Notts Cuts Watch #8

Tagged as: austerity cuts local_communities work
Neighbourhoods: nottingham nottinghamshire
Published by group: GroupNotts Save Our Services

The news this week has been dominated by snow which has rendered the north of the Nottinghamshire and much of the country almost inaccessible. But a little frozen water isn’t going to stop the important business of cutting private services and there’s no shortage of material for this week’s Notts Cuts Watch. All of it brought to you in a new, shorter format which is hopefully easier to use and more interesting .

As before, this is derived largely from the local press and blogs. If you’ve got a story which hasn’t been picked up elsewhere, email nottssos+watch [at] gmail.com.

Benefits

An unemployed father staged a protest outside Newark Job Centre on Tuesday after his job seekers’ money was stopped without notice. The DWP alleged that Andrew Allam had been insufficiently active in his search for a new job.

Campaigning

Notts Save Our Services have produced the second issue of their newsletter with more information on anti-cuts activities around Nottinghamshire. On Saturday, they organised a protest against tax avoiders, which merged seamlessly into a student protest.

Colleges

A consultation on the merger between South Nottingham College with Castle College began on Wednesday. According to the Post, "The board of Castle College voted in principle to merge earlier this year in light of a £6m deficit. Support for the plan is needed from the Skills Funding Agency. It will require the approval of the Secretary of State for Education. It is hoped that any decision on the merger will be made by March 2011, with a view to the merged college being in operation by April 1, 2011."

Councils

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has suggested that councils should tap into their reserves to protect frontline services. Locally, the Post reports, "Nottingham City Council has £61 million saved up in the bank, 11 per cent of its annual expenditure. Notts County Council has around £105 million set aside, 10 per cent of its annual budget... Ashfield district council had £8.6 million in reserve, while Mansfield had £15 million. Meanwhile Broxtowe borough council had £2.5 million and Gedling had £5.3 million. Newark and Sherwood district council had £5 million."

Following the remarks, deputy leader of Nottingham City Council described the minister as "very silly". Chapman argued, "Eric Pickles just doesn't understand local government finance. He has frontloaded cuts to council budgets over the next two years and now he is looking to councils to paper over the cracks in his sums."

Gedling Borough Council

It has emerged that a cost-saving restructuring at Gedling Borough Council will cost the council almost £188,750. Chief executive Peter Murdock is due to retire at the end of December, while Sue Sale, head of democratic and community services, will finish in May 2011.

Newark and Sherwood District Council

It looks likely that NSDC will lose £500,000 it invested in Sherwood Energy Village E-Centre, Ollerton. The E-Centre, offering office accommodation and community facilities, was the centre-piece of the energy village, which was created on the former colliery site and went into liquidation in August. This comes as the council tries to save £7.5m over 4 years.

Nottingham City Council

The city council has managed to secure a judicial review into the cutting of funding for the Building Schools for the Future PFI programme. This announcement was welcomed by the head teacher of Trinity School, Aspley, one of the institutions which had money for planned improvements taken away.

Surprisingly, the council has thrown its weight behind the protest against fees. Councillor David Mellen, the portfolio holder for education, is to propose a motion at the next full council meeting on 13th December requesting that the government "review and change" their policies to avoid "leading to a wasted generation in Nottingham and the UK." The council has also this week come out criticising government plans to cut the Working Neighbourhoods Fund and schools sports funding.

It is to be hoped that this is a principled shift and that the council is going to join the struggle against the cuts. Of course, in reality this is highly unlikely. Recall that this is the same council which has made it clear to campaigners that it has every intention of implementing the swingeing cuts mandated by the coalition government. They may well moan about it, but that is a very different thing to actually opposing the attacks on local communities.

As if to underline this point, the council has just announced that it is to begin charging for the use of computers in libraries from January. This will hit the poorest in society whi already face a growing "digital divide" at a time when all levels of government are looking to push more services online in order to save money.

Nottinghamshire County Council

The council has announced plans to cut its main offices from 23 to 8 in order to save costs. According to the Post, "The building sell-off plan would save the council £2 million a year from 2014/15. About £8.5 million would be generated from the sale of the buildings themselves, but the changes proposed would cost £10 million to put in place."

Among the buildings to be axed is Chancery Court, which houses Retford's register office, as well as children's and young people's services. A council spokesman told the Retford Times that staff would instead work at one of the retained offices, and the authority would look for another venue in Retford for weddings to be held.

The council meanwhile, is currently consulting on plans to reduce the opening hours of local libraries, but don't worry, the Big Society will sort everything with volunteers being sought to mitigate the impact of cuts.

Schools

Unions have warned that cuts to County Council services will have a negative impact on schools. The comments were made by the Joint Union Committee (JUC), made up of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

Efforts to save Geling School have continued, with the Save Gedling School campaign sending councillors a campaign briefing "to assist their debates and representations in what is likely to be the most important decision affecting the Gedling area in this current election cycle." Meanwhile Local scientists from BioCity and Nottingham Trent have joined the chorus of opposition to the closure. In 2009 the school received the best GCSE science results in Nottinghamshire.

Universities

It's been a busy week for student campaigners. Tuesday was the second day of action against fees and cuts. There were rallies at both a the University of Notttingham and Nottingham Trent University. Students at Notttingham University followed their protest by beginning an occupation of the Great Hall in the Trent Building.

The occupiers were joined by for dance lessons, Venezuelan activists and even musician Billy Bragg. Students ultimately agreed to leave on Friday afternoon with an open meeting about the students concerns agreed with university authorities for Monday.

Upcoming

The following is a run-down of the anti-cuts events happening over the next week.

  • Monday 6th December, 2.30pm. Rally outside the Great Hall in conjunction the Vice Chancellor meeting that the occupation successfully negotiated.
  • Monday 6th December, 3.30pm all students are invited to join an open forum discussion with the Vice Chancellor over the raise in tuition fees and cuts to the university, which is taking place in the Great Hall. All students are allowed to come, even if you weren’t in the occupation; even if you’re unsure about your position.
  • Monday 6th December, 6.15pm, Bakersfield Community Centre, Sneinton. At this Nottingham City Council “We Asked, You Said” event, the council will tell us the results of a recent survey sent out in the arrow about which services should be cut, Sneinton Against the Cuts are urging people to come along and "make your voice heard!"
  • Tuesday 7th December, 7.30pm,The 3rd meeting of the Nottingham 'Anarchists Against the Cuts' non-group will take place at the Sparrows Nest.
  • Wednesday 8th December, protest against Nick Clegg in Sheffield. University of Nottingham Students' Union are putting on coaches, leaving the university at 10am. It isn't clear if this is open to non-students.
  • Wednesday 8th December, Defend ESOL: a meeting about a cut to funding for ESOL (English for speakers of other language), called by UCU (Universities and Colleges Union) and NNRF (Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum). This cut to ESOL will affect both service users and teachers.
  • Thursday 9th December, MP’s will vote in the commons to raise tuition fees. NSACF have organised coaches to take students, staff and supporters down to London for the National Day of Action. The suggested donation for the coach is £5, but whatever you can afford. If you are interested, email: nsafac [at] gmail.com with your name. Coach leaves 9am from Portland Building steps, University of Nottingham.

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