Prices up, pay down, fight back, vote TUSC

Build a socialist alternative

Adam Powell-Davies, Oxford Socialist Party

The cost-of-living crisis is leaving us with the cruellest of decisions. Do we dare put the heating on? Can we visit our friends and families, knowing what the petrol, or public transport, would cost to get there? There have been stories of people rejecting rice or potatoes at food banks, because they can’t afford the energy to cook them.

Forced to live through the deepest drop in living standards for many decades, more and more angry people are looking for a way to fight back. With local elections on 5 May, what can councils do to stop the rot and drastically improve people’s lives?

Although the Tories have massively cut funding to local authorities, councils still control one-fifth of all public spending, not to mention the billions of pounds they have in usable reserves.

Councils must fight

What are council reserves for if not to help local communities at a time of emergency? Clearly, that time is now.

Councils should use their significant reserves, along with their borrowing powers, to finance policies that could lift millions out of poverty. By taking a lead on tackling the cost-of-living crisis, councillors could rally the support of local people and become figureheads of a mass campaign to win back all the money that has been robbed from communities over the past 12 years.

Councils could tackle extortionate housing costs by implementing a compulsory register of all private landlords and imposing rent controls, decided democratically by councillors, local trade unions and tenant associations. This could be accompanied by a mass building programme of thousands of eco-friendly, low-rent council homes to meet the needs of all, which could start to take tenants out of the clutches of the profiteering landlords altogether.

Councils could pay all council workers at least £15 an hour, as well as above-inflation pay rises, while launching a mass campaign encouraging all workers in their authority to join a trade union and fight against low pay in their workplaces.

In Oxford, the Labour council proudly promotes its ‘living wage’ of £10.50 an hour. But what kind of ‘living’ does this really get you in 2022 Britain? As a hospitality worker, my hourly wage comes to about £11 including tips, but the best this gets me is a small room in a multi-occupancy house, shared with four strangers.

This begs the question: if Labour is unprepared to stand up for working-class people, then who will? Socialist Party members are fighting for a socialist alternative to the cost-of-living crisis, standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on 5 May. Labour, and all the establishment parties, want to uphold the capitalist system that punishes the working-class majority with poverty wages, rising prices, and no prospect for a happy future. That’s why we campaign for a new mass party that fights for socialism – a system where workers democratically plan the use of society’s overwhelming wealth and resources to meet the needs of all.