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Posted on 27 February 2014 at 15:13 GMT

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo S Score

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo S Score   (Click to enlarge)

Every vulnerable section of society hit by Labour's budget in Leicester

Around 200 noisy protesters gathered outside the town hall in Leicester on 26 February to oppose the cuts proposed by the city mayor Pete Soulsby and being approved by the council.

Many of these were workers at the children's centres being cut back - 133 jobs are likely to go. The council claims it will keep all the buildings open whilst slashing the numbers of staff. Rumour has it that the buildings are linked to the council receiving government cash - so they stay open. Some staff were saying "the council will have plenty of storage venues for tables and chairs", but will not be able to provide the services that are needed in all the areas.

They were joined by other council workers from trade unions such as Unison, GMB and Unite, and UCU, as well as many groups affected by the various cuts being made. Support also came from, amongst others, Leicestershire Against the Cuts (who originally called for this protest), the Trades Union Council, the PCS union and Unite Community.

'Upset' and meek Labour

The mayor has hit the homeless, the disabled, the elderly, children and young people, in fact any vulnerable group you could name!

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo by S Score

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo by S Score   (Click to enlarge)

The loud chanting must have deafened councillors as they trooped in to vote for the cuts. The all-powerful executive mayor in Leicester, and 51 of the 54 councillors are all Labour. They claim to be really upset at the impact of the these cuts and point to the Tory-Liberal government cutting their funding. But if they were really that bothered they would fight the government cuts instead of meekly passing them on.

Whilst those affected by the cuts were outside protesting, Soulsby was getting ready to go on a nice junket to Cannes in the south of France. He is spending 25,000 of council money on the trip to meet billionaire property tycoons at a conference where, the conference website says, he will be able to "discover profitable opportunities and meet key international stakeholders, including investors".

City centre projects

What really gets people's goat is that at the same time as making the cuts Soulsby has earmarked 35 million of council money (not including European grants) to "regeneration" projects - overwhelmingly to prettify the city centre whilst the outer estates and poorest areas are left to rot.
Since coming to power he has raised 15 million selling council land and buildings, with another 8 million to come.

Why doesn't he use that money as part of a strategy to plug the gap and keep services running while he builds a campaign involving the people of Leicester to force the missing cash from the government? When asked by the Leicester Mercury about using that money for services he said it will be "gone in 18 months" and that "short-changes the city". Actually that proves he could do it. The real people who are being short-changed now are the ordinary people of the city who are suffering these cuts!

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo by S Score

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo by S Score   (Click to enlarge)

Fighting back

The lobby was addressed by representatives of the council workers and unions as well as Leicestershire Against the Cuts, including Socialist Party members Tony Church and myself. The banner of the 'Save Our Services - Sack Mayor Soulsby' campaign was prominent. This campaign opposes the idea of an executive mayor - Leicester never had an opportunity to have a say on it - and is collecting signatures to force a legally enforcable referendum on whether to keep the mayor.

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo S Score

Protest against the council cuts budget, Leicester, February 2014, photo S Score   (Click to enlarge)

The council unions will now be considering industrial action against the job losses, and the campaign against the cuts goes on! There are no local elections in Leicester this year, but next year there are, and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be electorally challenging all those councillors who voted for cuts (and the mayor if he hasn't been removed by a referendum before then).
We are starting that campaign now by asking affected groups to consider putting up candidates as part of the TUSC umbrella.

Steve Score

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