Brighton TUSC public meeting
Brighton TUSC public meeting

David Maples was the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the South Portslade by-election, and is a Brighton Socialist Party member.

Brighton is a great place for a hen party. But away from the centre, it’s a difficult place for working-class households.

The Labour council is planning to ram through £33 million cuts from April. As a foretaste, it is proposing to close St Peter’s and St Bartholomew’s schools, and reduce classes in a further nine. This created uproar at the schools.

The joint chair of the Children, Families and Schools Committee – a Labour councillor for 52 years – resigned from the council. Labour triggered the by-election, hoping to get a Starmerite clone elected before the depth of the cuts is revealed. Still, the Labour vote halved compared to the local elections, only eight months previously.

The Green Party has twice run Brighton and Hove Council, and forms the elected opposition. But its vote also fell.

With 779 councillors, and running nine local authorities, it could be leading the anti-austerity movement. The Green Party has a very popular MP in Brighton. But, as its Brighton councillors implemented Tory budget cuts, its record has not been forgotten.

TUSC’s stand was important. In the face of Labour and Green failure, Tory and Liberal Democrat vote percentages increased.

Six candidates, including two right-wing populists, opposed the closure of St Peter’ school. But only TUSC set out a strategy. TUSC helped to reduce the right populist vote.

Standing for the first time, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) got 3.3%. Only TUSC organised a public meeting, issued press releases, and had a sea of posters.

The meeting was exceptional. TUSC had pushed for hustings at St Peter’s school to put Labour on the spot. When the school community couldn’t organise this, TUSC organised a public meeting.

Two parents, Kirsty Moore and Emily Brewer, gave a devastating critique of the council’s consultation, and the ruinous impact closure would have.

There is no guarantee siblings can go to the same school. Special educational needs have been ignored.

There is no replacement nursery facility. Tiny children could have to travel two miles to a new school on roads clogged with traffic.

During a cost-of-living crisis, with housing costs shooting up, parents, especially mothers, are faced with having to give up work to look after their children.

The school is right on the borough boundary. Whilst pretending it has considered the needs of Brighton and Hove families, the proposals also wash their hands of West Sussex children too. Many of these are from long-standing Brighton families, forced to move along the coast, because of the lack of affordable social-rented housing.

In a very welcome development, Brighton Trades Union Council sent a speaker, Sheila Hall to our TUSC meeting. Sheila clearly explained how the unions could help the campaign.

Only TUSC used its election leaflets to include a call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. When Sheila highlighted this, she provoked spontaneous applause.

At the meeting, I called for class sizes to be reduced to 25 across the city. This would cost £4.5 million.

I invited the Labour council to send Rishi Sunak the bill, and for Keir Starmer to pledge to fund councils adequately. By improving education, Labour could build an enormous campaign to secure this money. But it has refused to.

Parents will lobby future council meetings. We will help them build a campaign with the trade unions.

Strike action could halt these proposals. When the Socialist Party was campaigning against on the Saturday after the election, we met the GMB rep at another school who is keen to discuss with us.

Closure of this small school would cost 32 jobs. Across the city, hundreds of jobs are at stake.

Decisions at council meetings will be far from the end of the issue. TUSC will make this a general election issue too.

Brighton TUSC general election planning meeting

Wednesday 7 February, 7pm, South Wing 2, Community Base, 113 Queens Road, BN1 3XG