A growing chorus of voices predicts civil disturbances if cuts push poor communities over the edge.
At a packed meeting of Black Activist Rise Against the Cuts (BARAC) held at the recent TUC conference speaker after speaker warned of the dire consequences for the black communities nationwide as a result of the Governments proposed spending cuts.
Job losses, increased poverty and unemployment, massive redundancies in the public sector along with huge cuts to vital front line services and the black voluntary sector will inevitably lead to an increase in social tensions.
Diane Abbott MP contender for the Labour leadership spoke at the BARAC meeting and warned that a “last in, first out” approach to redundancies would hit black and female workers hard.
Ms Abbott called for local authorities and quangos to be “mindful” of the their legal duty to asses race and gender distribution of any job losses announced in response to Treasury-imposed budget restrictions. And went on to say:
“Black (people) and ethnic minorities are predominantly employed in the public sector, particularly women.
“My concern is that the progress black and ethnic minority workers have made in employment is relatively recent and if there have to be big cuts, it will be ‘last in, first out’ and these cuts will fall disproportionately not just on women but on black and ethnic minority workers.
“I think the public sector cuts have the potential to set back race relations and black and ethnic minority communities by a generation.”
Abbott echoed comments made in May this year by race campaigner Lee Jasper who also spoke at the meeting
Warning of the consequences of deprived communities being expected to suffer higher levels of social deprivation as a result of cuts to jobs and services he said:
“If black communities are to be protected from the already disproportionate affects of this recession brought about by huge rises in black adult and youth unemployment and impending cuts to an already fragile black voluntary sector, then the Government will need to introduce urgent special measures to ensure that our communities, the majority of whom live in deprived neighborhoods, are not permanently sealed into a desperate inner city underclass. If not then a rerun of the civil disturbances of the 1980’s is almost inevitable. And that may well mean additional funding in some areas of spending.”
Support for this analysis emerged last week from the Police Federation who at their recent conference spoke of the dangers of increasing social disaffection and alienation, reinforced these fears.
Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett speaking at the conference warned the Home Secretary Theresa May that,
“In an environment of cuts across the wider public sector, we face a period where disaffection, social and industrial tensions may well rise,” adding that, “When, as history shows us it is inevitable, not because of this particular government, but at some stage, there is widespread disorder on our streets… It will be our police officers and we must be sufficiently resilient to enable us to respond properly, professionally and safely with the minimum of force.”
Black leaders and the police are not the only ones predicting trouble. British union leader, Brendan Barber told delegates at their annual gathering that:
“Cut services, put jobs in peril, and increase inequality – that is the way to make Britain a darker, brutish, more frightening place.”
The frightening reality for black communities is that there is now a strongly emerging consensus that the disproportionate cuts to welfare, public services and the voluntary sector will simply break communities already stretched to breaking point.
At the meeting of BARAC, Lee Jasper concluded:
“Black and poor communities will be obliterated. Civic infrastructures already weak will crumble, community cohesion will break down as poor communities compete for scarce resources and a ramping up of black unemployment and the withdrawal of vital support service will push poor communities who are living on the brink – over the edge.”
In response to these growing fears a large number of trades unionists, campaigners, academics, students, pensioners and others have signed the statement proposing a Coalition of Resistance opposing the budget cuts and consequent dismantling of key elements of the welfare state.
Producing a statement signed by many thousands of people Coalition of Resistance is set to hold a national conference at the Camden Centre on the 27th November 2010.