Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/889/22250
Absence of Corbynism as Labour swings Tory axe again!
Liz Filer, Southampton Socialist Party
Southampton Labour Council squandered a major opportunity to change course and build on the anti-austerity mood that swept Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Labour and produced the first junior doctors strike in 40 years.
As the council's budget debate unfolded sharp words were exchanged across the chamber. But when it came to contributions from the public gallery it was all too much and the police were called to remove us. We refused to leave and stood our ground in support of anti-cuts councillors Keith Morrell, Don Thomas and Andrew Pope, who all voted against cuts.
If anything, this was a step further to the right as Labour councillors presented their enthusiastic vision of 'transformation' - in truth cuts through privatisation. Incapable of honest debate with the alternative presented to them by Declan Clune of Southampton Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Denise Wyatt, a Millbrook resident, we were treated to 30 minutes of prettifying austerity and distortion.
The housing crisis in the city has been 'tackled' by removing 5,000 names from the council waiting list, classifying them as those 'who don't have justified housing needs'.
As care for the elderly faces growing strains, with many kept unnecessarily in hospitals for lack of community beds, the council proposes to close another 45-bed council care home.
The stark reality of austerity, growing poverty and family breakdown is that 25% of children in Southampton live in poverty.
Rather than standing with the community, refusing to vote for cuts and fighting for the government funding the city urgently needs, council leader Simon Letts, justified, his position by distorting the position of Southampton anti-cuts councillors as a 'failed call to borrow our way out of a crisis'. It's no surprise his comments were met with heckles from the public gallery to fight the cuts, not carry them out!
More alarming was the claim from councillor Challoner that these cuts were being carried out with the 'consent' of the council trade unions. Over 200 jobs will be cut by this budget.
Council workers are facing enormous pressures as staff numbers are cut, those left are bearing impossible workloads. With further cuts to come, the support of the Unite and Unison local government committees for Labour councils to set no-cuts budgets is certain to be added to by others in the trade unions.
Regardless of the vote, these cuts will be opposed. We need to pressure the council to use its £40 million reserves to maintain library funding, protect jobs and services and link up with other campaigns across the country to turn the tide on this weak and divided Tory government.
That will include the task of challenging the 'no choice' councillors with a clear anti-cuts alternative at the ballot box in May.
In The Socialist 17 February 2016:
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