Southampton rebels continue fight against council cuts

Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party

Over 250 members of the local community packed into the Save Oaklands Pool public meeting and vented their fury at Labour councillor Warwick Payne who was invited to answer questions.

The meeting was supported by local council trade union branches Unison and Unite, with a message of support read out from Unite. No one was convinced by the council’s proposals.

Queues of people continue to form at local campaign stalls to sign the Socialist Party petition opposing the closure, especially parents of young children who use the pool. Over 20 local schools use the pool. On Saturday 18 August young school students signed the petition and then took campaign leaflets to deliver around their streets.

The magnitude of the crisis is beginning to emerge. Labour councillor Jacqui Rayment has announced £60 million cuts in the next three years.

Plans are being drawn up to privatise adult social care. Schools have been asked to sanction cuts of £30 per child for the next 20 years to pay for the costs of PFI. Why don’t Labour refuse to pay the PFI contracts instead?

Council tax benefit

With £2 million of government cuts to council tax benefit, consideration is being given to introducing a council tax charge to benefit claimants. Can there be any doubt that Labour intend to deliver Tory cuts?

However, support is rallying to the side of the rebel Labour councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas who have called for a lobby of the next full council meeting on Wednesday 12 September, with backing from Unison and Unite.

Union members will now expect other councillors to join the rebellion and vote against cuts, so the union leaders should demand this.

The stand of the rebel councillors has drawn a line in the sand. A big opportunity exists now to build support for their stand against cuts from council workers, the trade unions and local community. This would lay the basis of a mass campaign to oppose the cuts and fight for government funding to meet the needs of the city.

STOP PRESS: Pay restoration shows strike action works

Southampton council workers have received a pay offer with 3,460 out of 4,000 workers having their pay restored to the level it was before being cut by the previous Tory council.

This follows a series of strikes in 2011, and the current Labour council getting elected on the promise of restoring pay. Pressure from workers, along with two rebel councillors refusing to vote for cuts, has helped force the Labour council to keep its promise to most of the workers.

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