Council cuts in Coventry – the worst is yet to come!
Labour leader Ann Lucas
We are pleased to carry the following exchange regarding the cuts at Coventry City Council. We believe this will be of interest both to trade union members and activists at Coventry City Council, as well as the people of Coventry.
On Friday 6th June Labour leader of the Council wrote an email to all employees concerning the cuts that they will be implementing. The first piece is a letter from Dave Nellist which appeared in the local press explaining that the Council should be fighting the cuts from central government, not carrying out their dirty work.
Below that follows a further piece where Lucas makes excuses for not fighting the cuts, and lastly Dave responds with a short article that has appeared in the Coventry Observer newspaper.
Is Ann right, or do you agree with Dave? If you agree with Dave that Labour should be fighting the cuts and that we need a new political alternative, then fill in the form at the bottom to get in touch to see how you can help!
Letter from Dave Nellist to the local press
You were kind enough to give me space recently to predict that, after the local elections, many people who had put their faith in larger parties would be disappointed as cuts in local services continue.
It hasn’t taken many days for the Labour leader of Coventry Council, Cllr Ann Lucas, to confirm that warning.
In a major email to all council employees on Friday, June 6th Cllr Lucas said that, despite all the cuts so far, “the worst is yet to come”, and the Council would be “ending some services and needing fewer employees”. Whereas the Council had been the last resort for people who need it, she said “I think we may be beyond that now”.
The scale of this crisis has not just happened, it’s been obvious for some time. So why wait till 2 weeks after the election to be “absolutely honest” – surely the honest position would have been to explain these things to staff and the wider electorate before May 22nd so they knew what voting Labour would lead to?
Secondly, if the cut in Tory Government funding to Coventry has been so severe, in fact reduced by half, why has Labour gone along with it? Not only has there been no resistance from Labour locally, there would no change if Labour won the General Election. The party’s shadow Treasury minister. Chris Leslie MP, has said Labour “won’t be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years”.
So just what is the point of Labour?
Working people in Coventry deserve better than this. If “standing up for and protecting our most vulnerable” is really important to Labour the conversation they need to have with the people of Coventry is how to campaign together to stop the cuts, not how to implement them.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Article in the Coventry Observer
Warning of more council job cuts and services to be axed
By Matthew Bates Wednesday 11 June 2014 Updated: 12/06 10:37
COUNCIL workers should be braced for more job losses and services axed.
In a letter to all staff council leader Ann Lucas warned money was so tight the council might not even be able to remain a last resort for vulnerable people – a goal it has aimed for throughout austerity.
Hundreds of jobs have been cut and millions axed from public spending over the past four years.
One former city MP attacked the admission and its post-local elections timing, and said bosses should be campaigning against cuts rather than implementing them.
In her letter, seen by the Observer, Coun Lucas thanked staff for their hard work over a tough year during which the council had dealt with both the tragic death of Daniel Pelka and the Ricoh stadium saga with dignity.
But she admitted: “I have talked in the past about us becoming a place of last resort for people who need it, I think we may be beyond even that now.
“Our biggest single bill is our payroll bill. If we are delivering fewer services we need fewer employees.
“By introducing more efficient and flexible ways of working we can deliver better value for our residents with less bureaucracy and red tape, and fewer employees.”
But Dave Nellist, a former Labour MP and Socialist city councillor, said the scale of the crisis had been obvious for some time.
“Why wait till two weeks after the election to be ‘absolutely honest’ – surely the honest position would have been to explain these things to staff and the wider electorate before May 22 so they knew what voting Labour would lead to?
“If standing up for and protecting our most vulnerable is really important to Labour the conversation they need to have with the people of Coventry is how to campaign together to stop the cuts, not how to implement them.”
But Coun Lucas told us she had been honest in warnings around the council’s budget, which will have been cut in half by 2016.
She said: “Indeed, some opponents would have probably set an illegal budget, refusing to accept the alternative. The alternative is national government ensuring a legal budget by indiscriminately cutting services without any understanding of local need.
“Opposition is easy, just say no to everything. Being in control is having the courage to protect as best as possible the people of Coventry from an uncaring Tory-led government hell bent on destroying local government.”
Reply from Dave Nellist printed in the Observer 25-06-14
Councillor Ann Lucas, the city’s Labour leader (Observer, June 11), says, “Some opponents would have probably set an illegal budget …. (which would have led to) national government ensuring a legal budget by indiscriminately cutting services without any understanding of local need”.
There is a long way between doing nothing to challenge the coalition cuts and setting “an illegal budget” (which by the way, when part of a determined campaign, resulted in Liverpool in the 1980s getting tens of millions of pounds of additional funding from Mrs Thatcher).
In the first instance the City Council could use its reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid making cuts. After all it borrowed money last year to buy the Coombe Abbey hotel’s £6.5 million bank loan and to lend to Coventry-based student accommodation company Study Inn.
It could use some of its reserves to make sure that all bedroom tax-related arrears are written off, and publicly call on Housing Associations to withdraw any court proceedings or eviction orders where the bedroom tax has been a factor.
It could use its legal powers to refer local NHS decisions, initiate referenda and organise public commissions and consultations as part of campaigns to defend public services.
But, in the end, the best way to mobilise the mass, national campaign that is necessary to defeat the wholesale dismantling of council services is to set a budget that meets the needs of our city and then campaign both directly, and with other councils, for the government to make up the shortfall.
Ann says “Being in control is having the courage to protect as best as possible the people of Coventry from an uncaring Tory-led government hell bent on destroying local government.”
I would argue that doing nothing to campaign against the Tory-led government cutting our Council budget by half, is not preventing the destruction of local government at all.
Trades Unionist and Socialist Coalition
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