TV show explores impact of Stoke-on-Trent City Council's budget reduction
VIEWERS of a TV documentary detailing how the city has so far coped with council cutbacks have been warned what they see tonight is just a taste of what’s to come.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is the subject of a BBC4 show entitled The Year The Town Hall Shrank.
The programmed looks at the authority’s approach to making £36 million in savings. And council leader Mohammed Pervez – a central figure in the three-part documentary – has admitted the authority is ‘bracing ourselves’ for further difficult times.
The show, which will be broadcast at 9pm tomorrow evening, charts controversial council cuts such as swimming pools and care homes.
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It also covers parents’ fight to save children’s centres in the city; the financial implications of large families on benefits bill; the BNP’s defeat at the last election; along with the authority’s attempts to collect £20 million in unpaid council tax.
Filming began in 2010 where councillors were first told of the Coalition cuts that would be felt across the area.
Mr Pervez branded the cutbacks viewers will see as ‘painful’.
He said: “This film is a stark portrayal of how we battled against the first year of Government cuts back in 2010.
“Locally we were in a four-way coalition but nationally these cuts were coming from a Conservative-Lib Dem Government. It was painful then and it was even more painful in the second year.”
Along with councillors, the documentary also features residents affected by the cutbacks.
Simon Ford, of Blast Films, who is executive producer of the series, said: “We were struck by the honesty and transparency of everyone we dealt with in Stoke-on-Trent.
“People were prepared to allow us to see things as they really are at a time when the Government is cutting services here so hard.
“We were especially grateful to the council who let us in unfettered. This is a big risk for any organisation, particularly when they know they will be making unpopular decisions, but they did it, and that has meant we could try to tell it like it really is. We are very grateful to them for their modern and very democratic openness.”
And the show could prove to be a indicator of times ahead as the council is now facing another £50 million in budget cuts over the next two years.
Mr Pervez said: “We are bracing ourselves for what’s to come over the next two years and we know it’s not going to get any easier.
“The reality is that local councils are shrinking fast as a result of these government cuts and we will not be able to continue providing all the services that we have been traditionally.
“As leader, I will continue to ensure that the council finances are managed in a responsible manner though I appreciate there are some very difficult decisions to be made.
“Alongside this, we are continuing to push ahead with our mission to boost the local economy and create the much needed jobs for our residents.”
Viv Foster, of Norton, appears in the documentary as she attempts to save Tunstall’s Heathside House, where her father John was living. The facility closed in April last year.
The 55-year-old said: “It was strange to be a part of a television documentary but eventually I did get used to speaking to a camera. I think something like a TV show will really bring it home to people and put them in a position where they can consider the effects on their lives.”