Public Sector Cuts

Gateshead Council’s flagship talking newspaper and transcription service has become the latest victim of the government’s war against the public sector. AIRS (Accessible Information, Resources and Services) provided an essential service to blind, partially sighted and deaf individuals in Gateshead and the North East of England.

On our last day at work the AIRS team gathered to mark the end of an era. We were joined by many previous employees who returned to say farewell to the unique and irreplaceable organisation we all served, safe in the knowledge we were doing something ‘good’ and ‘important’.

By the time this photo was taken we may have been slightly drunk.

I’m lurking somewhere near the back…

AIRS will be missed by its many loyal listeners and its staff. I know I will never work anywhere like it again. I lasted 10 years – the longest I’ve ever been in a job.

The loss of this service is yet another example of this government’s disregard for vulnerable sections of society, leaving the disabled, disadvantaged, socially isolated and poor at the mercy of the rich.

There are alternative talking newspaper providers in the north east, all run by volunteers, but – and here’s the rub, Mr Cameron – they’re not very good. They’re amateurish and slapdash, whereas AIRS was a professional, polished product.

Now I’m all for people having a go and creating something for themselves, the more the merrier, and all that. But if you want quality you have to pay for it.

The crisis in our public services is only just beginning. Is it really enough to simply cross our fingers and hope for the best? What state will we be in come 2015?


  1. I also feel so lucky and privileged to have been part of the AIRS team for 10 years. Most of our listeners were elderly and relied on the talking newspaper, not only for news, but almost as a friend who popped in to visit them, as so many of them are unable to get out. The same friendly, familiar voices served as a great comfort and moral booster as well as helping to keep the brain active. All of this has been taken away from them, literally overnight. I hope that the persons ultimately responsible for the axing of AIRS will realise the full extent of its loss compared with the limited savings made.


  2. Well said, Jes. AIRS had its ups and downs in the twenty-plus years I worked there, but one thing is sure – it offered a uniquely good and worthwhile service. It cost a lot of money to run, because it needed a lot of decent hardworking staff, and that’s how public services should be. As you point out, offering some of the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society a third-rate service now seems to be in fashion. This is happening in one of the richest countries in the world, a nation that will soon be celebrating a royal wedding at a cost of a good few millions, and which is currently engaged in two small-to-medium sized wars (at the time of writing). We should get our priorities straight. But we never do.


  3. Good on you Jess! I think not only was the AIRS Service cut.. but a piece of the hearts of all who worked in AIRS and the many listeners. This was also my most long serving post with almost 11 years and I had wanted to retire there. Our AIRS Family may have been scattered and our Listeners may have been bruised… BUT… the memory of AIRS can not be erased. As to 2015… hopefully God will have stepped in and sorted things out by then. He is the only one who can!!!!


  4. Well said Jes. It’s the longest I ever had a job as well, and I also know that nowhere will be quite like it, so it’s sad for us. But even more so you do wonder how this kind of cut can be justified, when it doesn’t even save that much money in relation to the services lost. And what kind of state will we be in in 2015? I may have left the country by then.


  5. Sounds like AIRS was a fabulous organization for the people it served as well as for the people serving as part of it. A real loss for so many. Maybe, though, some of those who were once a part of it will go off and start their own equally meaningful enterprises…


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