Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies welcome – now Coventry Labour councillors must fight cuts

Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies welcome – now Coventry Labour councillors must fight cuts

Dave Nellist and Jeremy Corbyn marching

Jeremy marching with Dave Nellist against the expulsion of socialists from the Labour Party. Photo credit Dave Sinclair

Jeremy Corbyn’s emergence as the front-runner in the Labour leadership election has shown the appetite that exists across the country for anti-austerity policies. Polls indicate that Jeremy is on course for a landslide win, with some bookies already paying out on the prospect!

Coventry Socialist Party would welcome a Corbyn victory, and hope Labour adopts his anti-austerity programme. A Labour Party committed to opposing cuts and backing that up in its actions could inspire the support of millions of working class people across the country.

There are over 7000 Labour councillors in the country and, at time of writing, only 450 have publicly endorsed Jeremy’s campaign. That includes just 3 in Nuneaton and Bedworth Council, two on Warwick Council but none from Coventry. When George Osborne demands even more cuts in council services this autumn, it sadly doesn’t sound like Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity call is going to have many supporters amongst Coventry’s 41 Labour councillors.

We’ve stood anti-cuts election candidates across Coventry, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, against Labour councillors who have voted to pass on Tory cuts. Coventry’s Labour council has voted to close down libraries, attack trade union facilities, sack lollipop men and women and decimate public services in our city. We don’t think that’s what a Labour council should be doing – that’s why we’ve lobbied them along with anti-cuts campaigners and trade unions and demanded that they fight cuts, and that’s why we stood candidates against them when they refused to do so.

If Jeremy wins, he won’t just have to make changes to the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to the undemocratic party machinery – he’ll need to change how Labour councils respond to Tory cuts. Instead of spinelessly voting for more and more austerity measures, they should be fighting back. Instead of cutting facility time for trade unions, they should work with them to build an anti-cuts movement. Instead of letting dodgy landlords run riot, they should cap rents and build houses.

Coventry’s Labour councillors should pledge to use some of the £81million they have in reserves to fund services, while building a campaign to get back the money that central Government has cut.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could inspire an anti-austerity fightback in our workplaces and our communities. Councils should be part of this fightback – but if, next May, Coventry’s Labour councillors go into the election promising more “reluctant” cuts, we will stand against them offering a socialist, anti-cuts alternative.

Over 50 people join lobby of Coventry council

Over 50 people join lobby of Coventry council 

Protesters gather outside the Council House

Protesters gather outside the Council House

Over 50 people joined a lobby of Coventry Council’s first full meeting since being elected on May 7th. The lobby, organised by campaigners from Save Coventry Libraries, saw a petition of over 2200 signatures against the closure of Tile Hill Library handed in by TUSC candidate Sarah Smith.

A number of staff members and service users from the Employment Support Service (TESS) also attended the protest, and spoke passionately about the support TESS provides, both in helping disabled people find employment and giving ongoing assistance at work. Coventry Unison members also attended to show support to members of the community fighting to defend local services.

A number of councillors passed the protesters and some even stopped to listen to what we had to say – unfortunately Foleshill’s Abdul Khan was not one of them, and dismissed service users by stating that TESS “isn’t [his] portfolio”. Despite repeatedly being asked to oppose cuts, none of the councillors committed to voting against further austerity measures proposed by the Labour council.

Many speakers pointed out that one lobby of the council won’t force them to back down, and further action will be needed, such as the protest against Osborne’s austerity budget on July 8th (5.30pm at Broadgate in Coventry). One campaigner stated that if the councillors we’ve got won’t fight back, at the next election we should replace them with some who will.

Lobby Coventry Council – save our services!

Lobby Coventry Council – save our services!

Protestors outside the Council House

Protestors outside the Council House

Anti-cuts campaigners plan to hold a lobby of the first full meeting of Coventry’s newly elected council on June 23rd at 1pm. The groups, such as Save Coventry Libraries, want to continue to put pressure on the council to fight cuts rather than implementing them.

Sarah Smith, a Tile Hill resident who has been campaigning against the closure of her local library, will be handing in a petition of over 2200 signatures against its closure. She said “Libraries provide a crucial service for the people of Coventry, and the thousands of people who have signed this petition and others show how the strength of feeling about them. Rather than closing libraries and cutting jobs, the council should use some of the £81million they have in reserves to fund services and build a campaign to get this money back from central Government.”

Other campaign groups such as Youth Fight for Jobs, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and campaigners against the closure of the Employment Support Service (TESS) will also be joining the lobby. Heidi Crowter, a young TESS user with Down’s Syndrome, said “TESS is fantastic because as well as helping people find employment they help people stay in employment. I think it is really selfish of the council to close this service and shows that they don’t really care about people finding employment. The council shutting this down is making me feel really scared for what the future will hold for me. “

Vote against austerity today – vote TUSC!

Vote against austerity today – vote TUSC!

Vote TUSC!

Vote TUSC!

Voters in Coventry and across the country can vote against austerity, cuts and capitalism today. The mainstream parties and UKIP all think that ordinary people should pay for the crisis that the bosses, the bankers and the super-rich caused. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is the only party that’s 100% against austerity and pledges to vote against all cuts.

Vote for the socialist alternative – vote TUSC!

If you want to help the campaign in Coventry on election day, phone Lenny Shail on 07530429441.

Will you be voting for TUSC? let us know!

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist 

Dave speaking at Coventry's May Day rally

Dave speaking at Coventry’s May Day rally

This letter about council cuts from former Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist was printed in yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph. Read this article if you want more background on the council’s planned cuts and what the Socialist Party would do differently.

“There’s been little coverage, so far, of the 18 contests for city council seats also taking place on May 7. So allow me raise one issue that I think could define those elections.

On April 22 the Telegraph carried the welcome story of a stay of execution for a City Council jobs service which helps some of the most vulnerable people in the city, at least until the end of the year.

This follows earlier decisions to delay for consultation the imminent closure of libraries, and cuts to disabled children’s transport. None of those decisions will now be taken before the election.

But in fact none of those decisions need to be taken at all.

None of the planned cuts to libraries, children’s and family centres, community centres, adult education centres, lollipop men and women, street cleaners and park maintenance are necessary.

Because when the City Council made its decision in February to set a budget including £15 million worth of cuts to the services mentioned above (and another thousand secure jobs lost to young people in the city) it did so on the money it knew at that time it had as income.

But since then we have learned that Wasps RFC is going to re-pay this summer the balance of the £14.4 million council loan, given to the Ricoh management company which Wasps now own. In other words the City Council will have for this year’s budget £14 million more than 3 months ago it thought it would have.

So here’s a question we could ask to every aspiring councillor in the last few days of the campaign: do you agree that the repayment of that £14 million Ricoh loan should be used to save our libraries, lollipop men and women, disabled children’s transport, jobs service for the most vulnerable and the other services under threat?

Yours sincerely,

Dave Nellist
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition”

Agree with Dave? Want to fight the council cuts? Fill in the form below to get involved!

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

At Coventry Council’s budget meeting on Tuesday February 24th, the governing Labour group voted unanimously to support a budget containing £15million worth of cuts. These cuts will lead to the closure of libraries, adult education centres, children’s centres, and the sacking of many council workers including lollipop men and women.

The National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), former MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, handed in a 1,500 strong petition against the cuts to the Cabinet meeting held in the morning before the budget “debate”. When presenting the petition, Dave argued that the council should use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign to get the money back from central Government, and campaign for an incoming Government to provide financial relief to councils which used reserves to fund services.

Dave pointed out that the council has doubled its reserves from £40million to £80million, as well as making political decisions to use reserves for the ACL loan (£14million), investing in Coombe Abbey hotel (over £6million) and £millions more in Study Inn sites – “why don’t they make the political decision to use these reserves to fund services we need now, not for projects in 5, 6 or 7 years time?”

“This is nothing new. 40 years ago the Council faced cuts from a Labour Government under the IMF, and the Council leader, Arthur Waugh Sr., called a meeting in St Mary’s Hall of every Labour local authority, to call on the Labour Government not to make cuts.” Dave Nellist

In his brief response to reject the petition, Labour councillor Damian Gannon, Cabinet member for finance, claimed that reserves cannot legally be used – we would strongly challenge this claim, and ask under what law is it illegal for the council to use its own reserves? Even Tory minister Eric Pickles has called on councils to use reserves, and he isn’t known for advocating illegal budgets!

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Mr Gannon also claimed that the majority of the reserves cannot be used – however, even taking into account the £18million set aside for schools, the £10million the council plans to spend on privately-built old people’s homes (which should be built by the council, not private businesses), £4million for Ofsted improvements and around £3.5million that the council has used to fund children’s services and disabled children’s transport (demonstrating that the reserves can be used to fund expenditure!), there is around £45.5million left. Instead of setting this money aside for future projects, or “for a rainy day”, the council should acknowledge that it’s already “raining” and use it now!

If the councillors believed that the election of a Labour Government in May would make a difference, they could begin campaigning now for an incoming Labour Government to reverse all cuts, restore funding to local Government and reimburse any money the council had to use from reserves. However, despite council leader Ann Lucas’ theatrical prayer for a Labour Government in the council chamber, the evidence suggests that they know a Labour Government will act in the same way as the Tories. Perhaps they have heeded the words of their director of finance, Chris West, who said recently that “there is very little difference between the financial plans of the two main parties. Whoever wins the next election, the picture is broadly the same.”

Reflecting on the Cabinet meeting at which the petition was rejected, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist and community campaigner Robert McArdle said “It seems as though Labour councillors are willing to use reserves for anything except fighting cuts, and aren’t prepared to mount a battle against austerity.”

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

Before the budget meeting in the afternoon a group of trade unionists and socialists lobbied the council to ask the councillors going in if they would vote against cuts. Sadly none of the councillors were swayed – we believe this shows the need for an anti-austerity challenge at the next election, to elect councillors who will listen and fight.

The budget meeting was more eventful than most council meetings, particularly as the opposition to cuts throughout was demonstrated by the presentation of 3 petitions against library closures – one of them presented by Labour cllr Ram Lakha, who went on to vote for the budget which will probably lead to the closure of the libraries!

Labour’s Damian Gannon moved the budget, which was described by a Tory cllr as “a Gannon korma not a Nellist vindaloo”! Even this is perhaps flattering to the budget, however, which many people across Coventry will have found hard to swallow.

For the most part the budget consisted of “tangible service cuts that our residents will see and feel”, in cllr Gannon’s own words. However, the proposal of a £500,000 “transition fund” to enable “community groups” to run services was notable. This concept chimes perfectly with David Cameron’s vision of a “big society”, in which the state and local government have ceased to run services and they are instead taken over by volunteers – not the first time that our Labour council has echoed Tory values.

While volunteers can do valuable work, a team of untrained individuals, however dedicated, will not be able to run services as effectively as trained staff. The council is using this fund as a way to distract from the massive damage these cuts will cause. It is also important to ask how much of this £500K will be going to private vultures like PriceWaterhouseCooper, who the council have previously used?

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

Cllr Gannon said that the council has “no choice but to make cuts”, and “has made bold and brave decisions”. A bold and brave decision would be to fight the cuts, not do the Tories’ dirty work!

During council leader Ann Lucas’ speech, despite appealing to the trade unions to work with the council, she attacked their position towards the council as “drivel” and criticised the “outraged middle class” for protesting against cuts. We want the council to work with the trade unions as well – but we want them to work together to fight the cuts, not make them.

Coventry Council does have a choice. They could use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign against cuts – but they’ve chosen instead to make ordinary people pay with our jobs and services. Cllr Gannon rightly said that the Tories are “on the side of the few not the many” – but which side are Labour on?

The Socialist Party will keep building the campaign against austerity within the trade unions, in our communities and in elections as part of TUSC . We will also campaign against the capitalist system, the cause of austerity – and replace it with a socialist system, run by the millions not the millionaires.

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

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Cathy Cassidy speaking at NUT “Save Our Libraries” meeting. Nicky Downes centre, Alan Gibbons far left

Around 50 people attended a “Save Our Libraries” meeting on Tuesday 3rd March, organised by the National Union of Teachers. The meeting, chaired by Coventry NUT President and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Nicky Downes, heard speeches from authors Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy about the importance of libraries and the campaign to save them.

Socialist Party member Dan Crowter spoke at the meeting about the need for the council to adopt a fighting strategy by using their reserves to buy time, and build a campaign with trade unions and community groups to get the money back from central Government. Afterwards we interviewed children’s author Cathy Cassidy about the campaign.

Dan: Where do you think the campaign to save the libraries should go now?

Cathy: We need to keep it up. This [the one year delay of closures] isn’t breathing space, it’s a chance to build the campaign. The protests and lobbies of the council should continue, write letters to the paper, turn up to meetings and councillors surgeries. Keep saying it. Be a thorn in the side of the council! The campaign in Coventry has been amazing, so keep it up. Put pressure on the council – I don’t believe any Labour councillor wants to make cuts.

Dan: So what would you like to see the council do instead?

Cathy: Well, instead of making cuts with a heavy heart, why aren’t their hearts so heavy that they decide they can’t make the cuts? If it’s playing on their minds, if it’s weighing on them, on their consciences, they should listen to that. They should listen to the people of Coventry, and stand up for the people and for the children who use the libraries. Children keep contacting me and telling me they care about their libraries, asking me to stop this from happening in their town – the councils need to listen.

Thanks Cathy for doing the interview and supporting the campaign – join the fightback against library closures and all cuts!

Tile Hill Library campaigner – “Why I fought to save our libraries”

Tile Hill Library campaigner – “Why I fought to save our libraries”

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Sarah Smith

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Sarah Smith

On Monday 23rd February scores of protestors held a “read-in” at Coventry Council House to protest at the councils proposals to close libraries in the city.

One of them was Sarah Smith from Tile Hill, a Socialist Party member and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) activist who campaigned against the closure of Tile Hill Library and has now organised a petition against the closure of Jardine Youth Centre and Tile Hill Children’s Centre.

Below are some remarks she wrote about the campaign.

“The Library “read in” protest on Monday involved the telling of stories, so here is a story of a girl, who as a child had nothing. This girl got kicked out of school aged 14 without being able to read or write and was branded a good for nothing.

This girl used to pass a house often and in that house lived Dave Nellist, this girl heard that this MP stood up for people like her but didn’t ever dare to think that one day she would meet him. That girl was me, and now I campaign alongside Dave!

It’s thanks to Libraries and adult education classes that I learned how to read and write and got diagnosed with Dyslexia aged 25. So when I heard of the threatened closures I knew I had to get involved and started the “Save Tile Hill Library” petition, taking it in to every shop on Jardine Crescent. By standing with a stall in Tile Hill, and thanks to the shops support in having the petition, it has gained further support and well over 1000 signatures.

My petition ends Tuesday 3rd March, from there I aim to start a new petition, this time to save the Youth Centre and Sure Start Centre that are in Tile Hill. Finally, I feel very passionately about this campaign and my own theory on the reason why this is happening is the following – we are all entitled to our own opinion, but how do you reference that opinion if there are no books on that Library shelf? I feel that this is an attack on the lower and working class to silence us, but they WON’T silence me!”

Sarah is the prospective TUSC candidate for Woodlands in the May elections. Vote TUSC for fighting local councillors who’ll stand up for you!

Socialist election campaign launched in Coventry

Socialist election campaign launched in Coventry

Dave Nellist addresses the meeting

Dave Nellist addresses the meeting

77 people attended the launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election campaign in Coventry on February 25th. The Socialist Party, which organised the meeting, is standing as part of TUSC alongside the RMT trade union and many leading trade unionists.

Judy Griffiths, Coventry CWU branch secretary and prospective TUSC candidate, chaired the meeting, at which speakers from the FBU, PCS, Unison, Unite, RMT, NUT and NUS spoke (all speaking in a personal capacity), reflecting the base of TUSC and the Socialist Party in the unions across the city.

Jordan Jefferies, a sixth-form student in Coventry and a Socialist Party member, spoke about the anger felt by many young people against austerity, and said that TUSC has been amazing in attempting to engage the people who are disillusioned and disinterested in politics. People are disillusioned and angry with establishment politics and rightly so. The Socialist Party and TUSC are out to build the opposition to “business as usual”.

Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT President and prospective TUSC candidate, spoke about the effects she sees of austerity on children in her job as a teacher.

Nick Harrison, Coventry Fire Brigades Union borough rep had been on strike with his union the same day – supported on the picket lines by Socialist Party and TUSC activists – and spoke about their dispute, and the need for a viable political alternative to Labour.

Lee Cooper, RMT Coventry No.1 branch secretary, spoke about the City Link scandal, the effect it had on workers and the need for a working class political voice.

Former Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist spoke about the TUSC project more widely, and why it is significant in the development of a new party for ordinary people.

This meeting showed some of the appetite in Coventry for a political party that sticks up for ordinary people. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain show the potential for building an anti-austerity alternative. The Socialist Party will build TUSC and fight for bold socialist policies to combat not just austerity, but the cause of austerity – the capitalist system.

Sign up here to get involved in the Socialist Campaign Team for the election!

Labour councillors approve £15 million of cuts

Labour councillors approve £15 million of cuts

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Labour controlled Coventry City Council this afternoon voted through a budget that will see £15 million of Tory cuts passed on to the people of Coventry, meaning vital services and jobs will be lost. Rather than put up a fight against cuts from Tory central government, the Labour Council have surrendered without a fight despite calls from local unions to do otherwise.

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition presented a 1,500 strong petition earlier in the day which was rejected by the Council – see this piece in the Coventry Telegraph for report.

In the coming days we will be doing a more detailed report.

Socialists joined a protest lobby of the Council meeting and will be hosting an election launch rally details as follows –

Wednesday 25th February

7.30pm Methodist Hall, Coventry City Centre,  Cv1 2HA

TUSC supporters

TUSC supporters