Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/763/16612
Southampton Labour council leader quits as anti-cuts pressure grows
Build a new mass workers' party
Under pressure from the dire budget crisis and growing opposition from anti-cuts campaigners, Southampton's Labour council leader, Richard Williams, dramatically resigned.
Without previously informing members of his group, he quit and walked out of the special council meeting on Thursday 25 April.
The meeting had been called to hear the report of an investigation into the council leadership's response to the resignation from the council cabinet of then fellow Labour councillor Keith Morrell in May 2012.
Labour had just won control of Southampton for the first time since 1999 and Keith had been appointed as cabinet member for improvement and efficiency.
But within days it was clear that Labour would not keep the promises it made in opposition to defend council services and so Keith resigned, writing to Richard Williams explaining why.
Unwilling to accept his resignation on such political grounds, Williams issued a press release claiming Keith had resigned due to ill health!
Over the subsequent months Keith and fellow 'Against the Cuts' councillor Don Thomas have proved their political fitness by challenging the decisions of the Labour group to implement Con-Dem cuts.
With the backing of council unions Unite and Unison they fought the closure of Oaklands swimming pool and were suspended and then expelled from the Labour Party for doing so.
They supported the vociferous campaign to defend youth services from closure and presented a 'no cuts' budget amendment to the council budget meeting in February (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/press180213.php)
No to austerity
So fearful were Labour of allowing such ideas to be publicly debated they refused to allow the no cuts amendment to be heard.
But under intense pressure from the Save Southampton Youth Services campaign, concessions were made and some services were temporarily reprieved.
Pressure on the Labour group and its leader has grown as the impact of the cuts is being felt. Council union leaders have been vocal in criticising the Labour council as jobs and services are cut.
The unravelling of what was another example of New Labour spin over Keith's 2012 cabinet resignation may have been the apparent trigger for Williams walking - but the real reason is the growing opposition in the city to the establishment parties' shared austerity agenda.
Williams' resignation has sparked a byelection in the city's Woolston ward. What is becoming increasingly clear to people is the need for more councillors like Keith and Don, prepared to fight against the cuts.
That's why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be standing a candidate in Woolston, to send another anti-cuts voice to shake up the council chamber!
In The Socialist 1 May 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns