Sean McCauley, Worcester Socialist Party
The third instalment in the campaign to see off the cuts to services at St John’s library, Worcester, took place on 20 April when 30 protesters gathered outside the library itself. This protest followed two successful public meetings in February and March.
Socialist Party placards calling for ‘no cuts’, ‘no job losses’, ‘no privatisation, ‘no closures’, ‘save services at St John’s Library’ were brandished by all age groups. The small shopping area resounded to the chant of “they say cutback. We say fightback”.
We need councillors who will fight the government for the return of the £168 million cut since 2012, and an end to the current wave of attacks. We need councillors who will vote against all cuts and who will lead, along with the trade unions, a fightback campaign which involves all council workers, community campaigners and services users.
By using the £2 million of reserves currently available and by borrowing prudently, we could offset the immediate threats to give ourselves time to mount a mass campaign to fight Tory austerity.
An immediate easy win would be cancelling the two main Private Finance Initiative contracts in the county. Firstly, the deal struck over Bromsgrove schools (which were rebuilt some years back and which will end up costing us £221 million over 25 years). And, secondly, the deal for Hartlebury incinerator, which syphons £12 million a year.
Mark Davies, Socialist Party member and Socialist Alternative candidate in the local county council elections, spoke at the protest. He pledged to link up with any Labour councillors committed to voting against all cuts.
We will, however, expose all those, including Labour councillors, who blindly pass austerity onto to working-class communities.
Local unions can play a key role in opposing all these cuts by mobilising its members in defence of jobs and services. The convening of a council-wide workers’ meeting, or a series of area meetings, to discuss concerted opposition up to and including strike action would be a start to the process of forcing the hand of the employers.
A 24-hour stoppage in opposition to all cuts would send a clear message to local Tory councillors and council officials.
The next step in our campaign is a march around St John’s on Saturday 18 May at 11am, starting from the library.
We also intend to link up with users of other Worcestershire libraries like Rubery, Warndon, Droitwich and Tenbury Wells so a joint protest can be built in advance of the issuing on 6 June of the report on the sham consultation process.