Here is an open letter from a city sheltered housing tenant to a council support manager about the unbearable effect of budget cuts (or, from a ‘stakeholder’ to a support manager about the regrettable but necessary effect of ‘budget savings’, to use today’s spin-soaked jargon!)
Support Services for Older People
Birmingham City Council
1 Lancaster Circus
20th July 2015
Dear Support Manager,
As a result of cuts to services a support officer only attends Fleetwood House Sheltered Housing Scheme on Mondays and Wednesdays rather than Monday to Friday. I have discovered by chance that there will be no support officer covering the Scheme at all this coming Wednesday (22 July) where I am not aware any written document exists to explain the situation to the service users you surely have a duty of care towards.
I am strongly in favour of support officers being able to take their legal annual leave entitlement but this 22 July absence strongly suggests even more cuts to services may be on their way and that cuts and shortages to remaining support services mean there are clearly not even sufficient support officers to cover the city’s Sheltered Schemes at the current time.
I also understand tenants at Fleetwood House who had their support officer visits on Wednesdays have been asked to switch their visit day to Monday. Furthermore, whilst a support officer may be at Fleetwood House on future Wednesdays I am led to believe this will only be for administration work where they could be called to cover another scheme at any time.
I am a very concerned service user and I seek clarification re the above as people can simply not bear any more cuts to support services. Why is this new Wednesday arrangement being brought in if it is not to pave the way for a further reduction in support officer presence?
I request a reply at your earliest convenience. Thank you.
Sheltered Housing Tenant
A singing protest (with amplification) took place in the city centre yesterday evening. It began with a musical procession up New St, and ended with unamplified and amplified singing, poetry and speeches outside of the Council House. Without the use of amplification, only those very close to the performer or speaker could here exactly what was being sung about or broadcast.
And this is the point. All the warm words in the Council consultation document about how it is not an attack on free speech come to nothing in the reality of trying to make the voices of ordinary citizens heard. The very successful protest about the massive attacks on the library service of 13th June would have been far less successful if the words of the poets, writers and speakers had not been amplified.
And don’t forget that this ban will not apply to commercial concerns. The pro-business priorities of the Labour Council are made clear once again.
When the subject was aired on the Adrian Goldberg show not so long ago, the proposal to ban amplification got a complete roasting. So it is important that this view is reflected in the official consultation. It was supposed to end yesterday, but has been extended by a week. Could this be because their consultation is coming up with the wrong answer and more time is needed to marshal more support for the ban, one is tempted to ask?
If you have not added your voice to the consultation yet, please go to
Mind you, if they take as much notice of their consultation over this as they did to the consultation over the cuts to the Library of Birmingham, a certain amount of cynicism would be justified.
Nevertheless, please have your say anyway. This attempt to make the city centre an exclusive area for wealthy shoppers, a playground for the kind of people the Council is trying to attract with its support for luxury development, means pushing out ordinary citizens, especially the poor.
‘Social cleansing’ is happening in many cities these days, particularly in London. Don’t let it happen here in Birmingham.
Despite the rain, about one hundred people demonstrated up New Street yesterday afternoon, and about 150 attended the long rally outside of the Council House. Poets, writers and many speakers voiced their opposition to the cultural vandalism of the city council.
Both events were organised by the Friends of the Library of Birmingham, and both were demanding that the recent massive cuts to the Library of Birmingham and the Community Libraries be reversed.
This represents an escalation of the level of campaigning from the static rally outside of the LoB on February 7th. It was necessary as the Council ignored its own consultation over the 2015 budget, which showed massive support for the library service, way above all other areas of service. The council ploughed ahead with the cuts regardless.
What was the response of the Labour-run Council to yesterday’s well-advertised protests?
Firstly, the council house doors were locked, when a simple friendly gesture could have been made to allow the rally to take place inside, away from the rain.
Secondly, not one Labour Councillor turned up to the rally or demonstration to give support.
When councillors wring their hands and say ‘our hands are tied, there is nothing we can do’, yesterday’s events, and the no-show by any councillors, especially from Labour, spoke volumes.
There is a lot they can do; organise rallies and demonstrations against government cuts, protest and vote against cuts to services in the Council chamber, or at least lead a fight against austerity within the Labour Group.
Yet all we have is silence; the resistance is left to voluntary groups, such as the FoLoB to do all the work instead. And now there is even a proposal from the Labour Council to shut such people up; the intention is to ban amplification by protest groups, entertainers and religious groups in the city centre (but not commercial advertisers of course!)
Is there any further evidence needed that the Labour council has gone over to austerity and the neo-liberal agenda hook, line and sinker?
Are there no Councillors who will break from this in some shape or form? Are they all going to accept that the city centre is only a place for rich shoppers, a playground for those with money, a bleak landscape of concrete, glass and steel, devoid of life, education and culture?
Owen Jones has just started a debate, “What is the point of the Labour Party?” We could well ask a similar question about the Labour Council. They have meekly lain down in the face of government cuts. Are they now going to do the same in the face of the pro-business Kerslake and West Midlands Combined Authority’s onslaught on services and local democracy?
It would be nice to think otherwise, but it is unlikely many people will be holding their breath. In the absence of any semblance of opposition, it is the city council that should be served with an Anti Social Behaviour Order, not the city center’s street life.
All power to the elbow of the Friends of the Library of Birmingham and similar groups.
The Friends of the Library of Birmingham has decided to call a demonstration on Saturday June 13th. It will be to oppose the drastic cuts to the LoB in terms of its opening hours, staff cuts and restrictions on the services it has been offering. It will assemble at the Waterstones book shop at the bottom of New Street at 12 noon and then march up New Street for a rally at the Council House at 1pm.
The “Friends” group has decided to take this course of action for several reasons.
Firstly, the consultation exercise over the 2015 Council budget showed massive support for the LoB, far and away more than for any other area of service (50% of all respondents, compared to 29% for adult social services, and a massive 78% rejecting any cut to this one-and-a-half-year-old library). The results of the consultation were ignored and the cuts went through.
Secondly, the “Friends” are very alarmed, as are the many LoB users, at the results of this year’s cuts;
A massive reduction of hours – closed on Sundays, no admission before 11 am in the week, no late nights.
No new books to be bought; no business and IT advice; limited access to study space and PCs.
No community outreach: no story times for children; no schools events or holiday activities.
90 staff to be made redundant.
Limited access to the internationally important City and photography archives and special collections, including the Vanley Burke Archive.
Thirdly, even greater cuts are planned for next year. The question has to be asked; will the LoB even be viable with another savaging of its budget? Will we be faced with the loss of this major cultural centre (and tourist attraction!) which cost £189 to build? It would be the ultimate absurdity; paying £12 million per year for 40 years to finance a library which no-one could use!
The Friends of the Library of Birmingham is calling upon all library users, whether from the LoB or community libraries, all trades unionists who wish to oppose the huge job losses, and all concerned citizens, to unite at this demonstration on June 13th.
A very successful strike took place today at this school.
For five years running, this school obtained an “outstanding” from OFSTED, and although it was investigated as part of the “Trojan horse” group of schools, it came out with no problems identified.
However, in January of this year, when OFSTED arrived again, it was placed in special measures! Now there had been a change in leadership of the school and certain problems had arisen, but to go from one extreme to the other in one term lacks credibility.
And then the school governing body was removed and an IEB (Interim Executive Board) installed in its place, showing the usual contempt for the parents and community. The staff are firmly of the view that the agenda of the IEB will be to turn the school into an academy.
When the joint staff unions approached the IEB and asked that no changes were to be implemented at the school for another term to give it the chance to turn things around and achieve a certain amount of stability, this was flatly refused.
And so the strike took place today and given solid backing from the staff unions. Spirits are high, and it is to be hoped that the parents and community join in to give support as well, so that this whole unnecessary and unwanted academy conversion is abandoned.
Academies have been proven not to raise standards, so what is the real motive for this move? There are much better ways of sorting out issues in schools than handing them over to accountable bureaucrats.
To see and hear the comments of the NUT rep;