Workers and councillors must make a stand against 300 job cuts in Southampton

Southampton Socialist Party members

Labour-run Southampton council intends to axe at least 300 jobs and to slash services as part of its £20 million budget cuts for 2013.

It will mean librarians, street cleaners, social workers and many other workers who provide vital services, will be sacked. Funding for youth services and Sure Start children’s centres will be cut and the council’s residential children’s unit for traumatised eight to 12 year olds will close.

Yet Labour won a majority on the council in the May 2012 elections on the back of council workers’ strikes and protests against the previous Tory run council which was pushing through similar cuts.

In those elections the Socialist Party – which stood candidates as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition – warned people that unless Labour was prepared to challenge the government’s funding cuts to Southampton, it would end up doing the Con-Dem coalition’s dirty work. Unfortunately, this dire situation has now come about.

Instead of performing a collective handwringing, Southampton’s Labour councillors should appeal to people in the city to support an anti-cuts stand. If not, they should move aside and allow genuine working class representatives to be elected.

Rebel councillors

Such councillors could stand with Coxford rebel councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who have already shown their fighting commitment to vote against cuts and defend local services. They have won huge support from residents and unions.

A council that was prepared to fight the cuts would firstly use some of its £70 million reserves to allow time for a city-wide mass anti-cuts campaign to be built, mobilising the industrial strength of the trade unions.

Pressure from the trade unions on their national leaderships could push them into turning September’s TUC conference decision – for a national 24-hour general strike against the government’s austerity measures – into a reality.

Taking this defiant path is the only way to defend the jobs and services that workers and their families depend upon.

Terry Pearce adds:

At a recent well-attended meeting of the Bracknell (Berkshire) branch of Unite, a resolution calling for a 24-hour general strike was passed overwhelmingly and will be sent to the union’s executive council.

Also passed was a resolution opposing the Southampton Labour council’s cuts to jobs and services.

Full support was agreed for the two Labour Against Cuts councillors in Coxford ward who voted against cuts.

It was agreed to invite them to our next meeting to explain their courageous stand.