the decimation of the public sector in Salford? It seems a strange question to ask the guy who's the figurehead of the cuts…

"It would be nice to have an effective opposition but I can't be held responsible for the failure of the opposition parties in Salford" he half smiles "If they were a bit more independent of what their government was doing then they could be a better opposition…

"What they are saying is that these cuts are unnecessary, that we're going too far and that they could make the cuts without damaging front line services" he offers "but as they haven't come up with a single constructive idea as to how that happens, pardon me if I'm a little sceptical about that particular viewpoint. No doubt they'll come forward with their alternative budget in due course but they've not seen fit to share it with us yet."

It's almost like a one party state – ConDems in power making the cuts centrally, a paralysed Labour Party having to impose them locally – and just a few independent councillors on the sidelines crying `Foul!' It's a strange, surreal situation…

"I'd like to think that we're speaking up on behalf of the community but I understand that you might not think the Labour Party should be the sole representative of the community…"

Er, no…

"If there are people who wish to express concern we will no doubt listen sympathetically to them…"

But don't expect any political councillors in Salford to represent you? Weird.

Even more weird is the whole notion of a Big Society that David Cameron was championing the day before huge cuts to the voluntary sector in Salford were announced. John Merry agrees that it's a bad joke.

"The Big Society is a joke, in that I'm all in favour of people volunteering and participating, but what I'm not in favour of is the Government somehow withdrawing funds that make it easier to achieve that" he responds "I think that we're just demonstrating that the voluntary sector needs the public sector and visa versa"

The Salford Council cuts have hit the voluntary sector really hard…Eight organisations running 16 projects in the city are getting across the board cuts of 15%; 76 non-council posts in the voluntary sector are at risk due to £700,000 cuts in the children's and young people's sector; and there is a 53% cut of £261,000 covering Area Based Grant Funded Services which will hit `voluntary and community sector schemes…for example, sports development and community work'.

Yet, shocking as this is, Salford Council is intending to try and transfer ownership of Fit City Cadishead and Fit City Broughton Recreation Centre to `voluntary sector sports organisations' to stop them closing. Where are they supposed to get the money from? All the voluntary sector organisations are getting their funding cut.

"I'm not happy about it" says John Merry "but these are all grants we've had withdrawn from Central Government. We don't think they should be doing it but we can't absorb all these grants."

Expect Broughton and Cadishead Fit Cities to close. Meanwhile, unpaid labour is being brought in to `help' run Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Ordsall Hall and The Lowry. Another contradiction?

"No" says our Council Leader "It's supporting staff who work there…"

Suppose that's why it says in the £901,000 cuts explanation for Salford Community Leisure … "Salford Museum and Art GalleryReduce the number of staff delivering services within the gallery through making better use of volunteers from Friends of Salford Museum and Art Gallery and Ordsall Hall."

The political ethics in Salford are confused to say the least. And behind the deafening silence and contradictions is a community without a voice and without representation.

 Salford Against The Cuts will be holding a demonstration against the cuts on March 2nd at noon at the Civic Centre in Swinton outside the Salford City Council meeting.

 When East Salford Community Committee agreed to support the campaign, John Merry was one of those who voted in favour. Expect him to join the demonstration against Salford Council cuts. Weird huh?

* UPDATE

This article has been ammended as we acknowledge that the reason the trade unions remained silent yesterday was because they had no prior knowledge that Salford Council was making an announcement about the cuts. A full statement from Salford's trade unions UNISON, GMB and UNITE can be read here.

Read John Merry on the cuts Part 1 here

Full details on all the Salford Council cuts here

Graphic by Jamie Reid

Words: Stephen Kingston

 

alan mcglone wrote
at 13:06:50 on 21 February 2011
Perhaps I'm wrong, but this article says Councillor Merry is concerned that there is no opposition to the cuts locally because the Condem councillors won't make problems for the Condem government. "I cant be held responsible for the failure of the opposition parties here in Salford" says labour councillor Merry as he makes big cuts. I thought that labour councils should be the opposition to the cuts of the Condem government because they they are in power locally and the Condem government cant make the cuts if local councils refuse to cooperate. Perhaps i mis read the article. I understand that the situation is complicated and difficult but its also very important
 
Alice Searle wrote
at 13:06:48 on 17 February 2011
People of Salford are not apathetic! The truth is that people of Salford have been well and truly 'conned' by the this 'Condem' Gov. They have accepted the propaganda that these cuts are inevitable and the consequence of our spend- thrift ways. This propaganda, repeated by Gov and sadly by much of the media, has brain-washed many people into inertia. If the Salford Council spoke of the true situation, I think there would be a rush of anger bringing people out onto the streets. Here are just some of the truths that should be broadcast. 1.The massive deficit incurred by the banks in 2008, bailed out by public funds, has now been transformed into a public deficit, which we have to pay back. Haven't seen the banks making any effort to repay what they owe!This is unacceptable. 2. IFM data shows that the UK has the lowest government debt as a proportion of GDP amongst the G7 countries [that's USA, Canada, Germany, Britain, Japan, and France]. So why are we being made so guilty? 3.Immediately after the war the Gov debt was three times what it is today and yet we set up the Welfare State, with the NHS and full grant assistance for students and much more. Also Council housing was greatly increased providing employment as well as houses. Increasing unemployment does NOT improve the national income. When people are in work they pay income tax and spent thus assisting regrowth. Where are the green jobs, the increase in social housing, more progressive taxation or Robin Hood Taxes, which would remove some of the obscene wealth from the over rich? No! The Conservatives have a 'hidden' agenda. This is an idealogical one. They wish to unpick the Welfare State and return as many services as possible to private ownership. Back to the pre-war society, when those with money had the pick and those without struggled. The Council should not go along with this There is an alternative and our Councillors should be broadcasting this. They should be angry.Very Angry!
 
em3 wrote
at 08:46:52 on 17 February 2011
Does Cameron actually know who Alinsky was (the bloke he keeps goin' on about - the bloke who 'invented' community organising and volunteering. Does he know that he was a socialist? where are the socialists when you need em???
 
The truth wrote
at 22:27:55 on 16 February 2011
The truth of it is that the Labour council under a Labour government for 13 years, did not think to put any money to one side for when the Tories got into power. Maybe they were naive enough to think that Labour were going to stay in power for ever? They must have known that if the Tories got in that they were going to bring in cuts? THIS Labour council ploughed ahead with all the culture shite, trying to convince us spending money to impress the bbc and "persuade" them to come to Salford would be good for US. If an individual (or city bankers) acted in this way, they would rightly be called reckless. Salford are up to their necks in shit because of speculating and lending money to big business in the hope of getting a return some day. The Lib dems have dropped their local councillors in it by forming the coalition with the Tories and going back on their own policies. What this Labour council will do is to blame EVERYTHING on this government now and even when Labour get back into power nationally. 13 years of Labour govenment and even longer in power in Salford. Surely the council should take some blame. Maybe they should organise a pink ice rink,with the bbc orchestra playing for them and all get pissed at our expense? I,m sure they could justify it along the lines of "we think it is important for the people of Salford to see that despite the cuts we are remaining upbeat about things"
 
Ed Ward wrote
at 16:58:09 on 16 February 2011
Thank you ,Salford Star .Time for the People of Salford to take to the streets , rise up from the gutter , and fight this lot .This is just the beginning.Make it clear- WE'RE NOT HAVING TORYTOFF DAVE'S BIG THATCHERITE SOCIETY.
 
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