#CovBudget2015 – Public Consultation… With No Councillors!
Coventry Council held a public consultation about its budget proposals on Tuesday, where council officers outlined the plans to devastate services in the city with huge cuts.
Not a single councillor from any party bothered to attend the meeting, preferring to leave council officers to deliver the bad news – and there was plenty to deliver. Chris West, Director of Finance at the council, said bluntly “Austerity is here to stay. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.” Even more strikingly, he reinforced something the Socialist Party has been saying for years; “There is very little difference between the financial plans of the two main parties. Whoever wins the next election, the picture is broadly the same.”
The plans were explained to us through a video, designed to sugar coat the true impact of the cuts using euphemistic references to “savings” and light-hearted animations of the “community”. The video also implored us to work together “as a community” to replace the services being cut by the council. We want the communities of Coventry to work together too – but not to run services being cut by the council, to work with the council and fight the cuts!
As one of the speakers from Friends of Spencer Park pointed out, relying on community groups leads to a “postcode lottery”, where some areas will get the services they need, while others (often the areas that need them most) won’t.
A Unison rep at the meeting expressed his disgust that no councillors attended the meeting, pointing out that his members faced losing their jobs and the councillors didn’t even turn up to discuss it!
Former Labour MP and Socialist councillor Dave Nellist, national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, spoke from the floor at the meeting and also questioned why no councillors were present, saying that it restricted the discussion to the technical details of the cuts rather than the political decisions being taken by the council, and that “these consultations should start by asking people if they agree with the council’s decision to make cuts at all”.
The council has £81 million in reserves that they could use temporarily to offset the effect of the cuts for a year, buying them time to build a movement with the people of Coventry to demand central Government gives us back the money they’ve cut. If the councillors we’ve got at present won’t do that, we should elect Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition councillors who will!