Will this be our winter of discontent?

Student riots, looming job losses and warnings of cuts affecting every corner of public services.

It sounds like the dark days of the 1970s, when strikes and widespread discontent plunged Britain into chaos.

But if you believe the politicians, the picture in 2010 is even bleaker.

Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield warns we face hardships not seen since the Depression Era of the 1930s.

Government cuts leave the city having to plug a 90m funding gap.

Trimming 3,000 from the council workforce over the next four years, it is hoped through natural wastage, would save some money.

Charging for free events such as Opera in the Park and Party in the Park would save some more.

But other cost-cutting measures could be far more painful.

Fees for home care may rise, sports centres, libraries and day centres could shut.

Spending on transport and road maintenance would also be drastically reduced.

There is no denying that Britain needs to reduce its overheads.

But we must never forget how far we have come over the last 80 years.

Do we really want to return to a time before free healthcare on the NHS and the establishment of a social care system millions rely on?

The irony is that in the private sector things are at last beginning to look up.

The jobs market is starting to strengthen as employers' confidence returns, while growth forecasts are cautiously optimistic.

Now the public sector is playing catch-up – and the cuts will bite hard.

However, what this government must not allow to happen is for the social infrastructure built up over recent decades to be systematically dismantled.

This country cannot afford to be taken back to the dark days of depression.

Passing the test

WHEN student campaigning against the increase in tuition fees was launched amid violent scenes in London there was a danger that support would quickly become alienated.

A month on and the anger among undergraduates shows no sign of abating, with 1,000 students and university staff briefly bringing the city centre to a standstill yesterday.

The difference is that they made their point clearly but peacefully.

Organisers rightly say they are anxious to maintain their momentum and don't want to give the government any breathing space, any let-up.

Just as importantly, by protesting peacefully they will maintain the support of the wider public.

Open for business

THE snow has meant Christmas shopping has got off to a late start.

But shops will hope many of us take advantage of tonight's later openings.

Don't go too mad, but remember: Every pound we spend supports a business in Leeds.

Sarah Champion MP

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