Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16259
Services 'not ours to give away' say Hull rebel councillors
Phil Culshaw, Unison steward (personal capacity)
Three Hull councillors broke the Labour whip and voted against the council budget cuts on Thursday 28 February. They were supported by 400 people who lobbied the city council's budget setting meeting.
Anger in the public gallery erupted with the announcement of the budget.
Craig Moody, a youth centre volunteer, said: "There's going to be a 10% cut to the youth service, how can they justify that when there is growing demand on the service due to unemployment and homelessness?"
Amaya Orton explained: "It affects my 98-year-old mother who has dementia and will have to live without day care services because they're not 'value for money'. They shouldn't be making a profit out of the elderly and vulnerable."
Labour's pro-cuts council leader Steve Brady referred to a recent report that predicted a further 25% cut in local government funding between 2015 and 2018, which could see an 8% cut of all current 'ring-fenced' money.
Outside the Guildhall a rally listened to speakers from council trade unions. Mike Whale of the NUT explained the absolute scandal of Stephen Hester, chair of the Royal Bank of Scotland, expecting taxpayers to pay off £5.2 billion in losses before the bank can be sold back into private ownership.
The three rebel councillors were met by a standing ovation when they walked into the Unison Recreational Centre after the council meeting.
Councillor Gary Waring said of the budget debate: "What we saw were Labour councillors saying how sorry they were for making the cuts, but we set down a marker - there is an alternative.
"We need to fight the cuts as they take effect over the year, linking with the trade unions and community groups, we can make a real difference."
Councillor Dean Kirk spoke about his exasperation at listening to his fellow Labour councillors lament the injustice of the 'bedroom tax' having voted through a cuts budget.
Councillor Gill Kennett admitted it had been an ordeal to be hauled in front of the Labour whips but declared: "It would have been more of an ordeal for me if I'd voted for these cuts.
"I'm a socialist. We've stood on the shoulders of giants who built the welfare state. We have a duty to fight, it's a heritage - not ours to give away!"
The meeting then heard former Clay Cross councillor John Dunn speak of how in 1974 in the "tiny town" of Clay Cross 10,000 people stood up to the Tory government and forced the repeal of the Housing Act.
He lambasted the nonsense of the 'dented shield', the excuse of 'we must not act illegally' and crocodile tears of the Labour councillors he had witnessed in the earlier meeting.
"You don't stand alone in the council chamber, it's about mobilising a movement, we organised the whole town behind us!"
The meeting ended in a buoyant, determined mood after discussing how the struggle will be taken forward in Hull.
Hull cuts include:
- 600 job losses
- Three neighbourhood service centres and Anlaby Park library to close
- Charges for day care
- Increases in meals on wheels costs
- Two nursery schools and children's centres to be threatened with closure
- Bin collections to be reduced to a fortnightly schedule
- 10% cut to voluntary and community projects
- Council worker enhancements for overtime, unsocial hours and bank holidays to be cut along with mileage and the essential user allowance. Reduction in the redeployment protection scheme