Human cost of cuts to our city
The Year The Town Hall Shrank BBC4, 9pm
"WHO'S to blame?" asks a bemused Stoke-on-Trent resident. "That's what I'd like to know – who's to blame for everything that's gone wrong?"
He might have a better idea after watching The Year The Town Hall Shrank, an in depth three-part documentary which goes behind the scenes at the city council for a year in an attempt to tell the story of how it coped (or didn't, as the case may be) with the impact of the largest funding cuts ever imposed by central government.
The action begins in December 2010 as the authority discovers it faces a £36m shortfall to its £210m annual budget. No service, it seems, is safe from the axe.
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In an opening episode subtly entitled Winners And Losers, we meet those who fear they'll be at the sharp end of the cuts – families with ageing relatives in care, and mums reliant on the city's SureStart centres.
Council leader Mohammed Pervez is the man left trying to juggle meagre resources amid pressure from all sides.
"No one likes politicians at the best of times," notes the programme, "and this wasn't the best of times."
Illustrating the human consequences of decisions taken both in the town hall and Whitehall, what unfolds is an often moving tale of power, competing priorities, and the intimate human cost of cuts made behind closed doors.
"These people just do not live in the real world," notes one contributor. "Well, they certainly don't live in the world that I live in."
Tune in and make your own judgment.