Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/798/18139
Councils continue making Con-Dem cuts
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out that while the economy may officially be in recovery, most of us are experiencing the complete opposite - and more than half of the Con-Dems' cuts are still to hit.
As councils across the country set their next budgets, there is no sign that they plan to stop meekly passing on the attacks to working class people.
But as the recent defeat of the bedroom tax in Scotland shows, these cuts can be beaten by the strength of mass campaigns.
Here a reader of the Socialist shows how cuts have affected him and Socialist Party members report from anti-cuts developments around the country.
Don't let them kill us quietly
I have not been able to work since having to retire from British Rail in 1988 and a serious car crash caused by a drunk driver in 1993 forced me to use a wheelchair.
In March 2012, my incapacity benefit was wrongly withdrawn. Following intervention by an MP, it was restored with an apology and £50 compensation. A pittance, considering I was hours from eviction and what it did to my health.
In September 2012, they stopped it again, claiming I did not attend an interview. Well I did not get any notice of this 'interview'. This seems a tactic used on many people as a means of getting us off the books.
Having no Incapacity or other main disability benefit other than Disability Living Allowance, means that since September 2012 I now eat once a day, if that.
I have no money for my gas central heating, and very little for electric, since they forced me to have pay-as-you-go meters. So I have had no real heating for months.
The jobcentre recently refused me a conversation to ask for a crisis loan. I was told "they don't do them any more".
Given enough time, lower temperature, or complication, I may well be dead before spring.
I keep being directed to use food banks - are Cameron's millionaires cynically divorcing themselves from their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people in society? For the sake of thousands like myself, please don't let them kill us quietly.
Jack Harrison, Lancashire
"Don't blame us - other Welsh Labour councils are even worse!"
Ronnie Job, Unison steward (personal capacity)
Swansea Labour council leader, David Phillips, and deputy leader, Christine Richards, were given a rough ride by protesters against the council's proposed £45 million of cuts.
City and County of Swansea Unison branch called a lobby of a scheduled council cabinet meeting. An advert was run in the local paper demanding Swansea councillors fight Tory cuts, not implement them.
Our council leaders' sole response to the anger of union members and service users was to point out that neighbouring Labour authorities are making worse cuts! "Why aren't you protesting in Neath?" asked councillor Phillips, "they aren't paying the living wage."
Swansea may have agreed to pay the living wage (this year at least, and at the rate before the last increase) but it also employs hundreds of people on zero-hour contracts.
A number of Unison members have recently lost up to 10% of their income in changes to terms and conditions.
These changes were imposed with a public threat to accept new contracts and "sign or be sacked".
Sensing he was losing his audience, Phillips began to rant, telling us that protest "won't make a jot of difference." So much for talking to the trade unions - one of the ways Labour claimed they would be different to the Lib Dem-led authority they replaced!
Catching sight of a Socialist Party placard he shouted "If you hadn't stood," referring to the council elections in 2012 where Socialist Party members stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), "we would have had a bigger majority."
The fact that a Labour council passes on Con-Dem cuts, while insulting and attacking unions, is proof that TUSC shouldn't worry about which cuts-making party we take votes off.
I think most of the people that vote for us have already given up on pro-cuts Labour - if we didn't stand, providing a no-cuts, socialist alternative, they'd have no one to vote for.
Council workers and service users need to come together for a lobby of the full council meeting on 18 February, 4.30pm at the Guildhall, to ensure that any wavering Labour councillors understand the anger that exists in Swansea towards the cuts and vote against them.
Lancs county council disgrace - Labour plans to axe 2,500 jobs
On 6 February, Labour-led Lancashire county council's cabinet met to consider the results of public consultation over £300 million cuts planned for the next three years. This includes 2,500 proposed redundancies between now and April 2016.
In its press release, Labour proclaims it has amended its plans, and is genuinely listening to the people of Lancashire. What an insult to our intelligence, as nothing could be further from the truth.
It's only concession so far is to rethink the proposal to scrap subsidies for rural bus services (thus ending Sunday and evening services), and to seek savings from them in other ways.
While every concession is worth having, at best this 'adjustment' could reduce the cuts merely from £300 to £298 million.
The biggest impact of the cuts will be the planned redundancies. This must be fought by Unison, which has made a welcomed start by organising a lobby of the county council meeting on 20 February.
No cuts necessary
The council's overspend for 2014-15 is estimated at £76 million. Its general usable reserve is £36 million, with a separate reserve for redundancies of £40 million, plus substantial borrowing powers.
So, contrary to what the councillors are always banging on about, it is actually possible to avoid all cuts and redundancies in 2014-15 by accessing these financial resources.
This could buy time to organise a massive, militant campaign to oppose all cuts beyond 2014-15, built around the unions, workers and the people of Lancashire.
Labour councillors are terrified of such a possibility because it would unleash a movement that would threaten their very existence.
Lessons from history
I am sure I can hear my granddad turning in his grave at all this! His political hero was George Lansbury, who led Poplar council's 1920s campaign with the slogan "Better to Break the Law than Break the Poor". In the 1980s Liverpool city council led a similar campaign.
With very few exceptions, the Labour councillors of today are a far cry from the fighting, defiant spirit of the courageous socialists who led these vital campaigns.
Save mental health services in Salford
Salford Socialist Party
In Salford the battle against mental health cuts has opened up a new front - in addition to fighting the council we are now fighting NHS cuts too.
Among the 300 staff that Salford council wants to sack are the community care workers who help people to stay out of hospital.
Last year Salford Unison successfully fought off plans to privatise the service and these workers are moving rapidly to a ballot for industrial action.
At the same time Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust is 'consulting' over proposals to close several mental health wards, shunt all elderly/dementia patients to one location, and introduce 'community care' with a maximum of three visits a day.
If all these cuts went through there'd be no one to keep you out of hospital and no hospital beds if you needed one.
The initial meeting of Save Mental Health Services in Salford, which drew an attendance of over 40 service users, carers and staff, heard Diane Cawood, Unison steward on one of the threatened wards and Socialist Party member, explain why we need to fight the cuts.
Steve Cullen from the service users' campaign denounced the Trust's manipulation of bed occupancy rates, as they only count patients who are 'sectioned' under the Mental Health Act.
We are pleased to have won the support of Beverley Callard, the actor who plays Liz McDonald in Coronation Street and has been open about her own battle with mental illness.
Beverley has appeared on ITV's Daybreak to criticise the cuts and has promised to join us on the demonstration against cuts in Eccles on 29 March.
Across the Trust, which covers Bolton, Salford and Trafford, opposition is increasing. Already the Clinical Commissioning Group in Trafford has withdrawn its support and confidence is growing that we can halt these cuts.
- Lobby Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust - 24 February, from 9am, Trust HQ, Prestwich Hospital, Bury New Road, Prestwich M25 3BL
- Demonstration in Eccles - Saturday 29 March, assemble 12.30pm, Eccles Cross, Church Street, Eccles M30 0DA
- According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, it will take another six years before inflation adjusted wages return to pre-crisis levels. Currently average real wages are at 2004 levels.
- The Resolution Foundation has found that disposable income will only begin to rise above inflation in 2015 and that even then the living standard of the average household will be 3.5% lower than in 2008. In fact the thinktank predicts that even by 2018 households will still be worse off than pre-crisis.
In The Socialist 12 February 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
London Underground dispute
Socialist Party workplace news
Reviews and readers' comments
Socialist Party reports and campaigns