Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/801/18247
Action against vicious council cuts
It came as no surprise to campaigners and trade unionists in Hull that the Labour council passed a budget which will mean cuts of £48 million to services over the next two years, with a loss of up to 500 jobs.
Last year was a rollercoaster for the council workforce. Trade union members were balloted for strike action three times over changes to terms and conditions while the threat of job losses was ever-present.
In the end, the threat of strike action by the local authority unions forced the council to reduce its plans.
This process has worn at the nerves of many workers who understandably just want the whole horrible situation to go away.
Despite this, up to 200 trade unionists and community activists took part in the lobby on the day of the budget setting.
In 2013 three labour councillors in Hull were prepared to stand up and vote against cuts. This year only Gill Kennett voted against the cuts budget.
Huge cheers came from the public gallery when she did so. Unfortunately Gill stands alone as a true champion of the 99% in Hull.
Dean Kirk abstained and Gary Wareing voted for the cuts. Gary's actions, in particular, are both disappointing and inexplicable. Gary had been seen as the leader of the 'Hull three'.
If the strategies of trying to reclaim the Labour Party put forward by those on the left like Len McCluskey and Owen Jones were ever going to be successful it would have been in Hull.
With three Labour councillors acting as standard bearers for a fightback and a layer of left trade unionists active in the party, it could have been argued that a favourable situation existed for this strategy to succeed.
Yet as Gary Wareing despairingly claimed: "We haven't managed to budge a single sitting councillor or get anyone to join the party".
In fact, at many public and trade union meetings held in Hull in the last year when Gary called on the audience to join the Labour Party, he was met with a storm of indifference.
Increasingly in Hull, increasing numbers of activists are recognising that the way forward is through a new mass workers' party.
The media widely reported the fact that activists on the lobby felt let down by the Labour Party and needed something new that truly represents them.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be standing in Hull this May for this reason.
Powys, one of the most rural counties in Wales, with no large towns or cities, is not known for political protest.
Yet a very vocal and colourful lobby of the county council's budget meeting on 25 February resulted in two major climb-downs from the council, which is run by various so-called 'independents'.
A campaign by parents and teachers to save additional learning needs (ALN) units in the county's schools has developed into a broader 'Powys Uncut' campaign taking as its starting point opposition to all cuts.
One mother at the lobby movingly described how her autistic daughter, who is unable to speak, had flourished in the unit at brand new Golwg Y Cwm school in Ystradgynlais.
Protesters opposed cuts to the schools library service, respite care, day centres and home care for elderly and disabled people. The Socialist Party's bilingual leaflets and placards were well-received.
The council backtracked on two of its flagship cuts - the ALN units are to stay, and the six-fold increase in charges for using day centres has been dropped. The council failed to agree its budget and was adjourned for a week.
It's clear that the bulk of the £20 million cuts will go ahead - the struggle to save our services has only just begun.
Nottinghamshire Unison and campaign groups lobbied the Labour-controlled county council's budget setting. Over £80 million of cuts over three years were agreed.
Nottinghamshire Unison adopted a policy last September of requesting a full review of spending with a view to setting a one year no-cuts budget based on using reserves and borrowing powers.
This was seen as a 'stop gap' to build a campaign against the government's local government budget cuts. This review was never done.
In the end the council backed down on some proposals - the Aspergers team, welfare rights advisers and community café were saved, for example.
But more cuts are to follow. Nottinghamshire Unison spoke to council leaders, we wrote an open letter to councillors, we even texted every Labour councillor on budget day appealing for them not to vote for cuts. But not one voted against.
Isn't it about time that Unison backed candidates who stood by local union policy?
On 14 February councillors gathered at West Sussex county council to vote on whether to approve more brutal cuts.
More than 100 disabled and elderly people and their carers gathered outside county hall waving banners calling on the Tory council to stop the cuts.
As the debate began the public gallery erupted and the chair of the Don't Cut Us Out anti-cuts group strode to the front of the gallery and addressed the chamber. She made an incredibly passionate speech about the impact the cuts had made.
This was followed by two brilliant speeches from people who had been directly affected by cuts.
Despite this brilliant fight the Tory majority held firm and the £100 million cuts to care services were voted through. The fight continues.
200 noisy protesters gathered outside the town hall in Leicester on 26 February to oppose the cuts proposed by city mayor Pete Soulsby and being approved by the council.
Many of these were workers at the children's centres where 133 jobs are likely to go. They were joined by other council workers as well as many groups affected by the cuts.
The lobby was addressed by representatives of council workers and unions as well as Leicestershire Against the Cuts, including Socialist Party members.
The council unions will now be considering industrial action against the job losses - and the campaign against the cuts goes on!
- You can also see longer reports from Hull, Powys, West Sussex and Leicester. Send your reports to firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Socialist 5 March 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
International Women's Day
Socialist Party workplace news
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Socialist Party reports and campaigns