Coventry: ‘We need to fight now to save our services’

Coventry council budget:’We need to fight now to save our services’

A Unison steward, Coventry

“The next Labour councillor who tries to back away from saving local services should recognise that by voting for massive cuts they will in effect be voting to abolish themselves.

“After all, if the services go, what is the point of having these surplus-to-requirement back bench councillors anyway?”

The late Rob Windsor, a Socialist Party councillor in St Michael’s ward, Coventry, pointed out in a 2010 article that there are no excuses for councillors not fighting the cuts.

But Coventry’s Labour councillors don’t fear for their positions – unlike those affected by the expected 800 job losses, on top of the 800 that have already gone. Budget cuts will be devastating: £61 million over the next three years.

On Tuesday 26 February councillors will face the choice of passing on more brutal cuts, or making a stand with the people of Coventry, trade unions and the communities, and defying the cuts.

Unfortunately – and perhaps unsurprisingly – the likelihood is that the cuts will be voted through, with crocodile tears and the claim ‘we have no choice’.

Whole services will be cut to the bone. Others will disappear completely. When speaking about cuts of around £400,000 to services for vulnerable and homeless young people, St Michael’s ward Labour councillor Jim O’Boyle stated the council is ‘giving young people the best opportunities’!

The Labour council has engaged in a sham consultation exercise. They had an online survey buried on the council’s website, and the main public consultation meeting was not advertised.

You only got an invite if you recently attended a ‘ward forum’! Only three councillors attended, and said absolutely nothing throughout.

There is a choice

One Unison member speaking in the meeting told them to study the history of their own party – Poplar, Liverpool, Clay Cross, all examples where councils said ‘no’ to central government, ‘we won’t do your dirty work’.

The Socialist Party has been prominent in calling on the council to set a ‘needs’ budget, based on funding services and jobs required by the people of Coventry, and to refuse to be collaborators with the Con-Dems.

The three main council unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, have called a Saturday demonstration to be followed by a lobby of the full council meeting.

Letters have called on councillors to draw a line in the sand – and unions have pledged to support any councillor who votes ‘no’ to cuts.

If the cuts go through on 26 February, the unions should begin balloting for action.

Nationally our unions need to organise a campaign of industrial action, including a 24-hour general strike. We don’t have forever to save our services – we need to fight now.

We can’t wait for well-paid cuts councillors to ‘abolish’ themselves. Workers and campaigners will have to organise to stand against them.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, an electoral alliance, opposes all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions.

TUSC candidates reject increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts and, if elected, will vote against the privatisation of council jobs and services.


Demonstration against Coventry council cuts

Saturday 23 February, 10.30am

Assemble Cathedral Steps, opposite Coventry University

Lobby of council budget-setting meeting

Tuesday 26 February, 12.45-2pm

Outside Council House, Earl Street