Newcastle City Council is announcing substantial budget cuts, including a £400 000 reduction in funding for Free School Meals. 23.5% of school-age children in the North-East rely on this subsidy, the highest proportion in the United Kingdom.
In protest, the Revolutionary Communist Group has launched an online petition as part of their 'Stop the cuts! Stop the spin!' campaign. If the petition reaches 2500 signatures, the City Council is obligated to discuss the issue in a debate at the next full council meeting, which is due to occur in March.
The Council’s proposed budget cuts also include £2 million from public health, £13.2 million from vulnerable adult services and £6.4 million from children’s services.
These cuts will bring the total budget reductions made by the City Council since 2010 to £345 million.
According to the Labour-run City Council the budget cuts are an unavoidable consequence of the unprecedented cost of handling coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the income the Council receives from business rates and Council Tax.
The Council has also had to front the cost of increased strain on adult social care and services for the vulnerable. According to Council Leader Nick Forbes, the Government has provided “wholly inadequate” monetary support, leaving a £64 million gap in finances. Due to the legal requirement for Councils to set balanced budgets, Forbes claims this gap must be bridged with budget cuts, for which consultation has now closed.
If you live or work in Newcastle and would like to add your signature to the petition by the Revolutionary Communist Group, please visit: https://www.change.org/p/newcastle-labour-council-no-cuts-to-free-school-meals.