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Anger as Warwick and Coventry councils vote for £59 million of cuts
Tuesday 15 February saw a heightened day of struggle for the anti-cuts movement in Coventry and Warwickshire. The day kicked off with a protest of 100 people outside the Tory-led Warwick county council organised by the local CYWU branch of the Unite trade union, representing youth workers in the county.
Coventry Socialist Party members
The council meeting voted through cuts of £21 milllion this year, rising to £60 million over the next three years. The cuts will see up to 1,800 job losses and completely wipe out the county's Youth Service.
Youth worker and chair of the local CYWU Unite branch, Teresa Chalcroft, addressed the crowd and made it clear that youth workers will fight these attacks on young people and her union members' jobs with industrial action.
She highlighted her own situation as just one example of the cuts: ''I can't lose my job, there's no other jobs. I'm a single parent of a one-year-old. If I lose this job what am I going to do?"
Already protests, a 13,000 strong petition and the threat of strike action have put the council on the back foot after it announced it may not be cutting every job in the youth service.
The ballot for strike action among the youth workers is now on hold until the full details of the cuts to the service are known.
A couple of hours later a lunchtime lobby called by 'Coventry Against the Cuts' of the Labour controlled Coventry City Council meeting attracted over 150 people asking Labour councillors to stand with the people of Coventry, not against them, and to fight against the Con-Dem cuts instead of voting for them.
The Socialist Party and its supporters has been prominent in building this lobby, both in communities across the city and around council workplaces.
Two key groups of Coventry people affected by the cuts attended the protest. A group from the Watch project in Hillfields was joined by a loud contingent from Castle Wood 'out of school' club for disabled children.
Speakers showed in clear detail how the cuts are going to affect the most vulnerable in our city and how successful services that do key jobs in our communities will not be spared.
Steve Gee (above) spoke from the PCS union urging people to fight all cuts whoever makes them. Isla Windsor (below), a council worker, furiously attacked the council for asking workers to 'choose their method of death' when cutting their jobs.
Lenny Shail from Coventry CWU and 'Warwick Uni against the Cuts' spoke of the opposition to all cuts of the 250 school students in Coventry who walked out on 9 December.
Lenny repeated the slogan the Egyptian people used when talking to their armed forces, but this time to Labour councillors: 'Are you with us, or are you against us?'.
Pete McLaren from Rugby Against the Cuts, slammed the Con-Dems but also the shameful conduct of the Labour councils across the country that are choosing to pass on the cuts rather than fight against them.
He declared that Rugby Against the Cuts alongside the local Fire Brigades Union will write to all council candidates asking them to pledge to vote against cuts.
If the answer is not 'yes' they will be standing a full set of anti-cuts candidates in May's council elections.
Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist spoke before he went into the council chamber. He made it clear that the council does have a choice, it doesn't have to implement the Con-Dem cuts, it could refuse to do it.
It could fight with the people of the city, not against them. Dave slammed the acceptance of the cuts by the Labour Party and raised that if no party will stand up for ordinary working people, we need to start our own.
Dave pointed out that there is something inherently wrong with a system that allows a few bankers who caused the crisis to continue to make billions in profit while ordinary people are having their jobs, services and standards of living slashed to pay for their crisis.
Dave asked people to join the movement against the cuts but also to join the movement to change society.
As Dave went into the council chamber, a man from Castle Wood school summed up the vital role of the Socialist Party and the anti-cuts campaign when he shouted: ''Mr Nellist, thank you for giving us a voice''.
The council meeting saw the Labour Party vote through £38 million of cuts this year, wiping out 500 jobs. This is part of £140 million of cuts over the next four years.
Dave Nellist was the sole voice of opposition in the council chamber against the cuts. He used his three minutes to ask Labour councillors to fight with the people of the city, not against them, and offered the Labour council a way to do this. It should use its reserves, and if necessary borrow, to safeguard jobs and services while building a mass campaign with trade unions, communities and councils around the country to make the Con-Dems retreat and provide the money needed.
Labour councillor Jim O'Boyle spoke like a typical Tory when he said Dave was '30 years in the past'. He, along with other Labour councillors, defended their cuts as better than Tory cuts.
When Tory councillors attacked Labour's lamenting, Labour was quick to reassure them that they agree cuts are needed but disagree on the speed of the Tory ones.
Later that day the Unison trade union held a meeting to discuss the redundancy situation and members showed their willingness to fight back.
The Socialist Party will continue to build a movement against all cuts in Coventry and nationally and will work with all those who want to fight the cuts, not make them.