Monday's Panorama programme The Cuts - How to Fight Back was an inspiring tour of successful campaigns fought by local residents against savage cuts to local services.
BBC Panorama has, in recent years, bought us treats such as ‘Immigration: How we Lost Count’ and ‘Muslim First, British Second’ - so you would be forgiven for assuming that anything it beams onto your TV screen is likely to be a reactionary pile of frothing Islamophobic drivel.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’d probably be right. This week, however, seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
The Cuts - How to Fight Back , whilst not quite providing the ten-point plan it seems to promise, is an inspiring tour of successful campaigns fought by local residents against savage cuts to local services - if you can ignore the Dad’s Army theme tune that the patronising producer has inexplicably inserted every time an old person appears on screen, that is.
We begin, as ever, in London - Barnet to be precise, where the Tory council has decided that a live-in warden is not a necessary part of sheltered housing for OAPs. Apart from begging the question of what then differentiates sheltered housing from the local estates, this move is fairly repulsive - as a resident points out, this means that there is nobody to visit them, or to assist them if they become suddenly ill, meaning that they are increasingly likely to be put into a residential home.
For a party that proclaims the values of self-sufficiency and savings, paying for healthy OAPs to be put into a nursing home they don’t need seems fairly counter-intuitive. Thankfully the residents organise, petition, march and demand the re-instatement of the warden, finally mounting a legal challenge and winning.
A whistlestop tour ensues, where we see various councils dangling the butcher’s knife over music lessons, community centres and road repairs. The award for most vomit-inducing council without a doubt goes to Northamptonshire, where officials mount a roadshow survey of residents asking them which public service they would like to see cut (it goes without saying that ‘none’ is an answer not represented here).
As an insightful resident argues, “it’s a con, it’s all cut and dried before they come to ask us. It’s like a murderer asking his victim, would you sooner I strangled you or smothered you?”.
Paul Blantern of Northamptonshire Council, effectively tells residents that they need to choose between safe roads without potholes, care for the elderly and money for local schools - whilst earning a salary of up to £130,000. Anybody who isn’t hopping up and down and screaming at the telly by the end of this sickening tirade should seriously re-examine their political principles.
Whilst scenes like this might test your capacity for self-restraint, there is hope; the packed meeting halls, angry demonstrations, committed residents and petitions you could fill Downing Street with show us that the next round of savage cuts promised by the coalition government (or the ConDemNation, as angry tweeters have taken to calling it) will not be accepted in silence - they will be resisted and resoundingly rejected.
When they ask us to bear the brunt of the financial crisis by giving up our local libraries, swimming pools, community centres and parks our answer should be loud and clear - “Can’t pay, won’t pay!”
CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY
Wednesday 26 May
7pm Conway Hall Red Lion Sq
Tony Benn • Caroline Lucas MP
• Christos Giovanopoulos coalition of the Radical Left SYRIZA • Aris Vasilopoulos SYRIZA • Penny White BASSA • Paul Mackney fmr general secretary NATFHE • Clare Solomon president-elect, University of London Union • John Rees Counterfire • Michael Bradley Right to Work Campaign
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