By Francesca Manning, Kingston Anti-Cuts Group.
Kingston Council has advertised its new budget on the basis that it freezes council tax, but behind this popular measure is a story of cuts targeted at the most vulnerable sections of local society.
The Council has identified the increasing amount of disabled and special educational needs people living to the same age as others as a financial “problem”, failing to see that this is a sign of the success of the social welfare system that it is now trying to depreciate and dismantle.
Kingston’s LibDem Council will be seeking to make “efficiencies” of £8.6 million in 2012/3 and the majority of the cuts will fall on adult social care and children’s services. Adults with learning difficulties will be forced out of residential care and back into the home, with councillors looking to “augment the provision already provided by the community” rather than actually providing comprehensive care packages. Services designed to provide care to children with special educational needs, in order to give their parents respite from their heavy duties, will be scaled back. Mental health provision will be cut by £832,000 by 2015/16.
And it’s not only service users that will be hit. In the same way that mental health services are now being amalgamated (so there are now only half as many Mental Health Teams in the borough) or turned over to social enterprises, the Council believes that they “will continue to make savings from staffing” of public services. There will be redundancies, and many jobs will be passed over into the voluntary or private sectors, opening the way for assaults on pay, pensions and conditions.
For women in the borough, the budget is a two-pronged attack. Women are often the primary caregivers for both adults and children with disabilities and special needs, meaning that cuts to those services hit them the hardest – indeed, women’s caring responsibilities are one of the main reasons for the gender pay gap. Also, the majority of the people that work in jobs providing services for the most vulnerable are women themselves, meaning that this budget puts their jobs and pay at risk.
And to add insult to injury, the Council has also committed itself to making savings of £500,000 by 2015/6 to its “Supporting People” budget, one of the roles of which is to provide help, support and shelter to women who suffer domestic abuse.
Kingston’s LibDem and Tory councillors are targeting the most disadvantaged people in the borough, and pushing women out of work or into worse conditions, while forcing them to accept more and more caring responsibilities. Those who want to protect women and the vulnerable need to look past the headline figure about council tax and join the demonstration on budget day.
Stop all the cuts! Fight for every job!
6pm 29th February at Kingston Guildhall.