Coventry Labour Council Cuts Budget – Time to Organise for a Trade Union & Socialist Election Challenge this May
By Dave Nellist, Coventry North Socialist Party
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, CV1 2HA