Sunderland faces new £36m ‘attack on the poor’

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SUNDERLAND faces another three years of misery after it was revealed another £108million of savings will have to be made in an ‘unremitting assault and ‘attack on the poor.’

The Labour cabinet at Sunderland City Council agreed a report which will guide the budget setting process for the next financial year.

By adopting the budget planning framework 2015/16, which shows the reduction in national funding remaining at 13.16 per cent for the next financial year, cabinet members have agreed that cuts of £36.3million will have to be made.

Presenting the report, cabinet secretary Mel Speding said the cuts would mean frontline services would be cut – but pledged the council will still push forward with regeneration projects.

“The sustained level of cuts means frontline services will unavoidably be affected,” Coun Speding said, adding that: “This council continues to lobby against government proposals.”

Coun Graeme Miller added: “This is an unremitting assault on the public sector and local authorities in general. Quite how they expect us to deliver the services the residents of the city are expecting from us I have absolutely no idea. To have lost £100million already, then to have to find another £108million, beggars belief.”

Coun John Kelly said: “Other authorities and areas have not taken the significant cuts we have taken. Whether this is because we are a Labour-controlled authority or because we are in the North East, the Conservatives have done nothing but attack this area. If they are voted back in, they will continue to attack the poor. They will continue to dismantle, bit by bit, the way we look after the most vulnerable people.”

Commenting after the meeting, Tory group leader Lee Martin said the Labour councillors failed to see the bigger picture.

“It doesn’t gel with what’s happening in people’s lives,” Coun Martin said. “We’ve had the fastest fall in poverty rates, along with Scotland, at five per cent. This comes from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is hardly a Conservative organisation. We have the fastest growing economy in Europe.

“There has been no commitment from Ed Miliband or the Labour Party to spend more on local government if they get in. Labour like to talk about it as a great big crusade against the North East, but they did nothing to address regeneration, employment and welfare.

“We have money going into business parks, roads, regeneration, but the difference now is that everything comes with strings attached.

“Nobody believes that we have no money. If that was the case, why would we spend £12million on a public square. Yes, the council is smaller than it used to be, but there is no commitment from them to go back to how it used to be. It’s all about where their priorities are.”

Sunderland Unison organiser Helen Metcalf said: “From our point of view we want to protect public services as far as possible. Where there is outsourcing of services, we need to protect contracts and working conditions, and ensure we get a fair deal for our members. We have offered to work with the council. We can’t stop services being outsourced, but we want to ensure we don’t move towards zero-hour contracts and a two-tier workforce.”