Labour leader on the dole

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Mike Bower will be signing on for unemployment benefit next week after being ousted as leader of David Blunkett's home-town council in Sheffield by the city's Liberal Democrats, writes Karen Thornton.

The Lib Dems worked hard to mobilise the large student vote in his Netherthorpe ward against him by focusing on concerns about tuition fees and student grants.

But Mr Bower feels his seat and four others across the city were lost mainly because Labour voters abstained - disappointed at what they regarded as no improvement in welfare, the minimum wage, or education.

"Part of the reason for abstention was people were disappointed. The fact is the benefits that are promised to the less well-off haven't come through yet," the former journalist and trade union officer said.

"The minimum wage has been talked about and promised but it hasn't come. Even on well-trumpeted stuff like more money for education, it's only keeping pace with increased pupil numbers. Nobody can see any real benefit.

"Despite the Government's intention and the council's intention, we are not able to deliver a reduction in class sizes people were expecting. The price to pay (in Sheffield) for investment in education was no increased resource at all for any other local authority service, all of which have been starved of cash for 18 years."

Mr Bower feels that Labour's reduced 12-seat majority on the council will not hold unless the party - both locally and nationally - not only delivers, but is seen to be delivering on those issues.

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