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Posted on 9 September 2010 at 21:07 GMT

Bristol: Moles and rats in the council chamber

A mass lobby of Bristol councillors on 7 September heard several local authority trade unions warn of impending industrial action should the Liberal Democrat council administration try to carry through compulsory redundancies.

Robin Clapp, Bristol Socialist Party

The atmosphere was electric and protesters were treated to the unusual sight of New Labour councillors joining the protests.

It was like seeing a colony of moles removed from under the ground, as they blinked, looked uneasily at the banners, felt intimidated by the speeches and then quickly scampered back into the council chamber to the protection of their already very-dented shields.

Having squeaked that they have to obey the law, these Labour councillors then saw a petition from Unison, which highlighted the position apparently taken by councillors in Blackburn who have gone on record to state that they will not implement cuts which they believe will lead to financial destruction of their city.

The spokesperson from Unison received warm applause and cheers from a packed public gallery when he demanded that Bristol's elected representatives follow that lead and make a similar declaration.

This echoes the defiant note initially promised by many Labour local authorities in the 1980s when the grandmother of the present cuts package, Margaret Thatcher, attempted to take the axe to public spending.

Then, only Liverpool council, courageously led by supporters of the Socialist Party's predecessor, Militant, transformed words into deeds to become 'the city that dared to fight'.

The theme of opposition to Cameron's vandalism was taken up by National Union of Teachers (NUT) senior vice-president, Nina Franklin, who explicitly warned that teacher redundancies would be likely to lead to industrial action in Bristol schools: "We believe that the current recession was brought about by the actions of irresponsible bankers who were already very rich...Government decisions to bail out the banks are at the root of this crisis and we do not see why the people of Bristol should pay".

Just a few weeks ago the council cabinet dug into its reserves to bail out a local independent school to the tune of several million pounds, based on a secret report and no strategy for education in the local area.

If the council can afford 'impulse buying' on this scale it can afford to support local schools, teachers and pupils.

Councillors shifted uneasily in their seats when the GMB union attacked a 50% cutback in the city's 'rat catcher' provision.

Previously there has been a reduction in the rat population in Bristol, though curiously the speaker said that there appears at the current time to be an explosion of rats in the council chamber, a fact enthusiastically endorsed by anti-cuts protesters!

Tom Baldwin from 'Youth Fight for Jobs' was next on his feet presenting a petition against unemployment.

As soon as he mentioned the appointment of investment banker Bob Diamond to the post of Barclay's chief executive, he was heckled by the Labour Lord Mayor and told to shut up.

Nevertheless he received a big ovation from the public, in a further sign that as this phoney war comes to an end, the battle lines are being firmly drawn up for what will become a life or death struggle to protect public services here and everywhere else.

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