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Campaigning against the cuts
Leicester protesters say no cuts!
On 20 February, 200 homeless people, trade unionists and campaigners lobbied Leicester's Labour council as they voted for cuts.
Many protesters occupied the lobby. The protest was called by Leicestershire Against the Cuts (LAC) and Streetlife Action Group (organised by homeless people), and later by Leicester city Unison.
The council's consultation document says they already plan to "reduce annual spending by £75 million, and estimate making further cuts of over £50 million per year by 2016." The immediate impact includes a one-third cut in the homelessness services budget and those of adult social care and youth services.
Labour councillors wailed about how the cuts hit the most vulnerable, then voted them through! Homeless group activists showed the impact these cuts would have on people.
Tony Church from LAC explained why we call on the council to refuse to make cuts, and build a campaign to force the money we need from the government.
Leicester campaign forces rethink
At an LAC meeting after the lobby, homeless people spoke graphically about their situations. One woman was a victim of domestic violence.
A couple were being forced into shared accommodation as they can't afford the bedroom tax.
The meeting resolved to build the campaign against cuts in housing benefits and services on the estates, building on our experience of fighting the poll tax to resist the cuts.
We are prepared to occupy people's homes to stop them being evicted if they cannot pay rent due to housing benefit cuts.
The meeting's mood was confident. Forced to rethink their plans, the council withdrew the part of their budget referring to the homeless service at the council meeting.
But these plans to cut homeless beds have not gone away. The council merely delayed a decision.
Cameron - we are all in it together, fighting your government's callous attacks on ordinary people and the most vulnerable in society.
Stoke - perks and cuts
On 23 February over 1,000 people marched from Hanley to Stoke to protest at council plans to waste £59 million on an unnecessary new council HQ.
Local Labour activist Tony Walley tried to rubbish the number marching, claimed that "640 people is not a mandate".
The answer to that, Tony, is simple. Get your councillor mates in the Civic Centre Bunker to hold a democratic referendum to show who really has a mandate.
Socialist Party members were out in Hanley building support for the march, linking it to fighting Stoke Labour council's cuts, closures and privatisation. We collected 550 names on our "No to another new council HQ! - Save our jobs and services instead" petition, over 4,000 people have now signed it!
One issue our leaflet raised was the need to stand anti-cuts candidates in local elections. A Unite NHS union rep told us he'd be standing as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) anti-cuts candidate at local elections in Newcastle-under Lyme this May. We sold 100 copies of the Socialist.
Peterborough - save Children's Centres
A boisterous demo, led by the union Unite, in Peterborough on 23 February attracted hundreds more signatures against Peterborough council's proposal to close seven Children's Centres, which have been vital in Early Intervention and Prevention.
Unite estimate their members engaged over 1,200 times in providing support for parents.
It seems the money saved by the closure, around 2% of the total Children's Services budget, could easily be found from the council's general reserves, given the political will.
It would likely have been found, if elections had been due this year in Unitary Authorities.
There will be a lobby of the council meeting on 6 March. Meanwhile send protests to Councillor Scott (cabinet leader) firstname.lastname@example.org with copies to local Unite members via email@example.com
Hull - building resistance locally
Forty local residents attended Holderness Road's first anti-cuts meeting on 19 February. Councillors Gary Wareing and Gill Kennett repeated their pledge to vote against cuts.
Gary explained that austerity put pressure on the poorest sections of society but also puts pressure on Labour councillors to fight austerity.
Some moving contributions followed from the floor. A letter from one resident described the terrible conditions she was bringing up her young child in: "Damp runs down the walls, the floors are so wet that slugs are everywhere.
"My baby and me are always ill". The private landlord's advice to her in in mid-winter was "Open the doors and windows and let some air in"!
One person claimed that standing against Steve Brady (council leader) could let the Lib Dems back in.
But people already blame Labour, whose failure to fight the cuts is opening the possibility of a return of the Liberals, who are opportunistically fronting the campaign to keep a local library open.
Plans are in place to set up similar groups in other parts of Hull.
Erdington walk-in centre
Over 30 people turned up to a public meeting on the future of Erdington NHS walk-in centre in Birmingham, which is threatened with closure, on 19 February.
The meeting heard from members of the NHS top brass locally who spoke over those asking questions to say that while there "were no immediate plans for closure" they "couldn't guarantee the centre will be staying open"!
The patients' group plans to follow up its recent protest with more local campaigning.
Newcastle - fight for a needs budget
A Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) public meeting in Newcastle on the cuts, addressed by Pete Redpath from the PCS Young Members Network and Nick Quirk, South West executive member for the RMT union agreed that Newcastle council's £100 million of cuts is a disgrace.
We should learn lessons from the 1980s Liverpool city council and call for implementation of a needs budget.
The next council election is next year but we have plenty of time to prepare. YFJ regionally is stepping up its campaign for a needs budget as well as launching a 'sick of your boss' initiative.
In The Socialist 27 February 2013:
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International socialist news and analysis
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