Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/465/1809
Socialists fight Labour's attacks
SOCIALIST PARTY councillors and campaigners in Lewisham, south London, are resisting attacks on working-class people's education and housing. After 35 years of continuous Labour control, Lewisham now has a hung council but with a Blairite directly elected mayor, Steve Bullock.
Roger Shrives Lewisham
Campaigners recently forced Bullock to admit that a new secondary school was needed in the north of the borough. The council will now build it at Lewisham Bridge school, rather than knocking down Ladywell Leisure Centre (at great cost and huge public inconvenience) and building it there!
Big campaigns on the school and Save Ladywell Pool forced the mayor to agree to this. Lewisham Bridge is not a perfect solution but this climb-down proved that united campaigning action can win results.
The 22 November council meeting endorsed the mayor's decision. Lewisham's two Socialist Party councillors, Chris Flood and Ian Page, proposed an amendment, congratulating the long-standing schools and pools campaigns for their hard work. That was passed by 27 votes to nil. Labour abstained - they didn't dare vote against it!
Another Socialist Party amendment called on the council to ensure Lewisham Bridge was a comprehensive community school (not one of New Labour's selective and unaccountable academy schools) and to safeguard current staff's jobs, terms and conditions. This was ruled out. Labour claimed they couldn't prejudge that issue, as this was a new school and would go to consultation!
Recently, an angry meeting protested at the highly selective academy, Haberdashers Aske's Hatcham College, trying to 'take over' Monson primary school. Ian Page and Chris Flood moved a motion taking up parents' and teachers' concerns over primary school provision and secondary school admissions.
The motion called for a council committee, rather than just Mayor Bullock, to examine the proposal and take evidence from parents, teachers' unions, educational experts etc before taking any action. New Labour and their LibDem and Tory shadows voted against this democratic change - only Green and Socialist Party councillors voted for it.
Lewisham wants to privatise council housing and aims to transfer 17,000 council homes to Lewisham Homes, an 'Arms Length Management' company (ALMO).
These boards are weighted to make sure tenants and leaseholder reps are in a minority compared to councillors and 'independents' - many of them business people with housing interests, who are picked and imposed by the council.
Ian and Chris proposed that Lewisham Homes should ensure that ALMO places reserved for independents should be chosen through regular elections by all Lewisham's tenants and leaseholders.
A Labour councillor claimed that no other ALMO had ever done that, implying that this must make it illegal - even though the council's own legal advice said that how the 'independents' were chosen was at the council's discretion!
Lewisham Green Party leader Darren Johnson voted against the Socialist Party proposal on the grounds that it was "legally questionable". Clearly he thought it more advisable to follow New Labour's impositions than to think of defending council tenants' democratic rights.
Another Labour councillor said the Socialist Party always opposed everything the Labour government or council put forward - we plead guilty when Labour's policy is to carry out cuts and sell-offs! Unfortunately, the pro-market politics of all the other opposition parties in Lewisham, even the Greens, means that Labour's attacks are only being slowed down rather than stopped.
In The Socialist 29 November 2006:
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