My View, Peter Davies: Socialism has lost its way in Doncaster

Doncaster Theatre, Cast.  Pic Bruce Rolinson
Doncaster Theatre, Cast. Pic Bruce Rolinson

After the ill-judged attempt to close council-owned homes for the elderly it appears that the old and the vulnerable are still in the mayor’s sights for a lion’s share of cuts – £3.1 million in the next financial year.

This after £1.7m was wasted in a futile bed-blocking policy in the homes and an unwillingness to reveal how much money was given to Runwood Homes to take them over.

Aside from the immorality of targeting the old, there seems to be no forward-planning for the worsening crisis of longevity when even more people will need residential care.

If people need 24/7 care it is clearly more expensive to provide it on an individual basis.

On the other side of the coin The Doncaster Star’s sister paper, the Free Press, reports a PR exercise telling us about the success of Cast Theatre and its wonderful plans for the summer season.

This Labour Party white elephant, which cost £35m to build, was never expected to make a profit and council officers predicted losses of £300,000 a year. While there are undoubtedly some decent productions in the summer portfolio, there is also the usual selection of avant garde rubbish attractive only to admirers of the Emperor’s new clothes.

The theatre was poorly designed with its 600-capacity too large and expensive for local entertainers and not big enough to attract touring groups and large theatre companies.

Thus Doncaster misses out on top notch theatre but still pays a premium price. It was obvious that the usual wastrels were in charge when the theatre board saw fit to pay £15,000 to ‘consultants’ to come up with the theatre’s uninspiring name.

But this is only the tip of a very large iceberg. We keep hearing the council mantra, ‘We’re all in it together’, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The Culture and Leisure Trust, which apparently funds the theatre, has received millions of pounds from the current administration. The recent announcement of a £900,000 cut in its funding appears to have been superseded by a £2m grant, according to the latest council budget.

This might be acceptable in more affluent times but certainly not now.

Most Doncaster people are able to organise their leisure and cultural activities outside the trust’s few centres and it is particularly galling to see such cavalier use of public resources when the majority of residents either do not or cannot benefit from them.

So £3.1m cuts in services to the old and infirm – virtually the same amount to subsidise a loss-making theatre and spendthrift leisure centres.

Socialism has certainly lost its way in Doncaster.