Alison Hill, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
How can we mount a challenge to the cutters and the evictors in Waltham Forest Council? On 5 December, there were people from many different campaigns and trade unions at a meeting organised by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Councillors in this low-waged east London borough are promoting the development of unaffordable flats as they acquiesce to property developers’ drive for profit. While sitting on usable reserves of £177 million, the council has cut services, put up rent and council tax, and effectively cut council workers’ pay.
The council recently nodded through plans to redevelop the local hospital, Whipps Cross, but not as a facility to serve the growing local population. Whipps Cross will be smaller and surrounded by another private housing estate, making expansion impossible.
Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe said standing a large slate of TUSC candidates could show a real alternative to cuts and austerity. When we stood TUSC candidates before, we argued for rent control. That demand is even more relevant now as the council tries to turn the borough into a property developers’ paradise.
TUSC is a coalition, providing a platform for local campaigns and trade unionists – far more effective than standing as individual ‘independent’ candidates. Anyone who agrees with TUSC’s core policies of no cuts and no privatisation can stand under this umbrella.
Speakers from the floor backed up this approach. They pointed to the election of the new Sharon Graham leadership in Unite the Union, and Bakers’ union BFAWU disaffiliating from Labour, as signs that the voice of working-class people is beginning to be heard.
TUSC can inspire people by putting forward no-cuts budgets based on what working-class people need, not what the Tories and big business say can be afforded. Discussions in Waltham Forest are still at an early stage, but the meeting provided an important opportunity to build a real alternative in the 2022 elections, when every seat in the borough is up for grabs. We plan to take the no-cuts proposal around local union branches and community campaigns to seek input on what a needs budget for Waltham Forest should include, and invite working-class fighters to join the TUSC electoral challenge.