Sue Ferguson* in Liverpool writes:
Liverpool’s Mayor, Joe Anderson, has stated that he will refuse to implement any future cuts after it was revealed that a fresh round of pain is planned for the City of Liverpool. The Echo reported: “With services stretched to the maximum in the city, Mayor Anderson has now said enough is enough and told government that he simply won’t do their bidding.”
This was welcomed by activists in Liverpool who have been asking the Council for a campaign against austerity cuts for many years. His statement was picked up by disabled people in other places who are fighting care charges which local Councils say they “have to” increase. In Liverpool, central government funding has been cut by 58% since 2010 and our services have suffered.
In 2010 central government funding was £523.72m. In 2019/20 funding is £214.97m. One of the first cuts the Council made in 2011 was to restrict the eligibility criteria for receiving Adult Social Care from moderate needs to substantial and critical needs only. In others words, people with care needs were going to pay the price for the financial crisis caused by deregulation of the banks. People were ‘signposted’ to outside agencies to make their own arrangements. But as homecare is means tested, many (who knows how many) would have gone without. And so it has continued.
Whilst recognising Mayor Anderson’s poor record of opposition in the past we should welcome his attempt to start a fight back. However, his words may turn out to be pure rhetoric without a clear plan of how this fight back is to be organised.
Merseyside Pensioners’ Association issued this press release:
MERSEYSIDE PENSIONERS’ ASSOCIATION (MPA)
Media Release – Thursday 6th February 2020
“At yesterday’s packed meeting of the Merseyside Pensioners’ Association it was unanimously agreed to support the declaration of Mayor Joe Anderson to refuse to impose any further cuts on the Council budget. Please see the full resolution below:
Resolution on Mayor Anderson’s declaration.
The MPA welcomes the declaration of Mayor Joe Anderson to refuse to impose any further cuts on the Council budget.
Whilst recognising Mayor Anderson’s poor record of opposition in the past we accept his attempt to start a fight back. However, we feel his words may ring hollow without a clear plan of how this fight back is to be organised.
We call upon all Councillors to support a commitment for no further cuts and we call upon all Labour Party members, Trade Unionists and community groups to demand a conference to discuss a strategy for fighting any further cuts to Liverpool’s local authority budget.
However, Mayor Anderson has also made statements to the effect that whilst he will make no cuts, the Government will have to do it instead, which in practice would mean Government appointed Commissioners taking over the Council finances. We therefore call on Mayor Anderson to prepare to resist such a move, instructing Council Officers not to co-operate with Commissioners, using existing reserves and loans if necessary, to implement a Needs Budget.
As a first step a campaign needs to be launched involving all Liverpool Labour Party members, Trade unions and community groups such as Liverpool Against the Cuts and other anti-austerity organisations, through a series of public meetings, local press and radio.
The production of campaign material to be agreed and organised by Labour Parties, Trade Unions and community groups.
We are committed to informing and engaging the local population in any campaign to build mass support against this Tory Government and their persistent imposition of austerity policies.
Contact: Phil Maxwell (07884492875) or Tony Rimmer (07748040464)”
End of press release
* Sue Ferguson is a long-time contact of WinVisible, a former teacher and wheelchair user. In 2001, Sue took Liverpool City Council to court at the High Court in London, to challenge them on including her husband’s income in how much she should pay for homecare. She objected that this was wrong as it would undermine her independence and make her financially dependent on her husband, affecting their relationship. She was supported by colleagues in Liverpool to bring the judicial review, and nationally by Incapacity Action, WinVisible and others. The Council conceded. This set a precedent that a partner’s income must never be included in the financial assessment for homecare charges. This was written into national guidance for Councils from the Dept of Health on charging (charging is not a legal obligation, it is always discretionary), which, ever since, has protected women in couples from relationship pressures: In recent years, Sue has been active in Liverpool Against the Cuts, campaigning against library closures.
Watch our interview with Sue in Liverpool in 2017, where we saw each other again after 16 years!