Coventry Socialists join protest against increased charges for children’s disability transport

Coventry Socialists join protest against increased charges for children’s disability transport

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Refused and charged for transport

Earlier this week a protest took place outside the council house in Coventry. Michael Morgan, who will be standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Henley ward, has written this report.


Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn it is fantastic and indeed very positive that we now have a Labour leader talking about anti austerity policies against the continued cuts of the Conservative government.

Unfortunately this is not yet translating to a fightback against austerity at a local level with Labour councillors carrying on as before. In this case they are planning to charge disabled children’s families up to £600 for transport services to school once they are 16 years old.

This is at the same time as the council holds reserves of over £100 million! They still prefer to pursue what some have labelled vanity projects, such as buying Coombe Abbey Hotel, than to effectively oppose Tory cuts. They then continue to claim that they must increase council tax, that they must charge the families of children with disabilities for the ability to travel and receive an education, and to claim that they must ‘save’ money.

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) argues that if the council can afford to buy a hotel, then they can surely afford to give disabled children the opportunity to get their education, and not to be charged for it.

The Socialist Party is standing several TUSC candidates on the 3rd of May in Coventry to oppose policies such as this. In particular we are standing against cabinet member Kevin Maton in Henley, who is behind the charges. Local Conservative councillors and activists have attended protests organised by the campaign against these charges – however it is highly hypocritical when you look at what the Tory government is doing to working class people, particularly those with disabilities. It is incongruous for Tories to campaign for the rights of disabled people on a local level when the Tory party leadership are making it harder for people with disabilities to receive benefits.

The parents of the campaign have done a great job in organising and arguing their case, including mounting a legal challenge to the council – as they believe the proposed charges are age discriminatory. The Socialist Party will continue to raise this issue in our local election campaign and continue to support the campaign until the council stops these discriminatory charges.

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Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%

Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%

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Marching against cuts in Coventry

Labour controlled Coventry City Council has voted yet again to increase Council Tax – this time by 4.9% – meaning we will pay more for less.

Tory cuts from central government have hit cities like Coventry, since 2010 the money coming to Coventry has decreased by £107million. At the same time because the Council has not fought back, this has only encouraged the Tories to cut even more. Not a single Labour (or Conservative) councillor voted against the rise in council tax today.

Rather than fight back against the government, the Council has slashed thousands of jobs, closed libraries, introduced charges for children’s disability transport and brought in volunteers to do jobs previously done by paid employees.

Since 2010, whilst having their money cut the Council has increased their reserves from £45 million to over £94 million.

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has consistently put forward that the Council should use this money to halt cuts in services, link up with other Labour councils and campaign to win the money from central government. The government is weak. A concerted effort could win. The alternative to this is passing on Tory misery to Coventry people. It is fantastic that as leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has been putting forward anti-austerity policies – this must also extend to ending Council austerity here in Coventry.

Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

We are pleased to republish this week’s editorial from The Socialist newspaper.

How can we save our local leisure centre? What can be done to halt gentrification and meet housing need? How can the deepening crisis in social care be addressed? What must be done to protect local jobs and halt attacks on pay and conditions?

These are just a few of the questions which working class people are asking, especially as we approach council budget setting and May’s local elections.

They are questions which demand concrete answers in the here and now. Rhetoric, handwringing, and semi-pious exhortations to ‘hold on for a general election’ are all utterly insufficient.

Yet at present, it is this that is on offer, not just from Labour’s Blairite right (many who are actually brazen with their anti-working class policies and sentiments) but even from the leadership of Momentum.

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North and former shadow fire minister, appears to have been pushed to resign from the front bench after making comments about an alternative to local government cuts.

Acknowledging that the austerity which has been dutifully doled out by councils over the last seven years is in fact intolerable, he argued that Labour-run local authorities could consider increasing council tax for those living in properties which fall within the highest tax bands.

This, he said, could be used to help raise the funds needed to stop cuts and protect services.

Fighting austerity

Socialists must always oppose any increases in taxation which have the potential to fall on people with low or middle incomes.

Council tax, which is calculated based on the estimated value of properties in which people live (whether as tenants or owners) and which does not properly take account of people’s ability to pay, could certainly not be described as progressive.

Chris Williamson’s proposals did acknowledge this, and included ideas for ways for those on lower incomes to ‘claw back’ increases in the tax on higher bands – to protect cash-poor pensioners, for example.

This complex schema, to be approved in each council area in a local referendum, would be open to ferocious attacks and distortions by the Tory media.

Nonetheless, he was grappling with vital questions: how can Labour councils act to protect working class people from the ravages of austerity? How can they play their part in fighting to ensure that the burden of paying for capitalist crisis does not fall on workers, pensioners and youth?

For Labour’s right, this is a crime which cannot be tolerated. Since the beginning of Corbyn’s leadership the Blairites have sought to use their base in local government – where they have the vast majority of Labour councillors – in order to undermine him.

In particular, they have ferociously opposed any suggestion that Labour councils might have options other than those of cuts, privatisation and redundancies.

In one indicator revealing the extent to which many Labour councillors have accepted the ‘logic’ of neoliberalism, it has been revealed that Leeds City council was on the verge of offering a £100 million contract to the parasitic company Carillion just before its collapse.

But councillors do have a choice. Around Britain, Labour councils currently hold over £9.2 billion in general fund reserves.

They administer combined budgets of almost £75 billion. They have substantial borrowing powers, as well as the ability to work together to ‘pool’ funds and collaborate with other local authorities.

In other words, far from being powerless ‘technocrats’, bound by the logic of austerity or the chaos of the market, Labour councils are in fact a potential alternative power in Britain.

Indeed, even if just one Labour council was to take a stand, using reserves and borrowing powers and refusing to lay more hardship on working class people, it could mobilise behind it a mass campaign and have a profound effect on the political situation.

It could hasten the demise of May’s weak, divided government and bring about an early general election.

Any hint that councillors could take such a road is anathema to the Blairites. That is why it was disappointing that Corbyn and McDonnell appear to have bowed to their pressure by encouraging Williamson’s resignation.

Unfortunately, this has not been their first retreat on the issue. As part of their mistaken strategy of attempting to ‘keep on board’ the Blairite rump that remains dominant in Labour’s parliamentary party, local government and machinery, they have made a number of concessions to the demands of the right on this issue.

NEC elections

But far from placating the right and buying their loyalty, concessions like these have only encouraged the Blairites to press Corbyn to back down on other issues.

In particular, these have included questions of party democracy and the selection and reselection of candidates.

Labour’s recent national executive committee (NEC) elections saw Momentum-backed candidates win all three of the available seats.

This means that for the first time since Corbyn’s election as leader, his supporters (all-be-it of varying shades of politics and loyalty) will have a narrow but clear majority. Momentum’s self-appointed leader Jon Lansman was among those elected.

This is potentially a step forward. The question is: how will this position be used? To fight for mandatory reselection that will allow Labour members and trade unions the chance to democratically decide candidates and kick out the Blairites? To help take on cuts-making Labour councillors and support any and all who are prepared to resist austerity and refuse to implement cuts?

In recent weeks, Momentum’s leadership has begun to push an alternative strategy for ‘fighting’ local government cuts, which is based on a model put forward by Bristol’s Labour mayor, Marvin Rees.

The essence of it is to support and call for protests against cuts, and to use these as a platform to ask the government to provide more funding – hoping that the pressure of large demonstrations will bear down on May’s government.

Borrowing from the strategy put forward by the Socialist Party, they even suggest drawing up ‘needs-based’ budgets.

But unlike us, they see this as merely an exercise in propaganda, not as something to be acted upon and implemented. It is here that the strategy ends.

Should the Tories refuse to provide funding, councils should, according to Momentum’s leaders, make the cuts as required.

Those who have joined protests to demand an alternative should be asked to simply accept that the council ‘has no other option’.

They should be asked to continue to cast their votes for Labour councillors, even while they make themselves busy destroying local jobs and services.

Demonstrations are not a bad place to start. But they must be linked to a strategy which includes councils refusing to implement cuts.

So far, the ‘Rees model’ has singularly failed to extract further funds from the Tories. Indeed, when the Bristol mayor came to London to meet the communities’ secretary he was snubbed – not even offered a meeting!

Socialist and left-wing politics means little if it is unable to provide a way forward in the real struggles faced by working class people in the here and now.

In the June election, Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto generated a surge of enthusiasm because it began to offer answers to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people.

But this manifesto provides a sharp contrast with the programme on which the majority of Labour’s right-wing councillors will be standing at this year’s local elections.

As Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett put it at this year’s TUC congress “if Labour councillors act like Tories we should treat them like Tories”.

In the view of the Socialist Party, this should include being prepared to provide an electoral challenge to cuts-making councillors – whatever colour rosette they wear.

Break the pay cap – join the protest on Saturday

Break the pay cap – join the protest in Saturday

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Join the Coventry TUC protest

Coventry Trades Union Council have organised a protest for this Saturday to campaign against the Tory government’s 1 per cent pay cap on public sector workers. Speakers will also highlight the plight of workers in the private sector, who also face attacks and insecurity in the form of zero hour contracts and much more.

Read this article from a recent issue of The Socialist newspaper for further background.

Coventry TUC protest – break the pay cap

12-1pm, Broadgate Square, Coventry

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

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Coventry PCS members in the DWP taking strike action

This article was sent to us by a local member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents DWP staff.

The DWP has revealed that Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre will be one of the many offices facing closure over the next few years.

This will place more pressure on claimants to travel further and at greater expense to “sign on” – and risk facing sanctions for being late or failing to turn up.

There is also the potential for hundreds of job losses across the country, with Tile Hill being just one of the sites earmarked for closure. Glasgow is facing the closure of 8 out of its 16 Jobcentres. The PCS union, representing civil servants and including staff who work in Jobcentres, has said it opposes all of the planned closures.. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said the union “will vigorously fight any attempt to force DWP workers out of their jobs”.

The potential for hundreds of job losses comes at a time when there are already drastic cuts being planned for the Civil Service Compensation Scheme – which for many will mean being made redundant on the cheap. The office closures must also been seen in the light of this governments continued attacks on the working class – the brutal cuts in welfare and to local services.

Sadly “The Job Shop” has also been threatened with closure. This is a “double whammy” for people who want to get back into work, as both the DWP and Coventry Council are closing services designed to help them find employment!

A strong campaign including claimants, Jobcentre workers and trade unions is needed to fight sanctions and cuts. The PCS has a proud record of campaigning against welfare cuts.

If we are to ultimately defeat cuts, we need to take on the system which demands them. Capitalism in crisis tries to boost its profits by slashing jobs and wages, and cutting big business tax bills. The alternative is to fight for a socialist society, run for the millions not the millionaires.

New issue of bulletin for Council workers out now

New issue of bulletin for Council workers out now

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The “Cov Council Socialist”, a bulletin for workers at Coventry City Council is out now. Issue 21 looks at the massive cuts that are being proposed by the Local Authority and outlines how a fightback can be started. There is also information regarding the national demonstration to defend the NHS on 4th March. The bulletin can be downloaded-here.

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

Campaigners ourside the Council house hand in petitions of over 2800 signatures

On Monday anti-cuts campaigners handed in petitions with over 2800 signatures against library and youth service closures.

Sarah Smith from Save Coventry Libraries said “This is a further sign of the massive opposition throughout Coventry to the council’s cuts agenda.”

Almost 800 people signed the “Stop Youth Club Closures” petition initiated by Bailey Evatt, one of the service users.

Bailey Evatt with Dave Nellist

Coventry Council say they have to make cuts, but they don’t – they could use the £95million+ that they have in reserves to fund services to hold the line and buy time to build a campaign to get back the money that the Government has stolen from the people of Coventry.

Campaigners holding a poster created by youth club users