Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tories cutting law centre's funding....

Hammersmith and Fulham Community Law Centre are facing a massive cut of £160,000 (reduction of more than 60%) as part of an overhaul of the council’s voluntary and community sector grants programme. Obviously many voluntary organisations rely on council grants for its life blood. People in the borough will rely on the support and advice in areas such as housing, employment, immigration and asylum. This will be a massive blow to the services this law centre will be able to provide. Another organisation in the borough that is also facing closure is Horn of Africa community centre.

The law centre also claims that the Tory council are reducing their grant on ideological grounds. According to them a couple of council reps who sit on the management committee have queried why they sue the council when they are being funded by it. If this is the case then it is indeed worrying because it could lead to a dangerous precedent. The idea of constitutional checks and balances seems to have been dumped completely by most establishment thinkers.
The council disagrees instead they claim they would redistribute grants to groups that would help build “safer and healthier communities support the elderly, children and young people”…. “High quality and value for money services” (I suspect they think good advice is too expensive…). The buzz word throughout is “value for money" along with a cut in the council tax. The law centre maintains that they fit the council’s priorities and believe that there is a political agenda at work.

Interesting this has happened since the Tories became the majority on Hammersmith and Fulham council after May 2006 local elections. And here they are merrily chopping away funding for the voluntary sector. Along with New Labour, both are very authoritarian especially towards the powerless in this society. I am sure there is a general dislike of poor people having the audacity and cheek to challenge authority with council cash. And with the cutting to the bone of legal aid many voluntary organisations will be scrabbling around for funding this will inevitably mean the continued shrinking of free legal good advice.

The workers at the law centre have set up a blogsite to fight the proposals and advertise the ongoing protests. Good luck comrades with the fight!


AN said...

The intersting thing I would observe since the Tories took over in Swindon is that actually they have not been worse than the previous Labour adminstration.

They have not sought to privatise council housing, nor privatise the municipally owned bus service (we are still a socialist republic here!)

In so far as they have launched attacks on services, in truth they have only been carrying out (Labour) government policy.

For example they did push for an academy, but all but one of the Tory councillors admitted they would have been just as happy to build a new local authority school with public money, but an Academy was the only way the government would let them fund it.

Law centres are nationally under attack becasue of new labour policies, it is not just because Hammersmith and Fulham have a Tory council I think.

Louisefeminista said...

"Law centres are nationally under attack becasue of new labour policies, it is not just because Hammersmith and Fulham have a Tory council I think."

Yes, that is true re: cuts in legal aid but these attacks on funding have happened in Hammersmith and Fulham since the Tories have become the majority. This law centre has existed for 27 years and have received funding over the years and now the Tories have taken over... cuts!

There is an ideological difference between the Tories and New Labour. It may be hard to differentiate between the two but it exists.

What I want to say it will be even harder for law centres to get cash with the Carter Review on legal aid, council cuts and so on. There will be an ever decreasing number of law centres.

Louisefeminista said...

The Law Centre in H&F get majority of their funding from the council and some from the Legal Services Commission (LSC). They rely on that cash from the council.

AN said...

There is an ideological difference between the Tories and New Labour

Well, I'm sure there is a difference between Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola as well.

The question is whether in ideological or policy terms the Cameron Tories are really any worse than New Labour?

Specificaly in Hammersmith and Fulham i am sure you are correct that it is the Tories who have made the decision to cut law centre funding.

But labour councils elsewhere are also impliated in cuts, privatisations, sell offs and PFI.

Also the council funding priorities are in the context of national government holding the purse strings for most local authority spending.

AN said...

To clarify here.

I am not saying there is no difference between the Labour Party, taken in the round, including its broadly progressive electoral base, its links with the trade unions, and its few residual left wing activists.

compared to the Tory party, with its broadly reactionary electoral base, its links with the aristocracy and hang e'm and flog 'em brigade.

But specifically on ideological grounds, what is the difference between the Tories and new labour? (hint: Tony Blair's best friends, George W Bush, Berlesconi, Aznar, et al) 0r policy?

i suppose there is at least one clear diffeence that the tories are well to the left of Blair on civil liberties issues: ASBOs, ID cards, detention without trial, etc.

Renegade Eye said...

Happy Belated May Day.