Debt staff at risk from funding cuts From: Bernard Little Co-chair Sheffield and Rotherham Green Party

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Sheffield’s Debt Support Unit is facing savage funding cuts from April which will result in 12 highly-skilled debt advisers facing redundancy.

A policy motion taken to full council by the Green councillors triggered a debate that called on the government to continue to fund this vital service.

These workers have advised 1,930 people, dealt with £25.6 million of debt and prevented the repossession of 110 homes in the last year alone. They also support hundreds of staff in advice centres and other organisations like Housing Associations. By acting as specialist consultants at the tip of the iceberg, they ensure that access to vital debt expertise is available across the city.

Yet just as unemployment rises even further, and so-called welfare ‘reforms’ result in benefit cuts for millions, the government sweeps away the services which help people to survive an economic mess they have not caused.

We appear to have learnt nothing from the global financial crisis. It was caused by governments allowing the banks to take unacceptable risks far beyond normal investment practice. Mortgages, entered into in good faith by would-be homeowners with the backing of lenders and governments, became the casino currency of global financiers.

The banks’ reckless speculation created the fragile housing bubble which has now burst, forcing people into huge financial debt and homelessness. Credit easily becomes unmanageable debt when jobs are lost and houses won’t sell. Our political leaders let it happen because of their blind belief in letting the market rip regardless of the consequences.

The debate about the Debt Support Unit job losses in Sheffield Town Hall on January 5 saw both Lib-Dem and Labour parties lamenting that the cuts affect the most vulnerable in our society. But this is just hypocrisy as long as they continue with the policies which cause poverty and insecurity in the first place.

Sadly neither of them would admit their lack of courage to control the banks or close the tax loopholes which allow around £100 billion to be lost from the public purse each year.

Government cuts to debt support services hit the victims of our barely legal banking system. Yet the perpetrators of this crime continue to fleece us all. Politicians are too scared to mend their ways. Just how long will voters be taken for a ride by this callous cuts con-trick?