Coventry Labour Council Cuts Budget – Time to Organise for a Trade Union & Socialist Election Challenge this May

Coventry Labour Council Cuts Budget – Time to Organise for a Trade Union & Socialist Election Challenge this May

By Dave Nellist, Coventry North Socialist Party

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

Today’s Council meeting will see another £19 million of Government cuts passed on to Coventry people resulting in further deterioration in jobs and services.

Last year the only two parties represented on the Council – Labour and the Tories – voted unanimously for the cuts budget. This year, even if amendments on the margins of the debate are proposed, the outcome will be the same.

The austerity parties of the Establishment have an overlapping agenda to make ordinary people pay for an economic crisis triggered by the casino-like activities of the banks.

There is no voice on the Council representing the real interests of Coventry people. No voice defending Council workers jobs, pay, pensions and conditions. No voice arguing against cuts in essential services previously delivered for the old or the young,  or across the city’s communities.

Listen to the debate as it unfolds today. It matters little whether Tories talk of a national need for cuts to balance a budget after they and Labour authorised £350 billion to protect the interests (and the bonuses!) of the bankers and their financial system. It also matters little whether Labour speaks of making the cuts ‘with a heavy heart’.

Cuts with enthusiasm or an aching heart hurt just the same – especially to those for whom the safety net of Council services are no longer there.

Forty years ago Coventry was the richest working class city in the country – with plenty of well paid factory jobs, where strong trade unions policed employers (not the other way around).

Now we have the fastest rising dependency on food banks, with thousands of people in our city victims of low paid insecure work, or of arbitrary benefits sanctions, denied even the basics and forced to turn to charity to survive.

We are apparently still the sixth richest country on the planet, yet nationally over the last twelve months,  homelessness and the use of food banks has doubled! That’s because the riches of this country are not in the hands of the majority, or spent on the needs of them and their families.

Two basic things need to change.

Firstly, the trades unions in Coventry, particularly the Council unions –  Unison, Unite and GMB – need to grasp just how serious the situation is. With the budget being decided this February £43m will have been cut from the city since 2010.  But this is still only the beginning.

Council documents talk of a further £24m next year, and £11m more the year after that; that’s almost the same in the next 2 years as the last 4, but from an already savaged budget.

Unions need to plan sufficiently serious industrial acton that will force Council management to withdraw the attacks on jobs and services.  That means they should campaign with bodies like the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) – now supported by 8 national trade unions – for coordinated national action against austeity, with unions planning for a national stoppage on the same weekday as a first, serious step to forcing back this overlapping austerity agenda.

Secondly, there looms a simple, but crucial, question for trades unionists – what do we do this May when councillors or candidates from the main, austerity parties want another 4 years in office, receiving a minimum of £50,000 for that 4 years in pay and expenses?

How can trades unionists vote Labour when Labour offers no resistance to austerity – indeed Labour leaders have loyally promised not only will they carry out the same public spending cuts in 2015/16, but they intend to be tougher than the Tories on the welfare budget!

The Socialist Party believes every councillor or candidate of a party promoting austerty should be opposed.

We’re working with independent trade unions such as the RMT to stand over 600 candidates on May 22nd, including here in Coventry, in the biggest left of Labour challenge since the Second World War.  Already we have activists from Unite, Unison, RMT and other local unions prepared to stand pledged to oppose the cuts – could you be a candidate, or help us in our campaign?

We have our warning. The Council budget document predicts “national spending plans mean that local government will not be able to sustain the current range and level of services in the future”.  That will happen, unless we do something about it!  Join us in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition challenge in the May elections.  Join us in the Socialist Party to be build the socialist alternative.

Coventry Trade Unionist & Socialist Election Campaign 2014 Launch Rally

Wednesday 26th March, 7.30pm

Coventry Methodist Central Hall (The Lounge Room)

Warwick Lane
, Coventry City Centre, 

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‘SHOCK HORROR’…Poverty Minimum Wage doesn’t work! – Time to Fight for a £10 an Hour Minimum Wage!

‘SHOCK HORROR’…Poverty Minimum Wage doesn’t work! – Time to Fight for a £10 an Hour Minimum Wage!

By Mark Best – Coventry West Socialist Party

The head of the Low Pay Commission George Bain which introduced the minimum wage 15 years ago, has slammed the current system which leaves many workers paid very little.

Recent research by a thinktank he heads has found that there are 1.2 million workers paid the minimum wage and 1.4 million on top of that that earn less than 50p an hour more. The situation for many workers today sees them entering a job sector on a minimum wage with no prospects of improving their lot. Paying the bare minimum is seen by employers as acceptable as, “everyone else is doing it.”

The issue of low pay is so severe that even George Osborne is considering raising the minimum wage to £7 an hour. Labour politicians speak of a living wage a bit higher than this. However this ‘living’ wage includes benefits eligible because someone is on a low income.  A fight is needed to introduce a proper living wage, one that the government doesn’t have to subsidise big businesses for not paying workers enough and one that gives working people a decent standard of living.

Employers paying workers a pittance comes at the same time as zero hours contracts become widespread.  An estimated 6.5 million people are on contracts which offer them little guaranteed work and pay. People are left in the situation where there they don’t have guaranteed money to pay rent, buy food etc, even though they’re supposedly have a job.

We require a fightback, to create decent jobs for young people facing mass unemployment, to end zero hours contracts & for a £10 minimum wage as the first step. We need a Socialist system that provides for needs the many, not one that lavishes the few. A society owned and democratically  planned by the millions of ordinary people  not the bosses!

Join the fight for a better world, join the socialists!

Socialist Party members campaigning for a £10 an hour minimum wage

Socialist Party members campaigning for a £10 an hour minimum wage

Socialists Oppose “Ring and Ride” Service Cuts

Socialists Oppose “Ring and Ride” Service Cuts

Robert McArdle is a Socialist campaigner in Lower Stoke ward in Coventry. Here’s what he had to say about Coventry Council’s latest plans for cuts to public transport!


“One of Lower Stoke’s Councillors, John McNicholas chairs the Centro Integrated Transport Authority and is assisted by fellow Lower Stoke Councillor Catherine Miks (Vice Chair – Task and Finish Committee).

Instead of building a campaign to stop money being robbed from this vital public service, they have had a hand in the latest £7m of cuts announced this week. Coun McNicholas said that 15 per cent cut will “inevitably impact further on Centro’s staff and the way they deliver services”, reports the Coventry Telegraph.

Councillors are happy to take the money for sitting on committees but opt to take the “easy” option by passing on government cuts dutifully.

What will this £7m of cuts look like for those in Coventry who reply on public transport? It will mean higher prices at a time when pensioners are already cash strapped because of hikes in energy and food costs. Jobs will be lost and services reduced. Yet this is not the end, cuts will be expected in the years following IF we allow them to get away with it.

As a Socialist, I believe the best way to provide public transport is to take it out of the hands of greedy private companies that serve shareholders not the public. We believe in a properly fully funded transport service that serves the needs of the public. That means affordable, accountable bus services. I think I would have a few choice words to say to the government if I were a Councillor!

If you believe that buses, trains and trams should be run by the public instead of puppet Councillors and profit driven companies like National Express and Virgin – then vote for the women and men who are standing as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates. Better still, become one of those voices and stand as a candidate or help elect us to fight for the people of Coventry.”

Bedroom Tax beaten in Scotland

Bedroom Tax beaten in Scotland

Bedroom Tax protest

Bedroom Tax protest

The Scottish Government has effectively abolished the “bedroom tax” in Scotland by increasing the funding for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to ensure that tenants will not be affected.

Campaigners from Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax welcomed this decision, with campaigner Robert McArdle saying

“This is a victory for campaigners against the bedroom tax across the UK. The Scottish Government has been forced to support tenants by using Discretionary Housing Payments, exactly what we’ve been asking Coventry Council to do – if they and other councils do the same, we can beat this law.”

Former Labour MP and Socialist councillor Dave Nellist supports the campaign, and restated the campaigns determination to fight the bedroom tax, saying

“This decision by the Scottish Government begs the question, if they can beat the bedroom tax why can’t Coventry Council? We will continue to demand housing associations like Whitefriars refuse to evict tenants affected by the bedroom tax.”

The following is an article from members of the Socialist Party in Scotland, who have been at the forefront of the campaign against this hated tax.

Article from Socialist Party Scotland 

The bedroom tax has been effectively defeated in Scotland. The announcement that the Scottish government intends to end the crushing burden of the hated and reviled bedroom tax is a huge victory.

Mass campaigning, the organisation of hundreds of public meetings the length and breadth of Scotland; thousands marching on demonstrations; lobbies and protests of councils, MSPs and the Scottish government and a refusal to accept any possibility of evictions, proved an unstoppable force.

The defeat of the hated tax will also give a huge boost to campaigners in England and Wales who will step up demands for its abolition and for councils and housing associations to refuse to carry out evictions.

The Scottish government has asked the Con-Dems at Westminster to allow it to provide payments to kill off the tax for 2014/15.

Regardless of whether the Tories allow this, the money can and must be given to social landlords by the Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Scotland to write off all bedroom tax from 1 April 2013 onwards.

The Scottish government had come under enormous pressure from the anti-bedroom tax campaign that, from the start, demanded the SNP use the powers it has to scrap the tax.

The Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, that united the majority of the local campaigns and in which Socialist Party Scotland members played a leading role, was crucial in this victory.

The campaign in Scotland will remain vigilant and will continue to fight to demand all bedroom tax debts are written off.

And that any and all legal action currently being taken by councils and housing associations, leading to possible eviction, is immediately suspended.

The campaign shows that austerity can be defeated. Imagine what could be achieved if the UK’s seven million-strong trade union movement is mobilised in the form of a 24-hour general strike against all the Con-Dems’ cuts.

…now let’s end all council cuts

The Con-Dem government has slashed spending by over 25% to the ten most deprived areas in England which includes Manchester, Liverpool, and Hackney and Newham in east London.

The government severely cut council tax support to local authorities by £500 million last year. £100 million of this cut was deferred by transitional support arrangements which have now ended.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Trust charity the latest round of government cuts to local authorities will mean 270,000 of the poorest households (who previously could claim a full council tax rebate) seeing their council tax bills rise, on average, by £80 to £176 a year.

Currently, some 600,000 people are in council tax arrears and 500,000 have been issued with court summons for non-payment. 400,000 people have been issued with liability notices and 70,000 have received bailiff letters.

Despite shadow Labour ministers condemning this Con-Dem iniquity, Labour councils have simply passed the government’s spending cuts onto the backs of their poorest residents.

We need an alternative

Labour has failed to protect the most vulnerable, so what is the point of voting in the May elections for a party that has failed to mobilise any effective opposition to this government of brutal austerity?

Any suggestion that an incoming Labour government will reverse these cuts is wishful thinking as Ed Balls has already announced that he would stick with Chancellor Osborne’s budget plans.

All the more reason why working class people should unhesitatingly cast their votes for Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates (which include Socialist Party members), and also campaign for and stand as TUSC candidates themselves.

Report from the picket line at the University of Warwick

Report from the picket line at the University of Warwick

Workers on the picket line

Workers on the picket line

Workers from UCU, Unite and Unison at both Warwick and Coventry University went on strike today over the dismal 1% pay rise they’ve been offered. This offer is well below inflation, and thus is yet another pay cut for university staff – in real terms, their pay has been by 13% since 2009. However, despite this appalling offer and the massive cuts being made at Warwick, their Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift has just received a 10% pay rise – from £220,000 to £244,000!

Many postgraduate students work as part-time lecturers, as university management can employ them with low pay and poor conditions. This practice exploits the students, who should receive grants to support them in their studies, and undermines the pay and conditions of full time lecturers.

Socialist Party and Socialist Students members went to the picket line at Warwick to show our support. Around 30 people joined the picket, including workers from all three unions on strike and students showing solidarity with them. Many drivers showed support by beeping their horns, and the solidarity showed by students was obviously appreciated by staff.

Dave Nellist – Russia Today interview

Dave Nellist – Russia Today interview

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

See below for a Russia Today interview with Coventry Socialist Party member Dave Nellist. On the plans for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to stand in over 600 seats nationally in the Council elections this May.

Coventry Socialist Party will be standing in all 18 seats in the May 22nd Council elections in Coventry as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.  Our candidates will be the only ones standing up for ordinary working class people in the City.  Some of the key things we will be Demanding and fighting for are;

  • An end to austerity
  • More jobs and homes
  • Better pay and services
  • A reversal of all the cuts to have taken place in the City
  • The scrapping of the Bedroom Tax and cap on rents

Do you agree with us and with what Dave has to say in the interview?

would you like to help the campaign in Coventry? or Join the Socialist Party?

phone/text 07530 429441

Council unions in Coventry stage protest against cuts and in support of pay claim

Council unions in Coventry stage protest against cuts and in support of pay claim

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite outside the Council House today

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite outside the Council House today

By a council worker

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite working for Coventry City Council today held a lunchtime protest against continuing cuts and to build support for the 2014/15 pay claim.

The protest was part of a national day of action organised by the three unions with many similar actions taking place around the country.

Over recent years council workers, 75 per cent of whom are women, have seen huge real term drops in our pay, as the cost of living has continued to rise. We have had our pensions attacked, and face the constant threat of redundancy. The cuts that are taking place not only have an impact on those who work for the council, but crucially those who rely on key public services.

The protest today took place just weeks before Coventry City Council, which is Labour run, will vote to implement even more of these cuts from central government. Pressure needs to be put on these councillors to resist the Tories, not do their dirty work.

As a start, nationally (and locally) the three unions need to start demanding from Labour run Local Authorities that they should refuse to pull the trigger on local services on behalf of the Tories.

Activists within the unions need to build pressure from below to ensure that the union leaderships  forcefully pursue the pay claim this year – which includes preparing the membership for the need for industrial action if the Local Government employers do not come back with a satisfactory offer. Our members are struggling to survive, with some having to visit Foodbanks to get by. That is not acceptable and needs to be properly challenged!

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Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Following the article in today’s Mirror newspaper by Kevin Maguire, we have received this comment from a Unison activist in Coventry. We welcome responses which can be made on this site using the comments function or by emailing us – see details at the bottom

The trade union – Labour link, time to end it

Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire has made a very interesting contribution to the debate about the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. His article which is available online here makes some very telling points about the reforms being carried out by Ed Miliband and what the unions and their members actually get out of the link with Labour – which is not very much at all.

Maguire’s columns regularly make some very good comments on the situation facing working class people in the face of Tory austerity – he also prominently supported the Youth Fight for Jobs re-creation of the Jarrow March in 2011.

He outlines the situation facing the unions today with regard to the relations with the Labour Party

‘Rather than enduring a thousand indignities, organised labour should take its money and people and abandon institutional links with the party it fathered, nurtured, saved and continues to sustain.’

However Ed Miliband dresses up these far reaching reforms, which were triggered by his blind panic over the selection of a parliamentary ­candidate in Falkirk, the truth is he wants union cash but not the unions.’

Time to end the link

Many Unison members, as well as many members of other affiliated trade unions have been calling for an end to the Labour Link for some time. As we have pointed out on many occasions – it is an abusive relationship where we hand over millions of pounds in affiliation fees only for Labour to attack us. Whilst in government Labour did little or nothing for the trade unions, including failing to scrap Tory anti-union laws.

Any thought that Labour would move to the Left in opposition was quickly dispelled. In the dispute in the Falkirk constituency Labour called in the police to investigate Unite for fighting for trade union policies within the party, opening the way for Ineos to attack the Unite convenor which had a negative effect on the outcome of the struggle at Grangemouth.

‘Sticking a red rosette on austerity’

Labour are as committed to austerity as the Tories. Much fuss has been made about the announcement that Labour will push up the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 50 per cent – however as the pro capitalist journal The Economist points out ‘The 50 per cent rate is a political sop, thrown to Labour’s electoral base by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, to make up for the austerity measures that he has also, rather more vaguely, promised, many of which will hit poorer Britons.’

Maguire makes the excellent point later in his column with regard to the cuts in the Environmental Agency following the recent floods.  He states

‘At a private meeting, GMB union reps urged Labour frontbencher Maria Eagle to promise she’d halt Environment Agency job cuts blamed for flooding.

She wouldn’t. Labour attacks on the ConDems are a wet blanket when the party just sticks a red rosette on austerity.’

Council cuts

Maguire talks about the leaderships of Unison, GMB and Unite not being happy with the relationship. This is very timely given that these three unions represents millions of workers, many of whom work for local authorities. For example here in Coventry which is Labour controlled we face the prospect in the coming weeks of Labour Councils setting budgets which will see union members lose their jobs and vital services in working class areas slashed. Damn right the unions aren’t getting value for money!

However particularly in Unison the pro Labour leadership have attempted to stop any debate or discussion about the Labour Link, including witch-hunting Socialist Party members who amongst other things have called for a break with Labour. Too many times has the Unison leadership put the interests of the Labour Party before its own membership.

Activists in the affiliated unions will have to continue to push hard and build further organised support within the workplaces to break the link.

New party of the working class needed – TUSC prepares for May challenge

The Socialist Party has consistently called for a break with the link with Labour. We welcome Kevin Maguire’s article as a contribution to the debate in the trade union movement and the working class more generally about the future of working class representation.

However in itself the breaking of the union – Labour link will not be enough. We believe what is urgently needed is the formation of a party for working class people and trade unionists, an independent political voice that will oppose all austerity, that will put the needs of the 99 per cent above that of the 1 per cent. A party that will restate and articulate the need for socialist policies to fight capitalism.

With that aim, we are a key part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC, which has the support of the RMT union and many other leading trade unionists from PCS, POA, FBU, Unison, Unite, CWU, GMB and many other unions. Already we know there will be at least 400 TUSC candidates across the country, including 18 here in Coventry where we will be standing in all 18 seats. TUSC and the Socialist Party will be the only anti austerity option for voters in May. We encourage anyone who is sick of the 3 establishment parties to contact us and to help us with the tasks ahead.

Questions, comments, want to get involved? Please email or fill in the form below