Ryeview – December 2010

Is this a cut too far?

John Clark writes…

First published: December 2010 (2) – Gazette & Herald

New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. If I’m going to achieve an aim there is often a better time to start in the year than in the middle of winter. On the other hand it is a good time for reflection and making big or long term decisions.

At the moment I am wrestling with the question of the North Yorkshire County Council budget. We are told that the previous government overspent. As a result everyone, including local government, will have to make savings. That makes sense. The question then gets bigger. Where do we make the savings? Those running NYCC are saying: “It is inevitable that there has to be cuts in front line services – we don’t like it but there is no choice.” The question then explodes to one of ‘What kind of society do we want?’ Hence my mid winter gloom.

In 1945 immediately after WWII Britain was in a far worse financial position than today. Yet despite this we launched a Welfare State, the NHS, increased expenditure on education and there was a massive programme of council house building. In 2011 reductions in front line services in the NYCC budget will make a massive cut in the welfare state. The 2011/12 cut proposals include:

  • Residential placements for older people £2.6m
  • Closure of NYCC Elderly People’s Homes £0.6m
  • Domiciliary services including night sitting service £1.7m
  • Reduced support to carers £0.5m
  • Day provision/meals £0.4m
  • Support to voluntary sector £1.4m
  • Learning disabilities £2.0m

There is a high likelihood of more to follow. I was going to mention Libraries at this point. However the figures will not be available until mid January. There will be ‘savings’ of £1m in the 2011/12 year. How a consultation can be meaningful without the numbers being available is beyond me.

The North Yorkshire cuts are not a matter of people being asked to stand on their own feet. It is saying to an 82 year old who has worked all her life ‘We will make it more difficult for you. Your meals on wheels will go up from £2.75 to somewhere between £3.50 and £5.00 – a 50% increase; your day centre will go up from £6 a week to £50 a week; and by the way your local Library is going to close.’ Why should someone who paid for and suffered WWII and who paid for the post 1945 investment in society pay for the present crisis? The present crisis should be paid for by the better off by increased taxation, and by the real culprits – the bankers.

A good measure of civilisation is how society looks after its elderly, poor, weak, young and those in poor health. It is totally uncivilised to make savings by punishing the vulnerable. Maybe NYCC should be shouting (in a civilised way) at the ConDem government that this level of reduction in government grant is not going to create a ‘Big Society’. I will oppose this attack on our Civilised Society in North Yorkshire throughout 2011. That is a commitment not a New Year’s Resolution.

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