The Tower Hamlets that was resisting the plots of the Conservative government’s deficit reduction perforations not too long ago, signed off ‘difficult decisions’ for front line services as Tower Hamlets Labour party mayor John Biggs’ austerity toxin locates its first victims.
The victims of the budget – passed by a 21/17 majority on the 24th of February – are familiar groups in the austerity playbook’s pecking order, and it’s the ideological prescription underwriting the infirmity of this Labour faction’s moral compass that needs paying attention to.
The creed that rules its thumbprints has a name. A name that distinguishes it from the fiscally upright, left wing administration of Lutfur Rahman that refused to sing from the Tory’s austerity hymn sheet while posting a £71 million surplus to the council’s balance sheet.
A name that conceals its septic values by taking the edge off the foreboding mantras of austerity with announcements that it could be much worse, that the pain is necessary, that we can’t hold off any longer and the only formula for controlling spending pressures is what is being injected behind the curtain of ‘cleaning up’ Tower Hamlets and ‘moving forward’.
And a name those not victimised by cuts under the previous administration who voted for the Labour Party’s John Biggs should not lose sight of as the cuts turn toward their numbers.
And so it begins for the disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly and the children of Tower Hamlets, all facing cuts to their services that are crudely unedifying when set against the inclinations that decide to relocate the fireworks venue from Weavers Fields to the larger, Victoria Park, with an appetite subduing £140,000 thickener stuffed in for good measure.
As well the politically expedient deference to the cynical diagnosticatings of Labour and Tory councillors, who spent the most part of the mayoral election campaigns foraging for selfie opportunities next to dumpedfurniture and uncollected bin bags near Brick Lane on Saturdays, that saw more money go into cleaning the streets of a borough that won multiple ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ awards for the cleanest streets in Britain in the past few years.
The impulses that guide this budget are nurtured from the cockeyed and disingenuous construct overly respectful to fearing the fragility and reciprocating instincts of those with most ability to absorb shocks and are synchronised to the beat of the ‘moderate’ Blairite rebels of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. And more locally, to Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, who, with 20 rebelling Labour MPs, chose to abstain from George Osborne’s hard-coding of austerity into the Fiscal Charter in October of 2015.
It’s the forsaking stomach for resistance, as a Labour councillor demonstrated at a council meeting recently, that is ominous for Tower Hamlets as this ‘moderate’ wing of the Labour Party identifies more victims.
At his disposal was £71 million in deployable reserves, out of the £242 million in overall reserves that John Biggs inherited. An amendment proposed by the Tower Hamlets Independent Group that achieved ‘the requirements for a balanced budget’ without cuts to front line services and with the Council’s minimum guideline reserves intact was rejected.
John Biggs draws little comfort from the Council’s Chief Financial Officer cautioning that this proposal increased the need for savings in the medium term, because it’s not that the council that doesn’t want to ‘kick the can down the road’ doesn’t need to make savings, it is all about the roll call of who has to be sacrificed and why and how easy the party’s austerity plot lines track those schemed at Conservative Party HQ.
Small ‘c’ conservative efficiency cultures nurtured into council departments are healthy additions to governance. But the Tower Hamlets Labour Party, in the service of this aspiration, has prepared a course for social cleansing in this budget and read aloud the organ eating adverse effects of the medicine it’s taking to the weakest and the most vulnerable.
Demonstrating why a long spoon is indicated when supping with this Tower Hamlets Labour Party.