Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Challenges to the Cuts - an alternative proposal

Hackney Unites blogger Teena Lashmore on an alternative proposal to challenging the cuts...
The Fawcett Society, which is a leading feminist group, challenged the Con-Dems Government Spending Review Package in the High Court in December 2010.

Their main argument is that the spending review impacts on women and minority citizens more than it impact upon men. In summary and using statistics from a range of sources over time, they suggested that the cuts favour white male middle classes or family structures over the country’s reality – where many do no live according to that structure - because they simply cannot afford to do so. The challenge to obtain an application for a Review failed as the Royal Courts assessed at this time, there is no case for the Government to answer.

Students have undertaken public demonstrations against the Cuts. Community based groups such as the WAC pack (Women against the Cuts), have also undertaken public events in London to raise the issue that the cuts affect mostly women. Workers and supporters of the NHS along with trade unions are either developing grass root supports from community meetings or engaging with developing the collective campaign in time for the planned demonstrations in early 2011.

Locally, Hackney Unites are preparing to have Lee Jasper attend their public meeting on 23rd January (for further info visit: http://tinyurl.com/3ydqjop
Mr Jasper is but one of many political leaders from the Black and Minority and Ethnic groups (BME). He will discuss further the consequences of the Cuts for BME residents, children, mothers and families.

These efforts and clearly well focused and are fuelled by the public’s anger about the Cuts. The Con-Dem leadership has proven effective; especially where their strategies and policies build upon ‘shared’ values. These shared values between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives political parties, clearly include the tripling of University Tuition fees. While one can understand the Conservative’s agenda, as this is not new, one is left simply assuming that the Liberal Democrats have traded in their manifesto pledge in return for a little piece of power.

While reflecting over the challenges against the Cuts, a resource or tool that does not appear to have been utilised (so far) is the lessons learned from the achievement form the Southall Black Sisters (SBS). SBS successfully challenged Ealing Council in 2007, when the Council attempted to remove their funding. The Council argued that under the equality bill, a generic diversity project would meet the communities needs better than a group focussed on black women only. Such an argument failed to acknowledge the history and legacy of racism in public services and most importantly and according to the judgement, failed to acknowledge fully the duty in the Race Relations Act, which is to promote community cooperation.

The full judgement can be access on line: www.navca.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/.../SouthallBlackSisterstheJudgement.pdf

The Con-Dems policy for cuts appears equally dismissive of the public duty in the Rae Relations Act, which is to promote community cooperation and eliminate racism. Cutting budgets without assessing the impact on the community, which is made up of BME citizens, appears to be a similar argument to that presented by the London Borough of Ealing. Ealing lost that argument and SBS were awarded 102,000.

Equality is not that all groups are equally disadvantaged, it is about understanding the county’s legacy and commitment for social integration. The challenge in the High Court on 6 December was by women but perhaps the strategy by SBS is what should be applied as after all it worked the last time.

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