Published on April 11th, 2016 | by John OMeara



Professor Black took his dancers to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The renowned costume designer/magicianDSCF1093/impressario remembers those posters in the windows of rented properties in the 1960’s, and has a sense of solidarity with those who shared the impact of that discrimination.  Most of what he does with young people these days, he does at his own expense – he can’t get grants any more for activities which give young people a sense of purpose and identity. He was talking at the Handsworth Against the Cuts meeting at Oaklands Centre on Saturday (his workshop is just behind the Centre), and went on to describe the regular trips with young people to perform in Leeds and Manchester and at the Edinburgh Festival – all, again, at his own expense, which limits how much he can do, and how long he will be able to keep doing it. Thankfully, the Oaklands Centre itself is funded for the next 2 years to continue providing activities for young people.

Dr. Louise Irvine shared the lessons from the successful ‘Save Lewisham Hospital’ campaign: a very clear cut issue, where a very wide spectrum of people can see they are going to lose something important to them, has most chance of success; it can’t just be a campaign of ‘the left’ – the big issues affect people of every persuasion; many communication methods must be used and with flair, fun, colour and imagination. Rick Hatcher, Secretary of Birmingham Against the Cuts, outlined the future threats to the quality of public services in Birmingham:

  • £60 million to be cut from Adult Services (this means things like home care help to elderly people who can’t wash and dress themselves or prepare a meal, and opportunities for social contact when they become isolatedDSCF0437 and lonely), £20 million of which will be cut in 2016-17
  • £10 million to be cut from Childrens’ Services – which means that Childrens’ Centres such as Louise Road, Rookery Road and Lime Tree could be under threat
  • 13.9% cut in school budgets over the next 5 years
  • 165 fewer acute care beds as services are transfered from City and Sandwell Hospitals to the new Midland Metropolitan Hospital
  • 4,000 more Council jobs cut by 2020 (8,000 have gone since 2011)

While the big picture is clear, the detailed impacts, and in particular the local impacts, are not clear. Cuts in both Adult Services and hospital care, for example, are part of positive developments such as the integration of Health and Social Care budgets, but will we be able to see the dividing line between improved efficiency and loss of important provision? The challenge over the next few months is to find the places where the impacts of cuts become clear, whether this is carers’ groups, charities, Clinical Commissioning Groups, local Childrens’ and Community Centres – organised settings capable of reflecting and reporting on what is happening.

DSCF1086In contrast to previous meetings of this kind, there was no input from Councillors explaining the detail behind the headlines. There was strong criticism of both an over-compliant attitude to cuts from Councilllors, and a complacency in the local Labour party machinery which was seen as demonstrated by an almost total lack of activity  and debate in the local executive structure. This, like the Council’s withdrawal from face to face interaction with the public, contributes further to making the discriminatory effect of cuts invisible (the person,for example, who can’t communicate via computer or the labyrinth of telephone options/obstacles no longer exists as a problem/cost).

The meeting ended with a focus on The Drum – North Birmingham’s only Arts Centre, whose funding has been withdrawn and which is due to close in June – and a determination to use all possible means to oppose this.

Handsworth Against the Cuts will be holding a planning meeting on Monday 25th April at 7pm at St. Andrews Community Centre on the corner of College Road – all are welcome.



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