Councils across England have been drawing up plans to slash local services and implement new Tory funding cuts. These include those councils hardest hit by the Tories’ first three years of council cuts. Manchester council plans to slash 830 jobs, close libraries and cancel events to save £80 million. But it has already cut more than 2,000 jobs and £170 million. Its workforce will have shrunk by more than a quarter under the coalition.
In Sheffield council leader Julia Dore has warned that its £50 million of “further and deeper” cuts will mean “massive changes in the city”. But people are already organising a fightback. There were two marches of some 500 people against the cuts in South Yorkshire last Saturday—despite fierce winter weather. In the Pennine town of Stocksbridge people marched against plans to close their leisure centre. And in Sheffield city centre parents, children, nursery workers and trade unionists showed their anger at £3.6 million cuts to the early years service. Children threw snowballs at the police and through the open windows of the town hall. Local groups have sprung up around many of the centres. Campaigners have collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition against the cuts—more than twice the amount needed to force a full council debate on the issue.
Both Sheffield campaigns are planning more action this week and into February. And despite three years of misery, resistance is kicking off elsewhere too. More than 300 people packed into a campaign meeting to save libraries in Newcastle last week. Battersea, south London, has seen two demonstrations to defend an adventure playground from the bulldozers. An occupation of the site is continuing, despite the cold. Protesters forced councillors in Scunthorpe, north Lincolnshire, to change the venue of their meeting on youth service cuts on Friday of last week. The 50-strong protest was organised at short notice, mainly by school students.
Labour councillors, who were elected on the back of revulsion at Tory cuts, lead many of the councils that are slashing services. Take Birmingham council—the largest in Britain—which Labour took control of last year. Council leader Sir Albert Bore is promising “the end of local government as we know it” with proposals for £88.5 million of new cuts.