‘We are not alone’ – speech to Haringey Council 17/01/11 (with video)
The following is the text of the speech given by the leader of the deputation of Haringey Alliance for Public Services, Jenny Sutton, to the full council meeting on 17th January 2011.
Click here to watch the full video of Jenny’s speech and the following debate (begins at 09.25).
My name is Jenny Sutton. I’m the Branch Secretary of the University and College Union at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and am speaking on behalf of the Haringey Alliance for Public Services, a broad coalition of residents and workers who have come together to fight against cuts to jobs and services. We are asking you to refuse to vote for cuts and to stand together with the people you represent.
In 5 minutes I can only make general points, but I have with me representatives of different interest groups in Haringey to whom I hope you will address specific questions:
- Maureen Carey – Haringey Forum for Older People
- Sue Hessel – Haringey Federation of Residents Associations, vulnerable groups representative
- Dave Morris – Haringey Friends of Parks Forum
- Selvi Ozdemir – North London Community House
- Janet Shapiro – Better Local Healthcare Campaign
The cuts – National
The Con-Dem government is making the most savage cuts in public spending since the 1930s.
More than a million jobs will be lost
Thousands will be forced from their homes through housing benefit cuts
People with disabilities will have their mobility, independence and dignity drastically impaired
Despite 20% youth employment, and one of the the lowest percentages of teenagers in education in Europe, cuts in post-16 Education mean that thousands of young people will be denied access to university and college through the tripling of tuition fees and the abolition of the EMA
The cuts – Local
In Haringey, the proposals on which we are being consulted equate to only £12 million of the £46m cuts required for 2011-12 and the staggering £87m of cuts demanded in the next 3 years. If these cuts go ahead they will be the worst in our borough’s history.
We face cuts in Housing, Health, Care and Social Services, old peoples’ homes, day centres, play schemes, youth and education services, teenage pregnancy support services, support for children with disabilities and second language speakers, libraries, community centres, green spaces, leisure facilities, voluntary projects and public service jobs – 1,000 jobs are under threat in a borough where, in Tottenham, we have the highest unemployment in London and life expectancy 17 years below Westminster.
These cuts are not necessary!
They are ideologically driven by a right-wing government committed to dismantling the welfare state and privatising public services. We are being told that there is no alternative, that the debt must be paid. This is a lie:
UK government debt is now 70% of GDP. Between 1920 and 1960 it was never less than 100%, and was more than 250% in 1945 when the welfare state was established, including the NHS, public housing and state education
As for the argument about Labour profligacy, before the recession public sector spending was less than in 8 of Thatcher’s 11 years in office. The highest public sector spending under Labour was 40% of GDP, compared to Thatcher’s high of 42% in the recession of 1981-83.
The deficit is not due to excessive spending and could be solved in an instant by collecting the £120 billion tax avoidance shortfall from the rich, scrapping trident and ending the war in Afghanistan – the money is there!
These cuts will damage the economy
Ireland and Greece, who have taken extreme measures to cut deficits, have consequently suffered far worse than countries which have held steady, or even increased, public spending. The GDPs of Greece and Ireland are now 7.2% and 12.8% below pre-crisis levels.
Fundamentally, these cuts are not fair
The poorest councils face the biggest cuts – some of the leafy Tory shires barely have to make any. The cuts target disabled people, single parents, the young, those on benefits and pensioners. Women will bear 75% of the burden, and the poorest will be hit 10 times harder than the richest.
Are we ‘all in it together’ when:
- Top directors’ pay has gone up by 55% this year
- The bankers, who were bailed out with £1.4 trillion of public money, will get £7 billion in bonuses this year – while £7 billion has been cut from the social security budget
- £18 billion has been cut from welfare, but £24 billion has been given to private business through cuts in corporation tax
- The richest 1000 people saw their wealth increase by £77 billion last year – half of the deficit! The top 10% are now 273 times wealthier than the poorest 10% and London is the most unequal city in the developed world
So what are your responsibilities as councillors?
These cuts are not about trimming fat – Labour cuts in 2007 meant that there is no fat left, we are talking about cutting the flesh of our public services. These cuts cannot be absorbed without inflicting irreversible damage to peoples’ lives.
The Government are demanding a sacrifice to the great god of the market. You say it’s better to chop off hands for the altar, because otherwise they’ll come in and chop off arms. But be under no illusions – if you show yourselves willing to chop off hands, they’ll come back demanding arms and legs, because they want to see the end of state public services.
You may think this life and death metaphor is over-the-top – but when an elderly person dies of hypothermia in their unheated home because the day centre they went to for warmth and a hot meal has been closed down, whose fault will that be? And when another Haringey child dies because social services do not have the resources for early intervention, who will be blamed?
We’ve got no doubt that you’re all committed to public service, otherwise you wouldn’t be here on a cold January night – but don’t allow a misplaced sense of civic duty to justify managing the unmanageable – and the unconscionable. You may think you are acting as a dented shield, mitigating the worst, but actually you are acting as a human shield for Tory policies which have no public mandate.
The Tories came to power on less than 20% of the eligible vote, propped up by the Lib-Dems who have jettisoned their principles for power. Councillors are elected to represent the interests of the people of this borough and you have no mandate to implement the destructive policies of a minority government. Together, we have got to stop the wheels turning, because peoples’ lives, hopes and dreams will be crushed.
We are asking you to vote against cuts and to stand together with the people you represent.
If you cannot do so, step aside, stand down, and let those who are willing to fight take your place. We are not alone: public sector unions, students and communities across the UK are uniting to resist this assault. Together, we have to reject a future where only those who can afford private healthcare, education or pensions will live with dignity.