TUSC local elections: We’re fighting back to defend our services

Help the TUSC local election challenge

Protesting SEND cuts outside Leicester Council. Photo: Steve Score

Coventry Labour’s record attacking workers and residents

Adam Harmsworth, TUSC candidate in Earlsdon

New cuts and charges adding up to nearly £20 million by the Labour council will worsen the lives of many. Disabled 16 to 18-year-olds are already charged for school transport. That charge is going up £180 a year.

Council tax is going up by the maximum allowed 4.99%, and council tax benefit is being cut. Most of the city’s street lights are going off between midnight and 5:30am.

The Coventry Rape And Sexual Abuse Centre (Crasac), the only specialist service of its kind in the city, has lost its council funding. Details of £11 million of the cuts haven’t even been announced yet.

These cuts will make the city less safe, and will drive more residents into poverty and desperation. What hope is there for a decent future?

Since I moved to Coventry, the city has become more impoverished and rundown. Begging and sleeping on the streets are rife, gang violence and knife crime have risen.

Building affordable housing has been pushed aside in favour of overpriced tower blocks, while landlords convert former family homes into as many boxrooms as they can to cram students in.

The Labour council has focused on appealing to landlords over residents and students – a fair few Labour councillors are landlords themselves!

Coventry’s Labour-run council caught national attention two years ago with its appalling attacks on striking bin workers. The council’s campaign of propaganda, running waste drop-off sites, and hiring scabs, cost the city £10 million.

For a council that has been stripped of so much money by central government, this burning of council funds to attack its own workforce – members of Labour-affiliated Unite the Union – was utterly unforgiveable.

I stood on the bin workers’ picket line on many days, discussing the battle with them, alongside many other issues. I stood for TUSC in the 2022 local elections, in part to oppose the anti-union attacks by the council.

That year, TUSC took over 1,000 votes in Coventry, but Labour kept control of the council. Astonishingly, the Labour leader of the council, George Duggins, gloated about beating “Sharon’s candidates”. Sharon being Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham, who condemned the council over its attack on the bin workers.

Alongside its £20 million cuts, the Labour council has disgracefully approved the fire and rehire of its bin workers on worse terms and conditions. Unite has condemned this, and Coventry Trades Union Council organised a protest against the Labour council’s cuts. We need to push them out, and get workers’ voices back in the council chamber.

The Greens recently won two councillors for the first time in Coventry, showing that it is possible for other forces to win seats. Sadly, the Greens have voted for Labour’s horrendous cuts, and did not oppose the bin workers’ fire and rehire.

More Green councillors won’t end the poverty, deprivation, cuts and closures brought about by the Labour council. But socialist councillors have been elected before in Coventry, and have built opposition to cuts and privatisation in the city. Coventry can have a better future, but it has to be fought for.

Leicester Labour faces fury after cutting disabled children’s transport

Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party, and parent of a SEND child

Parents and special needs young people protested outside Leicester Council’s education scrutiny meeting on 26 March. We were expressing our distress and anger at the council’s heartless decision to stop school transport and travel support for 16 to 19-year-olds with special educational needs and disability (SEND). We were joined by Socialist Party members, NHS campaigners, and trade unionists.

The Labour council argues that, despite a legal requirement for young people to remain in education or apprenticeship until 18, the provision of SEND travel support for children aged 16 and over is not a statutory requirement, and can therefore enable them to cut spending.

In a city where over 40% of children officially live in poverty, the council is picking on the most vulnerable in making its cuts, including, for example, ending funding for adventure playgrounds. They claim these cuts are necessary to avoid council ‘bankruptcy’.

Cuts to SEND transport are not just restricted to Leicester, and are increasingly being implemented by councils across the country. For many parents, this is just the latest in a series of battles they must go through to get diagnoses, to get Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) agreed to enable necessary funding to get children into school, and then often a battle to get suitable places. Nationally there are thousands of SEND children who do not have school places, because of lack of provision.

SEND parents and carers were alerted to the cut by letter in late January, and were told that in “exceptional cases” they could contact the council to appeal. However, the appeals process is not clearly defined, and does not allow an independent second-stage review.

The council has made clear that the exceptions do not include parents who are working, cannot afford the cost, have other children to take to school, or students in wheelchairs.

One parent, Esther Cameron, said: “There has been no consideration at all to our son’s specific needs, details of which we provided, including identifying key barriers around his specific vulnerability. The email we received which declined our application offered Travel Training, to a destination where there are no public transport links!”

Other parents would have to give up work to get their child to school, and there is no doubt the level of absence from school would shoot up.

Several of us went into the scrutiny meeting from the protest to ask the council a series of questions. I asked a question on the consultation process that the council claimed happened over two years ago. Despite what the council says, parents say they were never informed of this ‘consultation’, nor the subsequent decision.

Parents have organised themselves into a campaign group, and will not let this rest. The Socialist Party fully supports the campaign, and argues that the council should be refusing to make cuts, and instead build a massive campaign, enlisting the support of workers and the public, including parents such as us, to fight the government for extra money.

Read what Steve’s son, Ben Score, said to local politicians – ‘Leicester Labour cuts disabled children’s transport’

Parent campaign forces Labour council backtrack on nursery closure dateThe fight continues

Iain Dalton, parent of a child at a Little Owls nursery

Just one week after issuing letters to parents, putting 15 of 24 council-run Little Owls nurseries under threat, with three due to close as soon as May, the council issued a new letter to parents.

The council has now delayed the three proposed closures until August, and setup an ‘engagement’ process with parents. Instead of making a final decision in mid-April, we are now told this will be “early summer”.

This retreat by the council was welcomed at a Zoom meeting of around 70 parents that I hosted, just hours after parents got this news. Parents who thought that they may have to give up their jobs because of the closures felt huge relief.

But parents were clear that the Labour council had only done this because our campaigning over the last week had forced it back. Given how angry parents are about how this has been approached, we are determined to keep the pressure up on the council, until the proposals are dropped altogether.

One parent, Liz, expressed to the BBC: “We know that the fight isn’t over. We are organised and determined. We hope that, after some real and open consultation, the council realise that this ‘proposal’ was a mistake.”

The meeting established a steering committee for the campaign, and plan a lobby of the council executive on 17 April.

A parent, who organised a now over 600-strong petition to save Little Owls in Chapel Allerton, organised a rally on 30 March outside the nursery. Parents and children from other nurseries supported Chapel Allerton parents, who got good support from the local community.

Parents have been told by local councillors that they don’t want to close nurseries, but that they have no choice because of the council financial crisis.

But, why not? Instead of boosting the councils’ general reserves by £3 million, as promised in the council’s budget, why can’t this money be used to keep all the nurseries open?

Why can’t the Labour council demand that Keir Starmer, who is likely to win the general election due in the next year, increase funding for childcare, and restore local government funding?

Socialist Party members, including myself, are standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) across Leeds on 2 May, and will make saving the nurseries a key part of our campaign.

That Labour is proposing these cuts, and that not one of the six other parties represented on the council put forward an amendment to oppose the cuts to nurseries, highlights the vital need for workers’ representatives on the council that will use that position to help mobilise struggles against cuts to our public services.

Lobby the council’s executive board
Wednesday 17 April, outside Leeds Civic Hall, 12-1pm
Read what we said when the closures were first announced – ‘Parents will fight nursery closures by Leeds Labour council’

Oxford – we can’t afford to live, we can’t afford to travel

James Bonner, TUSC candidate in St Clements

I’m proudly joining nearly 300 TUSC candidates standing in local elections nationwide, including 11 others standing in Oxford.

The two main issues we’re campaigning on are housing and public transport. Like most areas, housing costs are rising in Oxford. The average monthly rent here is now over £1,600.

More people are becoming homeless. Others are being forced to move out of the city, or live in substandard accommodation.

There is a huge shortage of social housing, with over 3,000 households on the waiting list. I live in social housing, so I’m familiar with the long, incredibly stressful wait for a home. A sizeable proportion will never be housed.

I have assisted people challenging housing decisions made by councils, while volunteering as a community advocate, which has further shown me the devastation a lack of suitable housing has on people’s lives.

The Labour council could take responsibility, and act to properly address the situation, such as by building large numbers of council homes, and demanding more funding from Westminster.

Instead, Labour locally is asking private companies to build a small number of ‘affordable’ homes on new unaffordable developments. Labour is also telling people to apply to other local councils in Oxfordshire.

Not only will this buck-passing put more pressure on housing stock and waiting list in other areas, but it will also force people to move away from their support networks, such as family and friends, leaving them more isolated.

This is made worse by poor public transport in Oxford, and even more so in Oxfordshire. Bus services are limited in many areas. In some places, they’re scheduled less than hourly and finish as early as 7pm.

For people such as myself, who do not drive, this makes travelling difficult. Using multiple buses is also expensive, and some people cannot afford to.

The city council could take action now to improve services, pressuring the county council to do the same. They could also unilaterally subsidise bus fares in Oxford. Instead, they do nothing.

The council’s failure to act on these issues and to help the working class is a purely political choice, rooted in a failed capitalist system. Labour councillors act in line with party directions, with little regard for those who are affected most.

By standing as a candidate in the elections, I am part of a challenge against the dominance of capitalist, big-party politicians. As TUSC candidates, we stand together with the working class, and against politicians that will never work in our interests.

Sheffield ‘rainbow coalition’ cut £43 million from social care

Liam Ball, TUSC candidate in Graves Park

As a personal assistant for adults with learning disabilities, I see opportunities every day for economic planning to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

Sheffield City Council does not share this view. Last year, it cut £43 million from the social care budget alone.

The council even bragged that it decided the budget early, after just 12 minutes of discussion. This is not ‘efficient’. This is inhumane!

The council is yet to implement most of these cuts, which means they’re clearly struggling to find anything that won’t collapse if they cut it. And there’s still time for us to fight these cuts too.

Sheffield council is run by a ‘rainbow coalition’ of Labour, Greens, and Lib Dems. This means all of the capitalist alternatives to the Tories have had their chance and squandered it.

They have done nothing to aid the 20,000 people stuck on waiting lists for council housing in the city. There are countless empty units in my ward, Graves Park, that could be used as temporary accommodation for those in need. Instead, the council is forking out public money to developers, such as the £11 million it recently gave Capital&Centric to demolish the iconic Cannon Brewery to build 500 luxury flats that we can’t afford.

Sheffield council has over £500 million reserves, plus borrowing powers. These funds should be used to meet public need, not profit.

Democratically organised regular public meetings would allow working-class Sheffielders to voice their needs. And we should send the bill for public services to an incoming Keir Starmer Labour government.

Campaigners stop Westmorland and Furness council caving in to property developers

Martin Powell-Davies, Socialist Party member in Westmorland and Furness

Westmorland and Furness councillors aren’t used to being lobbied on their way into council meetings. But on 20 March, members of the local Trade Unionist and Socialist Party (TUSC) housing campaign were there to greet them on the steps of County Hall.

As is only too typical, a local property developer was expecting the councillors to agree to set aside their own ‘affordable homes’ policy, and walk out of the meeting with planning agreement to build 194 new houses in Penrith, with just four of them being for ‘affordable’ rent.

But they hadn’t reckoned with the effect of the TUSC intervention.

Allocated five minutes to speak to the meeting, I pointed to the housing crisis across Westmorland and beyond, where low-paid workers and young people are struggling to find anywhere they can afford to live.

I gave the example of a 60-year-old local shopworker, living in a tent in the woods, because he can’t afford to pay rocketing rents, yet is told by the Lib Dem council that he isn’t a high enough priority to be housed.

We reminded councillors that they were meant to serve the needs of the community that elected them, not boosting the profits of property developers. We called on councillors to reject the proposal, and instead consult over how to deliver genuinely affordable, rented council housing.

The debate swung backwards and forwards as councillors wavered between the pressure from our arguments, and the council officers trying to insist that they vote through their recommendation. In the end, they agreed to defer any decision!

It was only a small victory. But, if it wasn’t for TUSC, yet another unaffordable housing development would have simply been voted through.

We’re going to continue to build our campaign for genuinely affordable housing, including by standing a TUSC candidate in the council by-election in Grange and Cartmel on 2 May.

Worcester – the working class is angry

Calvin Fowler, TUSC candidate in Arboretum

I am standing as a TUSC candidate, because the Tory Party is failing us, and Labour is no real alternative. The working class are suffering in every direction, we are paying more for less.

Decaying public services, no affordable housing – the mood of Britain’s working class is angry. Workers are finding a voice with the cost-of-living crisis.

The terrible assault on Palestine by the Israeli state has angered people, as we see every Saturday afternoon on the high street in Worcester. The two main parties are not doing anything about this, as many Palestinian civilians are starving to death in this attack.

A working-class alternative like TUSC can be part of this change.

I was on strike last May, with other Unite trade union members in our factory, for a fair pay rise. After nearly a month of striking, we got a pay deal. This shows you if the trade unions and working class work together as a collective, what can be done.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, is the electoral coalition under which the Socialist Party stands in elections. TUSC is standing 290 anti-austerity and anti-war candidates in the local elections on 2 May.

It was set up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow – then general secretary of the RMT transport workers’ union – with the primary goal of enabling trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates against pro-austerity establishment politicians.

Find out more visit: tusc.org.uk