Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/248/24822
2 May Council Elections
Tony Blair - Bosses' puppet, photo Alan Hardman
New Labour: The Bosses' Friend
- Giving...£500,000,000 in tax breaks for big business
- Giving...£1,300,000,000 in handouts to fat cat Railtrack shareholders
Socialist Party Local Election Manifesto 2002
Defend Public Services
Standing for the millions
not the millionaires
Vote Socialist Alternative
IN THESE elections millions, probably a majority, will not vote. No wonder. All of the major parties - New Labour, the Tories and the Liberals - are basically carrying out the same policies.
They all support privatisation of public services. They all put the interests of big business before the interests of ordinary people. Where they run local councils they are all cutting our public services to the bone.
But not voting will not stop our public services being butchered. What is needed is a completely different kind of political party - a party that is made up of ordinary working- class people and fights for our interests.
Today, more than ever before we need a party that will stand up for us. That will fight to defend us against the billionaires who run this society for profit instead of people's needs.
The Socialist Party has a long and proud record of struggling to defend working-class people. For example, a decade ago, we led the battle against the poll tax which successfully brought down Thatcher and defeated the tax.
In the last three years we have had Socialist Party councillors elected in Preston, Coventry and Lewisham, London. Between 1983 and 1992 our three socialist MPs lived on the average wage of the workers in their areas and not the inflated salaries of parliament. We are standing across the country in these elections.
We are involved in hundreds of campaigns up and down the country, including the fight against privatisation, for better pay, to stop council house-off sell offs, for free education, and to stop the pollution of our environment.
As well as these day-to-day struggles, we also fight for socialist change. We want real socialism - a democratic society for the needs of all instead of the profits of a few.
Time For A Real Change
IN 1997 Britain celebrated as Tory misrule was ended. New Labour said: "It's time for change." But what kind of change have we seen?
Dave Nellist, Leader of the Socialist Party Group on Coventry city council
Cuts, closures and job losses have continued. New Labour policies seem no different to Old Tory ones. People didn't vote for school closures, increasing numbers of pensioners in poverty, and the privatisation of our services.
New Labour's real nature was starkly demonstrated when Blair formed a 'special relationship' with the most anti working-class leader in Italy - the hated Berlusconi.
All the three main parties are establishment parties who won't listen and won't change things. They stand for the millionaires not the millions. Socialists are out to build an alternative - but we need your help.
IN NEW Labour's Britain privatisation rules. If your train doesn't arrive, if you're denied a hospital bed, if your education services are cut, if your libraries are closed then chances are it's because big business has decided it can't make enough money.
Privatisation means massive risk-free profits for the fat cats and poor public services for us. The Railtrack fiasco shows that privatisation doesn't work.
The government claim that privatisation can offer good public services. This is rubbish. Private companies exist to make a profit. They will only invest if they think they can make money.
When they invest in our public services, their profits are coming from the taxes we've paid. That means money is being transferred directly from our services into the fat cats' pockets.
For example, the new privately financed hospital in North Durham will cost £22 million more than building an identical new hospital in the public sector, yet New Labour have opted for the private option!
But it's no surprise that the survey New Labour commissioned on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) decided in favour of privatisation. The company that carried it out - sleaze-ridden Arthur Andersen - has been involved in £10 billion worth of PFI contracts. This means it has made millions from the privatisation of our services!
- End all privatisation. No privatisation of the Post Office, the NHS, education or any other public services.
- End the role of the private parasites and renationalise all the privatised utilities under the democratic control of working-class people - the people who use and work in these services.
Council Tax - Crippling Working-Class Families
YEAR IN, year out council tax bills increase. But while we struggle and scrape around to pay the council tax the services we receive for it are ever more decrepit or non-existent.
The council tax is a highly unfair way of organising local taxation. It favours the rich and penalises working-class people.
The highest level of council tax (paid by someone living in a mansion) is only three times the lowest level of council tax (paid for example by someone living in a one-bedroom council flat).
So while if someone in a one bedroom flat is paying £500, someone living in a mansion will only be paying £1,500.
The council tax is also unfair because it is based on property values which do not always accurately reflect the wealth of individuals.
- We campaign for the council tax to be replaced by a progressive local income tax which, instead of taxing poorer households more heavily than the rich as the council tax does, would tax the rich most heavily.
- Anyone earning under £10,000 a year should not have to pay any local income tax.
The Most Expensive Childcare In Europe
THERE ARE 6,000 nurseries in Britain. Only 240 of them are run on a "not for profit" basis.
There are only eight day nursery places for every 100 children under five. On average the cost of pre-school childcare for two children is £6,000 per year, more than the average family spends on housing.
In Britain childcare is worse regulated, harder to obtain, and more expensive than in any other country in the European Union.
Lack of decent childcare means that many parents, in particular women, do not have the choice of going out to work. Others are forced to rely on informal childcare.
- A socialist council would build and directly fund free, publicly owned nurseries and before and after-school and holiday schemes, with fully qualified decently paid staff.
The Money's There
NEW LABOUR claims that they can't afford to provide high-quality public services.
In fact privatised services often end up costing more than public ones. Just look at Railtrack. The government subsidised Railtrack to the tune of around £1 billion a year.
Now the big City firms have been promised around an extra £1.3 billion (at least £300 million directly from the taxpayer) in compensation for their failure to run a decent railway!
New Labour can find money when it suits them. So far they have spent £326 million on the war in Afghanistan.
The fact is that New Labour is a party of big business. They've come to power after 18 years of the Tories giving money to the rich - and carried on doing the same thing.
Brown has already leaked that this year's budget is likely to include tax increases for working class people - but not for big business - who are going to receive a tax cut of £500 million!
Britain is a rich country. It is not a lack of wealth but New Labour's love affair with big business and privatisation that is responsible for the deterioration in living conditions and public services.
Overcrowding And Teacher Shortages
TONY BLAIR claimed education was his top priority but Labour's policies are failing our children.
Years of underfunding and mounting pressure on teachers has led to a widespread shortage of teachers, and overcrowded, under-resourced classrooms.
Now Blair has announced the end of comprehensive education and the wholesale re-introduction of selective schools. He is inviting big business, companies like McDonald, Shell and Schweppes, to make profits from our schools.
If New Labour's plans are fully realised, tens of thousands of working-class young people are going to be condemned to second-class sink schools that 'teach' students how to work in a burger bar or a petrol station.
Yet to provide decent education for all is achievable. To reduce class sizes for all schools to the level they were ten years ago would take around 27,000 extra teachers.
This, combined with the cost of repairing our crumbling school buildings, would cost around £5 billion a year - this could be paid for just by reversing the changes in National Insurance for companies that the Tories introduced while they were in office.
- A socialist council would lead a campaign, alongside teachers, parents and school students, for an immediate significant increase in school funding and for all schools to become genuine comprehensives under democratic local control.
Education, Education, Education?
Labour's plans to end comprehensive education will hit all working class families hard, but Black and Asian students will be hit amongst the worst. Our schools need a massive injection of public funding, not shortages and selection.
SAM DIAS, Socialist Party councillor, Lewisham.
The Housing Crisis
COUNCILS ARE systematically privatising council housing across the country.
The result is an ever more intense housing crisis. There are around 200,000 single homeless people in London alone. Millions of people are being forced to live in substandard, overcrowded private rented housing.
Once transferred out of council control, tenants lose their secured tenancy agreements for less protected 'assured' tenancies. On average rents increase immediately by £10 a week.
There is a desperate need for a large increase in the amount of affordable, pleasant, good quality social housing available. Yet New Labour has not reversed Tory policy, instead it has stepped up the council house sell-offs.
Public spending on housing has fallen dramatically. In the 1970s local authorities spent an average of £10.2 billion a year on housing. In the 1990s that had fallen to £7.2 billion (1998 prices).
From 1999 to 2001 only 400 council houses were built in the whole of Britain! This compares to 28,000 other types of 'social' housing where rents are more expensive, and which are almost always run by commercially orientated housing associations.
Lord Best, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, summed up the situation when he said: "House building is the worst since the early 1920s. The key to easing homelessness is actually simple. Build more affordable homes."
The previous Tory government did all they could to prevent councils building new homes. They made it illegal for councils to spend the £6.5 billion that had been received from the sale of council houses on building new council housing.
New Labour has only partially reversed this policy - allowing 25% of the £6.5 billion to be spent. Even this amount would be enough to create at least 150,000 new or refurbished homes on a national basis.
Yet, that would only be a fraction of what is needed and possible. After all in the 1930s half a million public homes were built every year. To fully solve the housing crisis it would be necessary to do the same again and more.
- We campaign against the sell-off of council housing.
- A Socialist council would launch a programme of mass council house building alongside a programme refurbishing existing stock.
- If it was necessary to spend more than the 25% of funds that the government has released, we would be prepared to defy New Labour and spend more in order to provide good quality, affordable, democratically controlled public housing.
"Lewisham New Labour council spent a fortune trying to get tenants to agree to vote yes for their homes to be sold off. Every house received a flash video, with promises of all kinds of repairs and modernisation if they voted for privatisation.
"Local tenants groups, with the support of the local Socialist Party, ran a campaign on a shoestring budget, but the message went home "sell-off will mean less secure tenancies and higher rents". A majority of tenants voted 'No'.
"Of course tenants still want their homes repaired and refurbished but not if the price is privatisation. On the Honor Oak estate, which myself and Socialist Party councillor Sam Dias represent, a ferocious campaign has been fought for refurbishment. As a result the council have been forced to spend £14 million refurbishing council stock."
IAN PAGE, Lewisham Socialist Party councillor
Why Vote for a Socialist Alternative?
WE NEED councillors who, instead of kow-towing to big business and central government, will fight for the interests of working-class people.
The Socialist Party is contesting seats across the country in this election. Our candidates have already got a long record of leading local campaigns.
We are also supporting other candidates that campaign in the interests of working- class people (including other socialists and trade union and community anti-cuts candidates).
In the last three years we have had our first councillors elected in Preston, Coventry and Lewisham.
Those councillors have been consistent and determined defenders of public services and campaigners against cuts.
Even though, at this stage, we do not have a majority on any council they have been able to play a leading role in helping their communities defeat New Labour's cuts.
To give a few examples, our councillors in Lewisham have:
- Led a successful campaign with council tenants to stop the sell-off of 7,000 council flats and houses to a housing company.
- Supported tenants in forcing the council to invest £14 million in long overdue housing refurbishments.
- Supported local campaigners that stopped the closure of three libraries.
And our councillors in Coventry have:
- Fought the closure of elderly day centres and other social services cuts.
- Fought school closures.
- Campaigned against private finance in the local health service.
- Defended council workers when their wages and conditions were under attack from New Labour.
In Preston we have:
- Fought against the sell-off of the local bus garage to a multi-million property company.
- Fought cuts and closures in local nurseries.
If a Socialist Party councillor is elected in your ward they will fight equally hard against the cuts taking place in your area.
Nor do we intend to stop at individual councillors. More and more people are looking for a socialist alternative to New Labour's Tory policies.
We aim to win a majority on councils in coming years in order to launch an all-out campaign to improve the living conditions of working-class people.
In the 1980s we played a leading role in Liverpool City Council. Between 1983 and 1987 the council built over 4,000 council houses with front and back gardens, created 2,000 jobs, built sports centres and even a park.
To do so, the council successfully defied the Tory government's insistence on cuts and yet more cuts. Tens of thousands marched in support of the stand taken by the Liverpool council.
Today we are faced with a New Labour government that is little different to the Old Tory one - it demands cuts and yet more cuts in just the same way.
But a council led by the Socialist Party will be just as determined to mobilise support for policies that would provide decent public services as we did in Liverpool in the past.
In doing so. we would could win the support of the majority of the population - only 11% of people support New Labour's privatisation policies.
Socialist Party councillors, whether they are at this stage in a small minority, or in the future when they hold the majority in some councils, will be the most consistent campaigners against cuts and privatisation and to improve jobs and services.
At the same time we explain that the market economy does not work. It means poverty for the majority and unimaginable wealth for a few.
It is only on the basis of a democratic socialist society that we could begin to build a society that really meets the needs of all instead of just the profits of a few.
Vote Socialist Alternative
In The Socialist 5 April 2002: