Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/932/24240
Protesters surround Sheffield's cutting council
Jeremy Short, Sheffield Socialist Party
A thousand protesters surrounded Sheffield's town hall on 7 January in the latest action against Amey's tree-fellers operating under a PFI contract with Sheffield council. Anger continues to grow after the arrest of protesters in November, fuelled by Labour councillors dismissing the demonstrators as 'middle-class Lib Dems'.
The local Momentum group is split on the issue, with many seeming to share the attitude of the right-wing councillors. But increasingly Sheffielders are agreeing with us on the link between Amey's profit-maximising tree-felling and the failure of the Labour council to stand up to the Tory government over budget cuts and outsourcing. At the town hall demo, we distributed 250 copies of our leaflet, based on the previous Socialist article.
However, there is growing opposition within the Labour Party too. A motion to Walkley ward Labour Party calling for the immediate resignation of cabinet member Bryan Lodge was defeated, but only with a large number of abstentions.
Stag (Sheffield Trees Action Groups) are now extending the campaign to all areas of the Amey PFI contract - including roads and pavements. They are collecting evidence of contract breaches in response to council leader Julie Dore's admission that these could end the contract.
This campaign will undoubtedly be spurred by developments in Veolia's waste and recycling contract. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has been campaigning to end the outsourced 35-year contract, but been told that it would be difficult for the council to end it. Miraculously officers have now produced a report to cabinet recommending exactly that!
But the aim is to save money and sack workers. Most work will remain outsourced into smaller contracts, with only some staff brought back in-house. Disgracefully, the report argues against bringing all work back in-house because it might trigger equal pay claims!
Labour councillors have disappeared. Unlike last year, there have been no public consultations on the budget. TUSC tabled questions on contract termination and penalty payments which the council refuses to answer on grounds of 'commercial confidentiality'.
To release this information could impact on Amey and Veolia's ability to compete for business in a competitive market because the specific information refused may benefit a rival company - why should we care!?
With right-wing Labour councillors increasingly isolated, a joined-up mass campaign could surround them like the tree campaigners did to the town hall!
In The Socialist 18 January 2017:
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