Article published: Tuesday, September 29th 2015
Gerald Kaufman denounces the Devo Manc deal at a public meeting in Levenshulme. Gorton South Councillor Julie Reid warns of “privatisation by the back door” and possible mergers between Greater Manchester Colleges.
At a public meeting in Levenshulme Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Gorton, heavily criticised the way the Devolution Manchester (Devo Manc) deal had been forced on the people of Manchester, and warned of its potential adverse effects once the deal begins to bite. Julie Reid, Labour councillor for Gorton South, spoke at the meeting highlighting upcoming government reviews of Greater Manchester (GM) Colleges followed by other GM tertiary education establishments. Reid warned that the non-Ofsted reviewers would be considering possibilities for mergers between these institutions.
The audience at the meeting, held last Friday evening at the Inspire centre, was informed by Kaufman of the severe deficiencies of the Devo Manc deal and its lack of accountability which prevents those deficiencies being addressed.
Kaufman was particularly concerned with effects on the NHS, saying “the National Health Service is the most important service we have in this country. It’s vital and everybody needs it from time to time, and some people a lot of the time. It is under attack from this government right now’. He went on to say “we don’t know what the hell the structure [of the NHS] is going to be under devolution. What we also don’t know is how the money is going to be allocated and who will do it.”
An undergraduate student of medicine in Manchester and member of the Save our NHS campaign, Emma Runswick agreed with Kaufman’s criticisms, and was concerned about the cost of increasing privatisation to the NHS. “Operating in the market is costing us £9 billion a year. That is £9 billion that we are not spending on patients”. Runswick described how PFI debts were costing the NHS £2 billion per year, and that who was responsible for those debts is not made clear in the Devo Manc deal.
After Kaufman’s speech Reid spoke passionately from the floor against the Devo Manc Deal. “It’s privatisation by the backdoor, breaking the NHS down, breaking higher education down. I am telling you, I am going to be there fighting… if we don’t stop this in the north-west, then they will take it round the rest of the country. If we don’t stop them nobody will!”
The shocking news of possible mergers between GM higher education establishments was also revealed to the meeting by Reid, who told of reviews being carried out on Manchester and Bolton colleges this week. “Then they are going to work their way through the whole of GM’s college system. This is not Ofsted, these are reviewers from the government: they are going to review provision in GM and guess what? They are going to look at mergers”.
Kaufman also highlighted the inadequacies of the £300 million housing fund under the proposed deal. Another revelation was that the Greater Manchester Fire Service would be abolished and its functions transferred to the mayor. More details of Kaufman’s damning Devo Manc speech can be viewed in the video below.
Organiser of the meeting Evan Pritchard (Greater Manchester Unite Community Branch) was happy with the ground covered by the meeting. “The meeting brought out the reality that these changes are about a linked attack on democracy and on the living standards and working conditions of the majority through the furtherance of austerity and privatisation.” He went on to say “hopefully people attending the meeting will be using what they learned to educate their friends, neighbours and workmates as to what is being done behind our backs to change fundamentally the way that public services will be run locally.”
Pritchard was encouraged by the fact that locally elected representatives of the Labour party had taken a stand against Devo Manc during the meeting. “These representatives should be applauded for the stance they are taking, and encouragement should be given and pressure placed on other councillors and MPs in Manchester and in the wider area of Greater Manchester to take the same position.” He was hopeful that this meeting would act as a catalyst for a growing opposition to Devo Manc.
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