Anti-cuts campaigners before their deputation to Southampton council. Photo: Southampton SP
Anti-cuts campaigners before their deputation to Southampton council. Photo: Southampton SP

Sue Atkins, Southampton East Socialist Party

When the newly elected Labour council met, we sent a deputation to hold them to account over statements made in pre-election leaflets.

The local elections in Southampton saw the best-ever results for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Bevois ward, with Socialist Party member Nadia Ditta receiving 848 votes, narrowly losing out to the incumbent Labour councillor. This was on the back of the devastating war on Gaza, which residents linked to the devastation within their own community caused by a decade of austerity cuts carried out by the Labour council.

We are not going away. This is the beginning of our campaign, not the end.

Community wins victories

The local community, through our campaigns, had achieved two notable successes – reversing council decisions to close St Mary’s Leisure Centre and the Venny adventure playground. But Labour ward councillors tried to claim credit for these successes themselves!

The council is supposedly investing £2 million in the leisure centre. But they’ve found this money by making another £40 million cuts, and selling off another £120 million of capital assets.

At the council deputation, led by Nadia, we demanded that any investment in St Mary’s Leisure Centre must be decided through consultation with the local community. As taxpayers’ money is being spent, then the facility must stay in council hands, and not be handed over to a private provider, which is the Labour council’s declared intention.

Likewise with the Venny, Bevois councillors should call a meeting to discuss how our council tax is spent. We fought to save it, and now we need investment to make it the heart of our community.

Nadia further made the point that, with the prospect of a Labour government within months, there should be no excuse that there is no money. The government must be put under pressure to restore the £500 million stolen from Southampton over the last decade. Replicated throughout the country, this would immediately transform people’s lives, as council homes could be built and services restored. 

Even though Nadia explained how things could be different, the response from the councillors was warm words, but no commitments. Our campaigning must therefore continue. 

We have produced a leaflet, going door to door, to thank everyone who voted TUSC for Nadia, and to reach out to all who want to get involved to fight for the community.

Paying to cut our services

Tony Twine, TUSC candidate in the 2024 local elections for Portswood ward in Southampton, explains the deputation he made to the council.

I sketched out the sinister function of the council’s new Improvement and Assurance Board, a mechanism for forcing through £40 million cuts to essential public services. I demanded the council place in the public domain the “who, why, when and where” of this unrepresentative, secretive, undemocratic, inaccessible and unaccountable vehicle for public asset-stripping.

The Labour council has set up a body, basically self-imposed Section 114, chaired by one of the main commissioners sent in to make cuts in Liverpool and Northamptonshire councils. The council is paying these people colossal amounts of money to cut our services.

Tony says his reasons for supporting TUSC are quite simple: “They consistently campaign within the working class on jobs, pay and conditions, both locally and nationally. They have a public profile, and hold regular inclusive meetings. I will help with any united fightback campaign that TUSC takes up.”