Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

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Dave Nellist

The following piece is a press release sent to the local media regarding the local elections in Coventry on May 2nd, 2019. If you agree with us, please fill in the form at the bottom to get involved. You are also invited to our public meetings, see details at the end!


‘Socialist Alternative’ is the electoral name of the city’s Socialist Party.  The party is fielding 3 candidates in the local elections: in St Michaels, Lower Stoke and Radford wards.

Party spokesperson, and candidate in St Michaels, Dave Nellist, the former Labour MP, claims that the Conservative government has cut £120 million a year from the city’s budget. He argues that this has exacerbated austerity.

“Coventry was once the richest working-class city in Britain, now we have thousands of people relying on foodbanks, and people sleeping in shop doorways in the city centre”, he says. “Essential services such as libraries and youth clubs are underfunded, under threat or closed.”

Good quality, affordable housing

Many people find it hard to get good quality, affordable housing in Coventry, according to Mr Nellist.

“The Socialist Party wants more public housing in the city. The two universities ‘dash for growth’, particularly with city centre student tower blocks, is leaving local people behind. And for many debt laden students they face exorbitant rents to make large profits for developers.”

Compulsory register of landlords

“Neighbourhoods are being blighted by changing housing ownership and use”, declares the former socialist city councillor. We urgently need a compulsory register of private landlords so that housing conditions and fly tipping can be tackled.”

Opposition to PFI

The Socialist Party organised the main opposition to the PFI financing of University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire and has collected thousands of signatures against what it describes as “rip-off” car parking charges at Walsgrave.

Mr Nellist said: “The car parking charges at the hospital, and the profit made by the private company that collects them, are a national scandal. It’s a tax on ill-health and should be abolished immediately”.

Lack of serious strategy to challenge austerity

The Socialist Party complains that the Council says it has no choice but to implement “savings” but has managed to find millions of pounds to invest in Coombe Abbey hotel or loan to student developers. It further alleges that the Council has lost millions of pounds by not using a national levy to charge developers of student accommodation.

The Socialist Party wants Coventry Council to:

  • adopt a legal no cuts budget;
  • freeze council tax and abandon planned cuts in council staff, pay and conditions.
  • oppose new charges for museums and sports facilities;
  • use council reserves to offset next year’s cuts and future cuts planned in areas such as children’s services;
  • link up with other local authorities to campaign for restoration of government funding;
  • call on Labour leaders to pledge to reimburse reserves spent, or borrowing undertaken, defending local communities in this way.

Not afraid to put Brexit into its local campaigning

Mr Nellist said: “I helped Tony Benn organise the “No” vote in 1975, and socialists campaigned for a leave vote in 2016. In our campaign we are calling for a Brexit that benefits workers, putting the millions ahead of the millionaires.”

“Neither remaining in, or aligned to, the EU – nor a Tory pro-big business Brexit – will provide a solution to austerity and privatisation. For that we need a change of government, major re-funding for local councils, and socialist public ownership.”

Opportunity to widen the political debate

“We are the sixth richest country in the world, yet our schools and hospitals lack the resources they need. Something is not right!”

“In this election we hope to widen the political debate and convince more people that socialist planning in the interests of the majority, not the fat cats at the top, could mean that we can both protect our environment and ensure everyone has a decent life”, he ends.

Socialist Alternative candidates:

St Michaels – Dave Nellist

Radford – Isla Boadle

Lower Stoke – Terri Hersey

Details of election public meetings – all welcome!

Austerity deepening, Tories in Brexit crisis – we need a voice for working class people!

Monday 29th April, 7.30pm Jubilee Crescent Community Centre, CV6 3EX

Tuesday 30th April, 7.30pm, Humber Pub, Humber Road, CV3 1BA

 

If you agree, fill in the form below to get involved!

Published by Dave Nellist, Coundon Road, CV1 4AR

A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

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We recieved the following article from a Socialist Party member who works in the social housing sector. 

A recent Dispatches programme prompted the question “ Are Housing Associations
the New Landlords from Hell?”

Datshiane Navanayagam investigated various complaints from Sanctuary Housing
tenants, including one family living in a Sanctuary property that was riddled with
mould, damp, rot, slugs and silverfish. This family’s youngest child has been
diagnosed with Reactive Airways Disease and has been in and out of the hospital on
several occasions. The parents and their little boy slept in the living room while the
other six boys shared one bedroom because the rest of the house was uninhabitable. The living room and bedroom also contained damp and black mould.

The family complained several times to Sanctuary with no avail. They then called in
environmental health, who categorised the home as a very serious health risk. They
presented this report to Sanctuary who sat on the report for four months. The family
submitted evidence from their surveyor, hospital specialist and their GP. They also
had the backing of their local MP. Eventually, they used the Data Protection Act and
were able to obtain internal emails from Sanctuary. These emails showed that
Sanctuary knew the dangers of the property. Captured in one of the emails was the
suggestion that they (Sanctuary Housing) delay the response in hope that the tenants
would get tired and move out. The family have since hired a no win no fee solicitor.

Finally, after 21 months of complaining Sanctuary went into the house to make the
necessary repairs. However, when the family moved back in a month later they were
already noticing that streaks of water were coming down the kitchen wall indicating
to them that nothing structural had been done to truly alleviate the cause of the
damp and mould problem.

Navanayagam investigated another case where an elderly man’s son
informed her that his dad had his boiler disconnected by a Sanctuary engineer
because the boiler was unsafe. However, it was not immediately replaced even
though his father had chronic bronchitis. His father was given four small electric
heaters as a substitute until the boiler could be replaced. His dad did not feel he
could use all four at the same time due to potential fire risk as well as the expense. His dad was on a pay as you go meter.

The son noticed that his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse and after five
weeks without a new boiler his father was hospitalised and diagnosed with a lung
infection. The son stated that the nurses told him not to take his father home until
the boiler was fixed. His father died in hospital of bronchial pneumonia. His boiler
was finally replaced one month after his death and two and half months after the boiler was initially turned off.

These two examples, though extreme, are only the tip of the iceberg. In her
investigation Datshiane found several other complaints made by tenants against
Sanctuary Housing. There are several complaints about delayed repairs. Datshiane
spoke with a Sanctuary gas engineer who stated that they were under so much
pressure to do things that they never had time to fix things properly.

Sanctuary’s failure to look after their properties goes against the original ethos of Social Housing; that everyone deserves a decent and affordable home. Navanayagam rightly asks how is it that housing associations have lost this focus?

Housing Associations’ roles started to change after the 1988 Housing Act was passed. That act allowed for the first time for housing associations to borrow private money
in order to build affordable homes. Since then the Government has pushed housing
associations to build more homes, and this is how they have become
to be judged – not by the upkeep or the quality of the service they provide to
tenants.

Additionally, deregulation and funding cuts have helped pave the change in culture in which Housing Associations act like private developers. This culture includes paying their senior staff incredibly high salaries; for example, in 2017 Sanctuary’s CEO made £365,000 and their Chief Financial Officer made £240,000! Most of their Board of
Directors come from the financial and legal sector with no background in housing.

The Housing Association sector as a whole has problems with repairs and
maintaining their homes. The English Housing Survey discovered that across the
Housing Association sector that 11% of housing association properties failed to meet
The Decent Home Standards and 5% of properties had problems with damp and
mould.

Housing Associations are often not prosecuted because they exist in a loophole
between being government and private bodies, and the government tends to look at
them as private entities outside of government control. Adding to this, in 2010 the Tenant
Services Authority which was responsible for the inspection of housing associations
and addressing residents concerns was abolished. In 2015 the Audit Commission
which played a key role in monitoring housing associations was dissolved. Tory
policy continues to deregulate the sector, meaning that councillors and local
authorities have little power to take action against housing associations.

Social Housing tenants often feel ignored, stressed, drained and powerless to change
things due to the perceived stigma of living in social housing – including being told that “you should feel lucky that you have a roof over your head” if you dare to complain about the poor standard of your home. This is reinforced by government policies and
rhetoric, the right-wing press demonising benefit claimants and social housing tenants, and of course exploitative TV programmes like Benefits Street, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, On Benefits and Proud and The Great British Benefits Handout.

Safe and secure housing for working class people should be a right, not a luxury! The Socialist Party calls for a massive programme of council house building, and rent controls to stop greedy landlords exploiting people.

If you agree, please get in touch by filling out the form below!

May’s government facing Brexit endgame

May’s government facing Brexit endgame

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With the Tory government in crisis we republish below the editorial from the latest issue of The Socialist newspaper.


With just ten days until the date of departure from the EU at the time of writing, there is unprecedented daily turmoil in parliament on what will happen. The government’s position has become so intractable that a complete government collapse is possible in the coming days or weeks, with a general election becoming the only solution.

Alternatively, prime minister Theresa May is now so discredited and ineffectual for the Tories that a no-confidence vote in her government might again be moved, with enough Tory MPs voting for it this time to bring about success. Then parliament would have 14 days to come up with another government, or a general election would be called.

Either way, a trade union-headed workers’ movement – with a plan of action – needs to be launched to help sweep the Tories out of power. It’s also needed to prepare a massive campaign to get Jeremy Corbyn in as prime minister, with socialist policies.

This outcome is greatly feared by the capitalist class. “The top 0.1% in Britain are doing very well”, wrote the economics editor of the Sunday Times. They want no obstacles to their hoarding of vast wealth, which could be created by the election of a government proposing to take measures in workers’ interests.
But the capitalists’ political representatives in Westminster are mired in such an acute and protracted civil war over Brexit that now is the time to turn the tables on them. Now is the time to take full advantage of their weakness, kick out the Tories, and inside Labour turn seriously to the task of deselecting the Blairites.

From crisis to crisis

On 12 March, Theresa May had her withdrawal plan decisively defeated in parliament for the second time. The week included Brexit minister, Stephen Barclay, summing up a debate in parliament in which he called – on behalf of the government – for a short extension to the withdrawal deadline.

He straightaway bare-facedly defied May by voting against the extension himself. Seven other cabinet ministers also voted against it and Tory chief whip Julian Smith abstained.

They had allowed their MPs a ‘free vote’ on that motion, but on one which ruled out a no-deal Brexit, the government whipped Tories to reject it after it was amended to apply indefinitely. The government lost that vote, with 13 ministers abstaining and one voting against. Cabinet members were among them, but the government is so powerless and fragile that May felt unable to take any action against them.

These votes were not binding, but no plan has yet been passed and May’s government has been sinking more and more deeply into crisis. When Attorney General Geoffrey Cox didn’t assist May’s deal by giving a legal assurance against the UK becoming stuck in the EU Customs Union, there were frantic attempts to get his ‘opinion’ altered.

Faced with threats that Brexit might not otherwise happen – or could be softened further or long delayed – there is a small possibility that May could end up getting a variant of her deal voted through.

But the parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t yet add up for that and many different scenarios are possible over the coming weeks. A new factor is a ruling by the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow that May can’t have a third vote on her deal if it remains the same.

Pressure is escalating in Tory and establishment circles for May to be removed. Although she won a confidence vote in December, an attempt to force her to resign could come.

Who would replace her? Numerous Tory ministers and MPs are flaunting themselves as leadership candidates and canvassing for support, but none have a position or strategy that could bridge the chasm over Europe in their party.

Extent of division

Certainly, there’s sharp division on the EU among MPs, in many cases reflecting their careerist ambitions. But the Socialist Party strongly counters the idea – repeated ad nauseam in the capitalist media – that working people are fundamentally divided on this issue.

A dangerous and inciting example of this was shown in Will Hutton’s 17 March column in the Observer. He argued that on the one side in society are pro-EU Remainers who recognise the “interdependencies” between European countries, realise the need for EU institutions that can tackle climate change, want a strong public

sector, effective trade unions, and are not hostile to other cultures, languages and people. On the other side, are those who support Brexit, who want “a world of closure, intolerance and suspicion of the other”, according to Hutton.

The idea that useful and desirable cooperation between people across Europe is only possible by supporting membership of the EU is complete fiction and pro-capitalist propaganda. The EU is, in essence, an alliance of the ruling classes across Europe, to serve the interests of big business, not those of working-class and middle-class people across the continent.

A socialist confederation of European states would be able to achieve levels of cooperation and mutual benefit for ordinary people way beyond what is possible on a capitalist basis.

Public ownership of the top companies that dominate the economies, together with democratic socialist planning, would mean the raising of living standards for all working people. This, and the removal of profit-making and market competition as over-riding forces, would also lay the basis for resources and cooperation to stop environmental disaster and enable rapid progress in useful technology and medicines.

It would be the very opposite of a Europe of ‘intolerance and suspicion’. Rather, it would be one where the removal of poverty and austerity would cut the ground from beneath distrust and racism.

Working-class people, whether they presently identify with the Remain or Leave side, have the same class interests. Corbyn recognises this. For instance, he said in Wakefield in January: “The real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.
He must cut across the confusion and scepticism arising from the manoeuvrings in parliament and get out this message loud and clear, along with a promise of pro-working-class measures both regarding Brexit and irrespective of it.
This also means standing firm against the Labour Blairites who want to reverse the EU referendum result. Corbyn needs to stick to the demand for a general election, and help to mobilise the labour and trade union movement to urgently bring it about.

If you agree with us, get involved! Click here for more information.

 

PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

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As the national ballot opens in the PCS civil service trade union, we have received the following comments from a union rep in Coventry, urging a YES vote.


Ballot papers for the PCS union’s national strike ballot over pay are going out to members starting this week.

Among the most shocking of the facts about civil service pay is that it has fallen by 11.4% – more than other groups across the public sector.

Almost 40% of workers in the DWP – one of the largest groups covered by PCS – are forced to claim benefits to top up their abysmally low pay.

PCS is calling for an increase of 10% with a minimum underpin of £2,400 and a Living Wage of £10 an hour nationally and £11.55 in London.

The ballot papers will go out from March 18th, and it is vital to get as many members to vote. The draconian anti-union laws from the Tories mean that a 50% threshold is needed; although on the ballot last year we didn’t meet the threshold, the anger over pay will not have disappeared.

Alongside the national ballot are smaller groups taking action over working conditions, such as the 2 days of action recently at Wolverhampton and Walsall Universal Credit sites.

This Tory government is weak and divided, and civil service pay has remained dismally low since 2010. A victory in the ballot would not only see members taking action on pay, but give them the confidence to fight against the Tories. I urge all my fellow union members in Coventry and across the country to ensure they vote, and help us build up a strong, militant, democratic and fighting union in our workplaces.

 

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

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Outside Coventry City Council

Friday 15th March saw students across the world take part in a strike to protest against environmental damage and climate change. This follows the recent release of a report by the UN which claims that we have 12 years to cut down on carbon emissions before we reach the planets carbon limit, the point of no return.

Global protests involving young people have started to take place in reaction to this. Young people today look forward to a bleak future and will face the harshest consequences of the capitalist systems systemic exploitation of the earth. Capitalism is a profit-driven system. The logic of profit that drives big business and the system as a whole has led to the exploitation of the earths natural resources, such as oil, gas and rare minerals, to return a quick buck for the capitalist class whilst the rest of us have to deal with the consequences. This is evident by the fact that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions (Guardian, 2017: Just 100 Companies Responsible for 71% of Global Emissions, Study Says).

Students locally, in Coventry and Nuneaton, have been protesting to raise awareness of this and the long-term effects this profit driven environmental race to the bottom will have on future generations. Chants such as ‘Say no to climate change, we need system change’ reflect the anger faced by many young people at the planets future prospect. This also points towards the solution.

As environmental destruction and capitalism are completely entwined, we will not be able to tackle climate change without a systemic change in the way society is organised. We need to take the power out of the hands of big business and the Trumps of the world, who their balance sheets over the environment. Instead we need a socialist society, one where ordinary people have control over their communities and how society is run.

Take housing for example, we are in dire need of more affordable housing, especially here in Coventry. A democratically controlled house-building programme would allow our community to have a say in how we build the homes for those who need them now and future generations. We could ensure that all houses built were energy efficient and not reliant on fossil fuels but instead utilised renewable energy and the technology we have available to build a green economy. This however won’t be done by private business or business friendly politicians, we have seen with the Grenfell tragedy that for them only profit talks.

To do this we need to build effective organisations rooted in the working class, who have the power to change society. Students should seek to organise effective student unions in their schools and on their campuses, which can link with the wider trade union movement. The power to change society lies within our hands, but only if we use the tools at our disposal to make that change happen by building a socialist society.

If you agree with this then contact the Socialist Party to learn how you can join the fight against climate change, capitalism and for a socialist future.

Complete the form below for more information, and we will be in touch!

UCU hold Alternative Open Day Protest at Coventry University

UCU hold Alternative Open Day Protest at Coventry University

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Members of UCU at the rally

The Coventry University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) held a rally today calling for “Education Not Marketisation”. The Alternative Open Day protest drew support from not only UCU members, but trade unionists from UNITE, UNISON, NEU, NUJ and Coventry TUC, as well as students. The Socialist Party were proud to support this rally and bring our solidarity.

Staff had called a protest on the official Open Day of the university where prospective students were due to attend to highlight a number of serious issues. As the UCU leaflet pointed out

“The week before last two of Coventry University’s outstanding research centres were closed putting 53 staff at risk of redundancy and leaving their students without proper supervisors. Staff recently balloted for strike action over the Performance Management System they are trying to impose on us. Our Recruitment and Admissions was recently outsourced to a subsidiary where staff have hugely inferior conditions. The staff at Coventry University who will teach you or you son or daughter are people who really care about your education. We just wish we could say the same about the University’s Senior Management.”

Speakers pointed how the university, and education in general, is not run in the interests of learning and development, but about profit. Marketisation and commercialisation are inherent in the proft driven capitalist system. The fight for free, high quality education where the interests of staff, students and the local community are put first, goes hand in hand with the struggle for a socialist planned economy, where the needs of the majority are put before that of the profiteers.

 

 

 

A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis

A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis

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We have received the following short article from a UNISON member in Coventry concerning the comments of union general secretary Dave Prentis about the 7 MPs who have resigned today from the Labour Party. We also refer readers to the latest editorial from our newspaper The Socialist.


The news that 7 Labour MPs today walked away from the Labour Party has been met with a mixture of laughter and anger from many trade unionists who want to see an end to this Tory government. Laughter, because the 7 seem to take their claims seriously that Labour (and by extension the trade unions) have somehow become a hotbed of ‘anti-semitism’ ‘bullying’ and ‘abuse’. It should be said that this laughter has increased even further with one of the 7, Angela Smith, making a disgusting comment on live TV regarding people of ‘funny tinge’. How can anyone take their supposed anti racist credentials seriously?  But also anger, because at the same time as working class people are struggling to get by, that workers face more pressure at work due to austerity and have to rely on foodbanks, these so called public representatives are doing everything they can to undermine the chances of a government that may act in the interests of working people.

It is in this context that the general secretary of our union, Dave Prentis, has taken to Twitter to attack the left wing leadership of the party. Once again Prentis shows his true colours with regard to what he thinks of Jeremy Corbyn and anti austerity policies in general. Rather than call the 7 what they are – traitors acting in the interests of the Establishment in order to undermine a potential Labour government, he attempts to lay the blame everywhere other than at the door of the MPs that have resigned.

The only ‘terrible news’ concerning them leaving the Labour Party is that they had not been removed by the democratic mechanism of mandatory reselection, and replaced with socialist fighters who would act in the interests of working class people.

Dave Prentis has once again shown what side he is on. It is high time we had a general secretary and union leadership prepared to fight for our members who have suffered year on year from austerity cuts.