By Ross Saunders, Secretary Cardiff Against The Cuts
This year, Cardiff’s Labour-run Council plans to short-change Cardiff schools by another £3.5 million in real terms, as well as slash £19.4million of funding from services.
This includes £1 million worth of “reduced levels of community support” for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Council tax is to rise by an inflation-busting 4.3%.
Councillors are following up the privatisation of leisure centres by washing their hands of more sports buildings as well as the New Theatre. The propaganda about the community running facilities directly can’t hide the truth that many of these places will close without the resources that comes with public ownership.
Despite their claims to the contrary, in any meaningful sense, Cardiff Council is brutally cutting back funding for schools in the city – and not for the first time.
Last year Cardiff’s schools lost almost £2 million in real terms. This year that’s being more than doubled to £3.5 million. On top of that, schools have for years faced hidden cuts because they’re being made to pay for services that were previously funded centrally.
The council must relieve the pressure in our schools and other services by refusing to make more Tory cuts. They should defy austerity and demand more funding. This weak government wouldn’t be able to resist a determined campaign that won the support of everyone who relies on these services or provides them.
Cardiff is set to be Britain’s fastest growing city, thanks in large part to the Welsh government’s failure to stop the jobs slaughter in the rest of Wales. Ten percent of Wales’ population lives in the city already. If Cardiff Council made a stand against the cuts it would set a powerful example to other councils in Wales and beyond. If Cardiff made a stand, it could appeal to other Welsh councils to join them. So weak is this Tory government that even the threat of opposition on that scale could bring them down and begin the end of austerity.
It’s simply not true that councillors have no alternative but to pass on the cuts the Tories demand. Collectively, UK Councils have greater spending powers and assets than some European countries. Cardiff Council for example is sitting on a pile of cash reserves £76.1 million high. They should spend these reserves to buy time while they campaign for more central funding.
Instead, they’ve increased by over a million last year! Too many councillors are in hock to big business, which is why Cardiff Council does sweetheart deals with the developers of luxury student flats so they don’t have to pay into community funds, at the same time as they tell us there’s no money to run the services we need.
We are all paying for the cowardice of our councillors. According to their own documents, a quarter of a billion pounds of services has been cut in Cardiff in the last ten years by Labour, Liberal and Plaid-run councils. At least 1600 full time jobs have gone from a city in desperate need of secure work in the last 6years, and 2500 over the decade.
This cannot go on. If councillors won’t fight the cuts of their own volition, we’ve got to rise up and make them.
Since austerity began, ordinary working-class Cardiff residents have shown time and time again that they are willing to fight. Playcentre campaigners from Grangetown, Splott and elsewhere have blocked the road and invaded County Hall to protest at the damage being done to their communities. Free runners climbed up the face of City Hall when their centre was under threat. Protesters from the STAR area marched over 100 strong in the first protest Splott has seen in decades.
Libraries campaigners and many others have taken action all over the city and shown they won’t let the services and facilities they care about close without a fight. Lansdowne Primary School fought off not one but two plans to shut their school.
We need campaigns just like those again for our schools and the other facilities targeted this year. Linked up, they could be a powerful challenge to Tory austerity and its collaborators.