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From: The Socialist issue 684, 7 September 2011: Strike together to defend pensions

Search site for keywords: Bristol - Privatisation - Cuts - Carers - Ken Loach - Public services - Care workers

Bristol marches against home care sell-off

'Main political cliques all support privatisation'

A health care worker, Bristol

"Thank you, you are bloody marvellous," ended Bob Taylor's emotional speech at a Bristol rally on Saturday 3 September against the selling off of home care in the city.

Mr Taylor's wife, Pat, had previously been given two years to live but, as he put it, "they [the doctors] must have underestimated home care". Mr Taylor told the carers at the rally that they were the "blue ribbon" of Bristol care, and said that "profit and care are incompatible".

The rally was held after a short march starting at the Greenway community centre in Southmead, where a council by-election will be held on 8 September.

250 people came out to show that they are against the proposed privatisation, and a city poll showed that 97% of people are against the proposals.

Privatising homecare would put 1,000 vulnerable adults' care at risk as well as 250 jobs. The Lib Dem-led council say that in-house care is costing the council twice as much compared to a privatised service. However, this year Bristol has seen the Winterbourne View care home scandal which showed that privatised care comes with a much higher cost!

Disgracefully, Tory MP for Bristol North West, Charlotte Leslie was given a gushing introduction at the rally by a Unite trade union steward, but the crowd didn't give her such a warm welcome, heckling about the Tory cuts nationwide.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, attacked the Tories' cuts but got jeers from the crowd asking her "What about PFI?" Labour shouldn't assume that we all have short memories!

John McInally, PCS vice president, spoke on behalf of the Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance: "There is a consensus between the main political parties that there is no alternative to the cuts. Well that is an absolute nonsense." John called for communities and trade unions to unite together against the attacks on us.

Finally, film director Ken Loach made a surprise appearance. He remembered when welfare, public services and many industries were nationalised: "Think what we had. We had health care, we had housing that was built for and paid for, for the purpose of housing ordinary people, we owned the mines, we owned the railways, then the steel industry. We don't own it anymore, they've ripped it away from us. We need to remember where we were to see how much we have lost."

Ken also spoke about the problem of political representation, saying "the political cliques all support privatisation".

In response to the by-election in Southmead, Unite launched a 'don't vote Lib Dem' campaign (the Lib Dems currently control the council). But, as Ken Loach said: "I understand the tactic of saying don't vote Lib Dem but we're not conned into thinking that if we vote either Tory or Labour they're not going to do the same thing. Because they will and we know they will."

I spoke to some of the home care workers after the rally, and they all spoke about the uncertainty they faced in their jobs and how they had been under attack for a long time.

But everyone said: "it's about the service users". Carers are committed to providing the best service they can, despite being under attack by their own council and government.

The demo on Saturday showed that the carers are not alone in their fight and have enormous support from the workers of Bristol.

The Socialist Party demands that cuts are reversed and sold-off services are taken back in house. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, backed by the Socialist Party, supports anti-cuts candidates standing in elections against the pro-capitalist, pro-cuts electioneers.

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