It was disturbing to read the leader of the council’s views on the upcoming County Council budget, and her implication that no real harm has been caused by the cutbacks we have already seen.
Residents of West Sussex, including thousands of vulnerable older people and disabled children and adults, need a council that will defend their interests. That means standing up to central government and telling them there is no way our communities can take another £140m of cuts on top of the £79m already taken.
That we’re in this mess is testimony to failed national economic policies. Austerity does not work. The belief that privatisation can now get us out the hole we find the government digging for us is absurd.
The public see through privatisation for what it is – worse services, unaccountable to local people, with profits siphoned out of our local economy and redistributed to shareholders and corporate chief executives. A poll by YouGov last month found more support than ever for publicly-run services: 68 per cent want energy companies renationalised, 66 per cent want rail in public ownership, and 84 per cent want the NHS returned fully to public provision.
In West Sussex, the county council has only this summer moved 52 residents out of Oakhurst Grange, a care home run by BUPA in Crawley, as its standards of care were so woeful, and the county coroner found last month that neglect contributed to five deaths in another Crawley care home run by Southern Cross. Local people know what privatisation means.
And so do staff. It only ever means downward pressure on terms and conditions, and this is what we have seen in the council’s privatisations so far. That does not help staff and their families who live in West Sussex, local businesses who rely on their spending power, or service-users who rely on staff to deliver the high-quality services they need and deserve.
Despite what the leader of the council says, there are other alternatives available. UNISON will be a part of the debate in the coming period over those choices the council faces.
And we will do our very best to defend local communities from the onslaught that is being planned for them.
UNISON West Sussex