Labour Council plans to close 100 essential local centres
Coventry’ Labour Council has announced it is to close almost every children and family centre, community centre, play centre, adult education centre, library and suburban office in the city.
The plan, called City Centre First, should be renamed ‘City of London First’ as it’s an abject surrender to an austerity agenda seeking to force working class people and their families to pay for the gambling and speculation of the banks.
City Centre First will rip the heart out of virtually every community in Coventry. It reverses decades of investment from the Council Tax of hundreds of thousands of Coventry residents, into our communities, our neighbourhoods. Hardly a family in the city will be untouched as dozens of public facilities close, and as the few remaining services are re-located, for some, many miles away.
Closures are not necessary
These cuts and closures are not necessary. And it isn’t ‘the only way to deliver a balanced budget’ as has been claimed by Labour’s finance chief, Cllr Damian Gannon.
Coventry Council has reserves of tens of millions of pounds – much of it put aside to fund staff redundancies, to pay for the axing of another 1000 jobs that will then never be available to young people in our city. A proportion of those reserves should be used to preserve jobs and services and offset the shortfall in government funding. This would buy time whilst the Council mounts a serious campaign for the Government to properly fund our essential local services. Council unions should offer to work with the Council in a joint campaign for funding for the needs of the city – but be prepared to take resolute action against the Council if they continue with their plan of surrender.
Cuts and closures must be challenged
Labour seem to have given up the fight without ever engaging the enemy. When the Tories say “jump”, they merely ask “how high?” They no longer challenge whether widespread swingeing cuts are necessary, only how they are to be implemented. Unlike the success of socialist Liverpool in the mid-1980s (when the equivalent of nearly £90 million extra funding was won by a Labour council from Mrs Thatcher), this generation of Labour councillors see no prospect of changing a Tory government’s mind (and David Cameron is no Mrs Thatcher!).
And unlike previous generations of Coventry Labour councillors, such as led by Cllr Arthur Waugh Snr in the 1970s who, when faced with demands for making government cuts into local services, organised a meeting in St Mary’s Hall of Labour council leaders from all around the country to stand together and tell the then Labour Government that cuts demanded by the International Monetary Fund had to be opposed. Today, each Labour council around the country is making similar cuts, instead of standing up to the Tory bullies.
Whoever wins the General Election, working people will suffer
You would think that Labour would be explaining that this was all the Tories’ fault, and that if Labour wins the election next May then the rot would stop and the onslaught of cuts would be reversed. But no; Coventry Labour council assumes that even if their party wins the General Election, Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has promised to match Tory spending cuts £ for £. The demands for service cuts in Coventry in 2016 and 2017 will continue and, whoever wins the General Election, rise to £65 million a year in 3 years’ time. Indeed the Council report announcing these cuts and closures makes these predictions based on “the Government’s June 2013 Spending Round and subsequent indicative announcements of the main political parties nationally”.
In other words it doesn’t matter which of the 4 main national parties you vote for next May, all the national establishment parties are agreed that our local services should be sacrificed to settle the bankers’ debts. And equally it doesn’t matter if the cuts are made enthusiastically by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in London, or with a heavy heart by Labour in Coventry, they will hurt just the same.
If Coventry Labour councillors are not prepared to fight, they should stand aside and let people on the Council who are willing to fight for Coventry.
100 essential local centres are targeted for closure, and out of many of those will come campaigns of angry local people, parents, service users and staff determined to save their local service. But, scandalously, Labour have said that they might not even consult those local people about these plans because, according to the Coventry Telegraph, ‘the closures were viewed as inevitable’. That will be strongly challenged.
And the closures themselves are not inevitable. Local people can force changes in agendas. Petitions, local meetings, delegations to councillors, lobbies of the city council itself – all will be used to press for a change in direction. But if the success in saving one library or community centre is not to mean that something else gets cut even more elsewhere, local cuts campaigns will have to come together in a citywide body and challenge the whole strategy of accepting massive central government funding cuts without question. To get that change means electing people onto the Council who are prepared to fight.
TUSC – the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition
The Socialist Party and our partners in TUSC will work with communities, service users and staff in Coventry, and support each and every campaign seeking to save a local service. As part of our work we will discuss with local campaigns and argue that they should put up anti-cuts candidates in every ward in the city next May, standing under the TUSC umbrella alongside over 1000 similar anti-cuts candidates around the country, all pledged to save local services.
By standing in such large numbers we begin to take that fight to London, and begin to force the media to broaden the debate beyond the speed of cuts, to whether cuts should take place at all!
And if voting Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat or UKIP all mean largely the same diet of cuts to our family services, so that their banker friends can carry on receiving bonuses, then TUSC will mount the largest left of Labour General Election challenge across the whole country seen since the Second World War.
We need a new politics
The cuts aren’t necessary. The rich individuals and corporations presently avoiding or evading £120 billion a year in taxation should be made to pay – not child and family centres, libraries and youth clubs. We have to shift the argument back from ‘how-to’ implement the cuts, to ‘whether’ cuts should be implemented at all.
We need a new politics in this country and TUSC is determined to build one, rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class. Help us challenge the overlapping austerity agenda of the big establishment parties, and build a new political force that doesn’t ignore working people nor leave them behind.
National Chair TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)
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