Six weeks after the riots, comes news from Manchester City Council (MCC) confirming it will cut funding to the city’s SureStart centres.
With one of the main factors suggested for the cause of the riots being poverty and with rioters coming from high deprivation areas, this is particularly bad news.
But what is Surestart? “Sure Start was part of a Labour government policy to prevent social exclusion, and as such, it was targeted at preschool children and their families in disadvantaged areas. The initiative was the result of a cross cutting review of services for young children chaired by the Treasury. The review's conclusions focused on the importance of the early years for child development, and highlighted the problems of multiple disadvantage for young children, the variation in quality of services for children and families and the need for community-based programmes of early intervention.”
The Labour government eventually devolved responsibility and money for the programme to local councils. This money however, was not ring-fenced and now with the Coalition government budget cuts forced on the Council, MCC has decided to withdraw funding from Manchester SureStart centres.
The Council has done this despite Manchester being named the child poverty capital of Britain, with over 25000 children growing up in ‘severe poverty’. In percentage terms, it is twice the number of neighbours Trafford and Stockport.
On top of this, Manchester has massively cut its youth services provision when the number of young people not in employment, education or training is on the rise. With these actions, the Council is abandoning young people as avenues for employment, further education and higher education for young people are being cut back.
This Council’s attitude has not been to support the people of the city, or to support their services. Its attitude has been to focus on regeneration and business. It can be seen in the comments of Council Leader Richard Leese, in response to a question on whether putting regeneration ahead of services was the right thing to do. It can be seen in the £2 million recent acquisition of land around MCC’s swanky new First Street offices.
This ‘leadership’ does Manchester no favours. With the high levels of deprivation in this city, it is imperative to try and maintain services to the most vulnerable. MCC should be addressing these issues alongside encouraging business development not instead of it.
The Council’s claims that there is ‘no other way’ of progressing should be taken with a bowl of salt. This year it has made drastic decisions on services and jobs which have THEN been followed by ‘consultations’. The Youth services and Surestart cuts have been prime examples of this. The Equality Impact Assessment requirements have happened AFTER cuts have been made. Why?
And of those consultations, have any of the results been made public?
The other side this is about democracy and representation. No Labour Councillor has stood up against the cuts to Manchester Youth and Surestart. Maybe too scared or weak to speak its mind, the body of the local Labour party is one that has forgotten its progressive left roots. The Council spin-doctors in fact even accused the Manchester Save SureStart Mums campaign as ‘hi-jacking’ the issue.
Is this the representation of democracy in Manchester?
The Conservatives and the Labour Council share this in common, both are making a CHOICE to cut essential services in Manchester. And before Labour complain, if they CHOOSE to spend over £2 million on land around their new town hall building instead of putting that money into keeping a some Surestarts open until things turn around, it says more than words.
We stand with the Manchester Coalition Against the Cuts in defending Manchester’s services.
In the wake of the riots, MCC ran the ‘I heart Manchester’ campaign, aimed at getting shoppers back spending money in the city centre. NOT pulling together community spirit, volunteering, supporting local communities in need, their campaign was aimed at shoppers.
Within that intense period, Council spokesman Pat Karney talked about ‘true Mancunians’ supporting the city.
The thing about Manchester, it has a strong history of protest and radical reform.
In keeping with this tradition, the ‘Save Manchester SureStart’ campaigners, Manchester Coalition Against the Cuts, BARAC Manchester, Manchester AntiCuts, Greater Manchester Against the Cuts, the Manchester Unemployed Workers Union, the students of both Manchester University and Metropolitan University and many more, are all closer to the spirit of being ‘True Mancunians’ than any merchandise-heavy shopping campaign by Council fat cats will ever tell us.
Hulme is home to both a SureStart (Martenscroft) , youth facilities and a library. Proctor’s Youth Centre has closed, Hulme Adventure Playground under threat. Our SureStart will be affected with all the other centres in Manchester and Hulme library building is about to be closed.
That being so, we have our own campaign. If a decision to cut services hurts the most vulnerable in our communities, it doesn’t matter if it comes from right-wing government or ‘left’-wing Council.
I “heart” Manchester Surestart – Don’t Cut It
I “heart” Mcr Libraries – Keep Them Open
I “heart” Hulme (of course)
If anyone wants to use the logos included in this post in a positive way, for a positive cause, go ahead.