Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/346/5751
Coventry Local Elections
The Trouble With Socialist Councillors...
There Aren't Enough Of Them!
The Socialist Party is to stand up to 12 candidates in the local elections in Coventry on 10 June.
Rob Windsor, Coventry Socialist Party councillor
Three of these are the existing socialist councillors Dave Nellist, Karen McKay and Rob Windsor. These councillors are a beacon for socialist ideas in the city.
They show that there is an alternative to the 'free market' - a system that condemns 314 million people to live on less than one dollar a day while the Bush administration spent an astronomical $20 billion on waging its colonial war against the Iraqi people and many billions more on the occupation.
The majority of the world's population face an increasingly unsafe and insecure future.
Whilst serving on Coventry council is a far cry from changing the world there has to be a start somewhere and in Coventry, Socialist Party councillors have led by example on the following issues, both as a minority of three on a council of 54 and as the biggest component of the smaller parties who hold the balance of power in the city:
Saved a day centre for the elderly by organising petitions and lobbies as well as speaking against the closure in council meetings.
Successfully argued against increasing pre-school education charges.
Fought for better use of local green space and assisted local groups in this.
Fought successfully for extra cash bids to regenerate the oldest shopping street in the city.
Campaigned against extortionate police charges to ensure that local carnivals went ahead.
Campaigned for regular and free bulky rubbish removal - this prompted the New Labour council to set up a one-off free clean up.
Helped beat off privatisation of the home help service.
Opposed PFI and housing privatisation and the New Labour council's "Single status" pay structure that would have robbed council workers of between £2,000 and £10,000 a year.
Holding the balance of power we have:
Ensured concessions in the Arena Coventry Stadium deal guaranteeing trade union rights for construction and operational staff and ensuring jobs are marketed in Coventry. We also ensured that further finance discussions would be dealt with at full council meetings and that any extra land sale proceeds came back to the council and not the private company building the stadium.
While Coventry's three New Labour MPs helped Blair push through university top-up fees, the three Socialist Party councillors ensured that the council took a position opposing fees.
Preserved social services for over 300 elderly and vulnerable people by refusing to accept Social Service cuts to 'balance the books' in advance of the council budget.
We ensured that over 200 job cuts were stopped and successfully applied pressure to put an extra £1 million into social services for vulnerable adults. We would have won more had the two Liberal councillors not given in so quickly and accepted the extra £1 million as a means for New Labour to get their budget through.
Campaigned against 'regeneration' schemes that propose the demolition of affordable homes with no replacement.
Campaigned for restrictions on squalid, multiple-occupancy housing.
Campaigned against school closures and reductions in nursery places.
We have held regular surgeries where the previous Labour councillors held none. In addition, we hold special surgeries based on groups of streets in specific areas within St Michaels Ward, which we represent.
In late 2000 a power surge knocked out electricity on four streets for two days and wrecked appliances. It was a prelude to the further problems experienced nationally due to the lack of investment and cuts caused by privatisation.
Socialist Party councillors campaigned for decent compensation including helping organise an angry meeting of over 60 local residents to face electricity chiefs. We produced at least three leaflets for every local household on the issue. As a result 220 local residents received an extra £100 just before Christmas.
We do not offer a magic wand, we are effective because we organise with local people. Across the city many people have said "I'd vote for you if you stood here" - we now want to give people the chance to do just that in areas where we have not previously stood. Where leaflets have gone out, people have immediately got back to us welcoming our stand and often offering to help.
As we say on our leaflets, "The trouble with socialist councillors is there aren't enough of them!"
Over 50 people at the West Midlands election launch meeting heard Tony Mulhearn's inspiring contribution on the struggle of Liverpool city council from 1983 to 1987.
Tony, one of the 'Liverpool 47' and a member of the Socialist Party, described how the Militant-led council [forerunner of the Socialist Party] connected with the working class in producing concrete and lasting gains to the conditions of working people in that city at a time of massive unemployment and the destruction of Liverpool's industry.
The council built over 5,000 houses, most with gardens front and back, as well as improving existing council homes. They set up nurseries that were commended by educational specialists and built schools, sports centres and a park as well as creating some 10,000 jobs on the council and in the construction industry.
Small wonder that a worker at one of the council's direct works depots thought Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was "a brickie"!
The meeting commended the heroic stand of the 'Liverpool 47' councillors who were surcharged and removed from office for fighting for working class people.
Coventry Socialist Party councillors compared Liverpool in the 1980s as "a city that dared to fight" to "Coventry - a city that didn't try"! However, Dave Nellist described how, even with only three Socialist Party councillors, concrete gains for working people have been won, not least the extra £1 million put into the city's social services budget after the Socialist Party refused to accept the New Labour "revised" cuts budget.
"If aliens were to land here they would think this an outlandish way to run the planet.
We want a socialist world where the wealth and power in society is owned and controlled by the people who make it - the working class and where it is distributed for the benefit of all the world's peoples, not preserved for a minuscule minority of super rich companies and individuals shored up by puppet pro-free market governments".
Rob Windsor, speaking at the West Midlands election launch
In The Socialist 8 May 2004:
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