Continued from Part 1.
A member of the public called Paddy asked why the “Labour controlled council” was planning to make cuts? He said the benefit changes from April next year and the move to Universal Credits were an “attack on the poor”. He said that most cuts affected the poor, who would “get it in the neck”. Paddy went on to refer to tax credits, no crisis loans for a month, and how [the Coalition Government] was making you [the Labour controlled council] implement this. He said that in 1932, there had been a crisis in banking system, which led to an attack on the poor because of the errors of rich. Paddy referred to riots in Europe unless reps do something with the power in own hands and went onto refer to the 1930s, fascists and war as well as a lost generation of youth.
The Chair, Cllr Denise Roberts said that they were dependent on money Government gives us and went on to refer to militant Labour in Liverpool in the 1980s.
Cllr Steve Foulkes suggested to Paddy that he put his comment on the consultation form, so that his view would be in the system. He said that part of their thing was that they had to set a legal budget, in fact they were forced to set a legal budget. He suggested they take the fight to Government. Cllr Foulkes asked why Metropolitan Authorities, mainly Northern and North-West ones were facing more severe cuts than the shire counties and the South-East?
Cllr Foulkes said the figures showed they were taking a heavier burden of the deficit. He said it was “our job”, to take the “fight to government” for a fair share. He referred to a protest on the 20th and how the public sector would bear the brunt. He felt that at the end of the day, he believed they could predict significant funding cuts.
He said that people complain bitterly about the NHS cuts, but the NHS in [Coalition government] terms was not cut just frozen. Cllr Foulkes referred to a 20% cut and the cries of anguish about the National Health Service, but that it was an unprecedented future. He said the public would be consulted and people would be involved, even if it was inevitable. Cllr Foulkes said he was an Evertonian, so he was naturally a pessimist, but the Director of Finance had said that if they don’t make decisions it would be a bigger failure of their duty.
He said in the heady days of Derek Hatton, by taking a stance and causing mayhem they had got an extra £1.8 million, which would not go very far [today]. He said there was a will within [Wirral Council] to tackle the problems. He said that with a number of services provided, such as the Department for Adult Social Services, in reality a small number people took up a third of the budget, but that we’re all “going to be old at some point”. He said it was a statutory service and if there was a belief that the public sector would diminish, then there needed to be the jobs in private sector. Cllr Foulkes said they needed to promote jobs and that even if the general public came out with the theme [in the consultation] of higher spending, all departments would take some hit. He said some authorities are saying the only services protected are adult and children’s protection, with the rest hired out to the public sector or volunteers, it was these sort of dimensions [of cuts], but that very rarely services were not loved. Cllr Foulkes said they were involved with a number of lobby groups, the Local Government Association (LGA), the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities (SIGOMA) all of which had common cause, that they would not take an inordinate share [of the cuts]. Cllr Foulkes said that local government was the best spender with regards to efficiency and that there was a big campaign the Fire Chief was running in the local press. He also mentioned that they would be electing a new Police Commissioner, but that they had to plan for the worse and hope for best, that the consultation was about realism and what really matters.
Cllr Foulkes said that the Department of Adult Social Services was demand-led, whether collecting in debts, or issues of child protection such as Baby P, he said the basic element was a loss of a third of funding and currently they provided services to people classed as critical and substantial.
Continued at Part 3.