Kirklees council cuts protest. Photo: Iain Dalton
Kirklees council cuts protest. Photo: Iain Dalton

Now fight to stop all cuts

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party Yorkshire secretary

Two leisure centres, under threat from Labour-run Kirklees Council, are staying open. This reprieve follows a march to Dewsbury from one of the centres, Batley Sports and Tennis Centre. The campaign at Colne Valley Leisure Centre has been ongoing since last year.

Council leisure services are run by arms-length company Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL). The council announced that there would be a ‘new model of leisure centre provision’.

But no details have been forthcoming. So it is questionable whether it meets the demand of local government union Unison in Kirklees, of bringing services back in-house.

Kirklees leisure centre provision has still been reduced. Batley Baths closed a year ago. Dewsbury Sports Centre closed due to RAAC concrete issues.

The gym at Kirklees Stadium shut on 30 November. And Deighton Sports Arena has only got a reprieve on a limited opening basis until April.

The council is still proposing closing two care homes, and several public buildings, and increasing charges for allotments and parking, amongst other cuts.

The Stop the Closures umbrella campaign has vowed to fight on to retain all facilities. Care home campaigners have launched a legal challenge.

The Kirklees local government branch of Unison, the largest amongst the council workforce, has voted to ballot for strike action amongst both council workers and those in arms-length bodies like KAL. Unfortunately, these are still yet to take place, and need to be urgently expedited.

Any strike action taken in defence of jobs and services would build on the community campaigns that have sprung up. A Unison delegation lobbied the council alongside community groups at last month’s council meeting.

Campaigning in Huddersfield on 30 November, Socialist Party members found huge anger at the council. Many people pointed out the increased burden on health services if leisure centre provision is cut.

We raised the need for councillors to vote against cuts, and fight for funds to preserve existing services. This is the policy of Kirklees Unison, which also calls for the council to support a no-cuts budget.

The council should use its reserves and borrowing powers to set a no-cuts budget, and then demand that the millions cut per year from its funding is restored. If an incoming Labour government was serious about defending services it must pledge to reimburse councils the necessary money.

But if Labour fails to commit to that, we need working-class candidates to stand against the local and national politicians on an anti-cuts basis, as the Socialist Party and others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are aiming to do.

This demand is getting an increasingly positive response from members of the public fed up with Labour and Tory politicians blaming each other for the cuts, but standing aside from the community and trade union campaigns actually fighting to defend services.