Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%

Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%


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.


DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita

DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita


The below article was written by Socialist Party members in the PCS union.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ended up doing an about-turn and scrapped plans to outsource some of its core work to Capita.

The original plans would have seen the handling of new claims to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being instead done by Capita staff, on a much lower salary.

This would have been disastrous for some of the most vulnerable in society – those unable to work due to sickness or disability – for whom ESA is intended. A high proportion of claimants will have mental health issues.

Capita’s previous failure to process Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims on time led to a backlog being built up – which DWP staff then had to go and help clear!

It is near impossible to avoid hearing the flood of horror stories about the private sectors’ handling of medical assessments for benefit claimants. ATOS – now along with both Maximus and Capita – became notorious for the callous way in which its medical assessors would lie about claimants’ conditions in reports, as well as resorting to ‘tricking’ claimants into failing their assessments.

Among the 4,000 submissions of evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the assessments, such examples were highlighted as suicidal claimants being asked why they had not already tried to kill themselves, and blind or visually impaired claimants reported as being able to walk dogs they didn’t actually have. It even came to light that some assessors would ask claimants “when they caught” Down’s Syndrome!

Nothing else could highlight so starkly the complete failure of the private sector to properly carry out work that should remain in-house.

This u-turn is of course a victory – but given the context against which it is set, it should only be seen as one step in a series of future victories against this weak, crisis-ridden Tory government.

Their list of climbdowns is almost embarrassing – far from any ‘strong and stable’ rule, replicating the ‘Iron Lady’, we have seen multiple u-turns and defeats, mostly brought from the pressure of trade unions and the seething anger amongst many in society.

From having to scrap employment tribunal fees, making benefit phonelines free, and even being forced to slash the amount of university tuition fees, there are more victories to be won if the pressure remains and increases!

The demand that all essential public service work be brought back in-house where it belongs is vital.

Fill in the form below if you are in PCS and want to link up with Socialist Party members.

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.

Campaigners lobby Coventry council against cuts to disability transport

Campaigners lobby Coventry council against cuts to disability transport

Members of Coventry Socialist Party were supporting parents on Tuesday, 16th January, who lobbied Coventry Council for three hours against charges of up to £600 for school transport for children with special educational needs.

John Boadle and Isla Windsor explain: “The Council has previously provided free transport to school or college for severely disabled children. Now they are charging parents for each child 16 or over. The amount is £600 a year, or £300 if the family is on means-tested benefits. Almost 1000 children use the school transport, with those aged 16 and over facing the charges immediately, though as each child gets older their families will face the same problem.“

“The impact on families is severe – they are being asked for money they haven’t got.  Parents of children with severe disabilities have their whole lives dominated by that situation. Day and night, for the rest of their lives. And then they worry what will happen to their children when they are gone. If Coventry Labour council can’t provide help for people like that then what are they playing at?“

“There was a lot of public sympathy for the parents. And a lot of determination on the parents’ part. You can see that through the sharp irony of the slogan on their banner: Coventry, City of Cruelty!”

The Tories and UKIP may join protests such as these, but they should remember that they support the austerity that is behind these cuts.

Former Socialist Party councillor, Dave Nellist, who also attended the lobby, said: “If Labour’s national anti-austerity stance is to mean anything, then local councils such as Coventry should refuse to make these cuts.  Instead, they should be using money from reserves whilst building a fight against the Tory government for the restoration of the necessary funds for essential services.”

Break the pay cap – join the protest on Saturday

Break the pay cap – join the protest in Saturday

TUC protest

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

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure


Protesters outside Earlsdon Library

We have been sent the following article by Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith.

Cheylesmore Library will be closing on 10/8/2017.  Okay, so it’s earmarked to be re-opening as a community run Library on 4th September; why all the fuss you ask?

First of all, that is a whole three weeks and four days that a community will be without a library; just when it needs it the most, due to it being the summer holidays.

The government and local councils have NOT done a full investigation into the impact of community/volunteer solely ran libraries, however, they do know this, the average life span for a community/volunteer solely ran library is 18 months, where there has been only a handful of exceptions. Therefore when this happens it appears like they aren’t responsible for the closure of the libraries but the community/volunteers are.

Not only do they give up the responsibility to run these libraries, but they also give up responsibility for the safety of you. These volunteers are not CRB checked.  They will not be trained to deal with medical or other emergencies that occur, such as safe guarding issues, etc.

They are not even obliged to even open up the library as in if volunteers don’t turn up to open it then the library just doesn’t open.


Council’s across the country do not have to impose the cut backs imposed by central government, they could spend reserves and form a campaign against central government for more money; better still, they could say no, if they wanted to and if our local councillors & MP’s refuse to do this, then maybe it’s time to elect those who will stand up for the people of Coventry.

Join the protest outside Cheylesmore Library on Thursday August 10th at 6pm!

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

The below article was written by a member of the PCS union in Coventry, which represents DWP staff.

The Tories plan to make savings of £3.7bn from disability benefits by reducing the number of people eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by 160,000.

This is their response to two tribunal rulings from late last year, one of which would mean the same number of “points” on the assessment given to a person needing help with medication or monitoring a condition like diabetes, as well as someone needing help with therapy like kidney dialysis. The other ruling would score someone who struggled to travel independently because of a condition like anxiety the same points as someone who was blind, for example.

Under this government, disabled people are facing a relentless attack – alongside the cuts to PIP, from April 2017 the weekly rate for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for the majority of new claimants will be cut by 28% per week to only £73.10, a pittance for those who need the support!

Shockingly, Conservative Party Chair Patrick McLoughlin claims they give “very generous schemes” overall, as well as stating that in terms of supporting disabled people, they do “very proudly” in this country!

In the face of these attacks, as well as the threat of further cuts and privatisation of the NHS, the programme of Jobcentre closures across the country and the massive cuts to local council budgets, what is needed is a joint campaign of struggle involving trade unions, the unemployed and claimants, as well as those involved in groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against the Cuts).

This was clearly highlighted in a recent well-attended Coventry showing of I, Daniel Blake, followed by a Q&A session with Ken Loach – with representatives from the PCS, UNITE Community, disabled people and others involved in other campaigning groups.