Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/674/12174
Birmingham: city of a thousand cuts
Tom Creek, Birmingham Socialist Party
Birmingham has been hit hard by the ongoing capitalist crisis. Unemployment stands at 11.6% and in some wards is over 20%. Once known as the city of a thousand trades, its manufacturing base is a shadow of its former self, and the city is also facing brutal public service cuts. In March, the council's ruling Con-Dem coalition slashed £212 million from its budget.
Over 7,000 council workers are being laid off over the next three years, and 5,000 more will see their jobs privatised. All those who remain have been threatened with redundancy unless they accept reduced terms and conditions. The latest cut to be announced is the 'offshoring' of up to 100 council IT jobs to India.
The Con-Dem coalition on the council is weak, and after gaining 14 seats in May, Labour expects to take control after the next round of elections in 2012. But Labour's 'alternative' budget proposed £199 million cuts to services - just £13 million less than the Con-Dems.
Opposition to the cuts is growing fast. A recent demonstration against the council's budget mobilised over a thousand people; over 60 coaches went from Birmingham to the TUC demo on 26 March; and local anti-cuts groups are springing up all over the city.
Most significantly, Unison has bowed to pressure from members and is balloting all Birmingham city council workers in the union for industrial action. Activists hope to coordinate this with the national strikes by the PCS, NUT, UCU and ATL on 30 June. If this takes place, it will represent a partial public sector general strike in the city, which will be a huge step forward and can help give a lead in building for a national public sector general strike against the Con-Dem cuts.
In The Socialist 8 June 2011:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis
Young people fighting back
Socialist Party news and analysis