Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

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Dave Nellist

The following piece is a press release sent to the local media regarding the local elections in Coventry on May 2nd, 2019. If you agree with us, please fill in the form at the bottom to get involved. You are also invited to our public meetings, see details at the end!


‘Socialist Alternative’ is the electoral name of the city’s Socialist Party.  The party is fielding 3 candidates in the local elections: in St Michaels, Lower Stoke and Radford wards.

Party spokesperson, and candidate in St Michaels, Dave Nellist, the former Labour MP, claims that the Conservative government has cut £120 million a year from the city’s budget. He argues that this has exacerbated austerity.

“Coventry was once the richest working-class city in Britain, now we have thousands of people relying on foodbanks, and people sleeping in shop doorways in the city centre”, he says. “Essential services such as libraries and youth clubs are underfunded, under threat or closed.”

Good quality, affordable housing

Many people find it hard to get good quality, affordable housing in Coventry, according to Mr Nellist.

“The Socialist Party wants more public housing in the city. The two universities ‘dash for growth’, particularly with city centre student tower blocks, is leaving local people behind. And for many debt laden students they face exorbitant rents to make large profits for developers.”

Compulsory register of landlords

“Neighbourhoods are being blighted by changing housing ownership and use”, declares the former socialist city councillor. We urgently need a compulsory register of private landlords so that housing conditions and fly tipping can be tackled.”

Opposition to PFI

The Socialist Party organised the main opposition to the PFI financing of University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire and has collected thousands of signatures against what it describes as “rip-off” car parking charges at Walsgrave.

Mr Nellist said: “The car parking charges at the hospital, and the profit made by the private company that collects them, are a national scandal. It’s a tax on ill-health and should be abolished immediately”.

Lack of serious strategy to challenge austerity

The Socialist Party complains that the Council says it has no choice but to implement “savings” but has managed to find millions of pounds to invest in Coombe Abbey hotel or loan to student developers. It further alleges that the Council has lost millions of pounds by not using a national levy to charge developers of student accommodation.

The Socialist Party wants Coventry Council to:

  • adopt a legal no cuts budget;
  • freeze council tax and abandon planned cuts in council staff, pay and conditions.
  • oppose new charges for museums and sports facilities;
  • use council reserves to offset next year’s cuts and future cuts planned in areas such as children’s services;
  • link up with other local authorities to campaign for restoration of government funding;
  • call on Labour leaders to pledge to reimburse reserves spent, or borrowing undertaken, defending local communities in this way.

Not afraid to put Brexit into its local campaigning

Mr Nellist said: “I helped Tony Benn organise the “No” vote in 1975, and socialists campaigned for a leave vote in 2016. In our campaign we are calling for a Brexit that benefits workers, putting the millions ahead of the millionaires.”

“Neither remaining in, or aligned to, the EU – nor a Tory pro-big business Brexit – will provide a solution to austerity and privatisation. For that we need a change of government, major re-funding for local councils, and socialist public ownership.”

Opportunity to widen the political debate

“We are the sixth richest country in the world, yet our schools and hospitals lack the resources they need. Something is not right!”

“In this election we hope to widen the political debate and convince more people that socialist planning in the interests of the majority, not the fat cats at the top, could mean that we can both protect our environment and ensure everyone has a decent life”, he ends.

Socialist Alternative candidates:

St Michaels – Dave Nellist

Radford – Isla Boadle

Lower Stoke – Terri Hersey

Details of election public meetings – all welcome!

Austerity deepening, Tories in Brexit crisis – we need a voice for working class people!

Monday 29th April, 7.30pm Jubilee Crescent Community Centre, CV6 3EX

Tuesday 30th April, 7.30pm, Humber Pub, Humber Road, CV3 1BA

 

If you agree, fill in the form below to get involved!

Published by Dave Nellist, Coundon Road, CV1 4AR

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A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

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We recieved the following article from a Socialist Party member who works in the social housing sector. 

A recent Dispatches programme prompted the question “ Are Housing Associations
the New Landlords from Hell?”

Datshiane Navanayagam investigated various complaints from Sanctuary Housing
tenants, including one family living in a Sanctuary property that was riddled with
mould, damp, rot, slugs and silverfish. This family’s youngest child has been
diagnosed with Reactive Airways Disease and has been in and out of the hospital on
several occasions. The parents and their little boy slept in the living room while the
other six boys shared one bedroom because the rest of the house was uninhabitable. The living room and bedroom also contained damp and black mould.

The family complained several times to Sanctuary with no avail. They then called in
environmental health, who categorised the home as a very serious health risk. They
presented this report to Sanctuary who sat on the report for four months. The family
submitted evidence from their surveyor, hospital specialist and their GP. They also
had the backing of their local MP. Eventually, they used the Data Protection Act and
were able to obtain internal emails from Sanctuary. These emails showed that
Sanctuary knew the dangers of the property. Captured in one of the emails was the
suggestion that they (Sanctuary Housing) delay the response in hope that the tenants
would get tired and move out. The family have since hired a no win no fee solicitor.

Finally, after 21 months of complaining Sanctuary went into the house to make the
necessary repairs. However, when the family moved back in a month later they were
already noticing that streaks of water were coming down the kitchen wall indicating
to them that nothing structural had been done to truly alleviate the cause of the
damp and mould problem.

Navanayagam investigated another case where an elderly man’s son
informed her that his dad had his boiler disconnected by a Sanctuary engineer
because the boiler was unsafe. However, it was not immediately replaced even
though his father had chronic bronchitis. His father was given four small electric
heaters as a substitute until the boiler could be replaced. His dad did not feel he
could use all four at the same time due to potential fire risk as well as the expense. His dad was on a pay as you go meter.

The son noticed that his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse and after five
weeks without a new boiler his father was hospitalised and diagnosed with a lung
infection. The son stated that the nurses told him not to take his father home until
the boiler was fixed. His father died in hospital of bronchial pneumonia. His boiler
was finally replaced one month after his death and two and half months after the boiler was initially turned off.

These two examples, though extreme, are only the tip of the iceberg. In her
investigation Datshiane found several other complaints made by tenants against
Sanctuary Housing. There are several complaints about delayed repairs. Datshiane
spoke with a Sanctuary gas engineer who stated that they were under so much
pressure to do things that they never had time to fix things properly.

Sanctuary’s failure to look after their properties goes against the original ethos of Social Housing; that everyone deserves a decent and affordable home. Navanayagam rightly asks how is it that housing associations have lost this focus?

Housing Associations’ roles started to change after the 1988 Housing Act was passed. That act allowed for the first time for housing associations to borrow private money
in order to build affordable homes. Since then the Government has pushed housing
associations to build more homes, and this is how they have become
to be judged – not by the upkeep or the quality of the service they provide to
tenants.

Additionally, deregulation and funding cuts have helped pave the change in culture in which Housing Associations act like private developers. This culture includes paying their senior staff incredibly high salaries; for example, in 2017 Sanctuary’s CEO made £365,000 and their Chief Financial Officer made £240,000! Most of their Board of
Directors come from the financial and legal sector with no background in housing.

The Housing Association sector as a whole has problems with repairs and
maintaining their homes. The English Housing Survey discovered that across the
Housing Association sector that 11% of housing association properties failed to meet
The Decent Home Standards and 5% of properties had problems with damp and
mould.

Housing Associations are often not prosecuted because they exist in a loophole
between being government and private bodies, and the government tends to look at
them as private entities outside of government control. Adding to this, in 2010 the Tenant
Services Authority which was responsible for the inspection of housing associations
and addressing residents concerns was abolished. In 2015 the Audit Commission
which played a key role in monitoring housing associations was dissolved. Tory
policy continues to deregulate the sector, meaning that councillors and local
authorities have little power to take action against housing associations.

Social Housing tenants often feel ignored, stressed, drained and powerless to change
things due to the perceived stigma of living in social housing – including being told that “you should feel lucky that you have a roof over your head” if you dare to complain about the poor standard of your home. This is reinforced by government policies and
rhetoric, the right-wing press demonising benefit claimants and social housing tenants, and of course exploitative TV programmes like Benefits Street, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, On Benefits and Proud and The Great British Benefits Handout.

Safe and secure housing for working class people should be a right, not a luxury! The Socialist Party calls for a massive programme of council house building, and rent controls to stop greedy landlords exploiting people.

If you agree, please get in touch by filling out the form below!

May’s government facing Brexit endgame

May’s government facing Brexit endgame

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With the Tory government in crisis we republish below the editorial from the latest issue of The Socialist newspaper.


With just ten days until the date of departure from the EU at the time of writing, there is unprecedented daily turmoil in parliament on what will happen. The government’s position has become so intractable that a complete government collapse is possible in the coming days or weeks, with a general election becoming the only solution.

Alternatively, prime minister Theresa May is now so discredited and ineffectual for the Tories that a no-confidence vote in her government might again be moved, with enough Tory MPs voting for it this time to bring about success. Then parliament would have 14 days to come up with another government, or a general election would be called.

Either way, a trade union-headed workers’ movement – with a plan of action – needs to be launched to help sweep the Tories out of power. It’s also needed to prepare a massive campaign to get Jeremy Corbyn in as prime minister, with socialist policies.

This outcome is greatly feared by the capitalist class. “The top 0.1% in Britain are doing very well”, wrote the economics editor of the Sunday Times. They want no obstacles to their hoarding of vast wealth, which could be created by the election of a government proposing to take measures in workers’ interests.
But the capitalists’ political representatives in Westminster are mired in such an acute and protracted civil war over Brexit that now is the time to turn the tables on them. Now is the time to take full advantage of their weakness, kick out the Tories, and inside Labour turn seriously to the task of deselecting the Blairites.

From crisis to crisis

On 12 March, Theresa May had her withdrawal plan decisively defeated in parliament for the second time. The week included Brexit minister, Stephen Barclay, summing up a debate in parliament in which he called – on behalf of the government – for a short extension to the withdrawal deadline.

He straightaway bare-facedly defied May by voting against the extension himself. Seven other cabinet ministers also voted against it and Tory chief whip Julian Smith abstained.

They had allowed their MPs a ‘free vote’ on that motion, but on one which ruled out a no-deal Brexit, the government whipped Tories to reject it after it was amended to apply indefinitely. The government lost that vote, with 13 ministers abstaining and one voting against. Cabinet members were among them, but the government is so powerless and fragile that May felt unable to take any action against them.

These votes were not binding, but no plan has yet been passed and May’s government has been sinking more and more deeply into crisis. When Attorney General Geoffrey Cox didn’t assist May’s deal by giving a legal assurance against the UK becoming stuck in the EU Customs Union, there were frantic attempts to get his ‘opinion’ altered.

Faced with threats that Brexit might not otherwise happen – or could be softened further or long delayed – there is a small possibility that May could end up getting a variant of her deal voted through.

But the parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t yet add up for that and many different scenarios are possible over the coming weeks. A new factor is a ruling by the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow that May can’t have a third vote on her deal if it remains the same.

Pressure is escalating in Tory and establishment circles for May to be removed. Although she won a confidence vote in December, an attempt to force her to resign could come.

Who would replace her? Numerous Tory ministers and MPs are flaunting themselves as leadership candidates and canvassing for support, but none have a position or strategy that could bridge the chasm over Europe in their party.

Extent of division

Certainly, there’s sharp division on the EU among MPs, in many cases reflecting their careerist ambitions. But the Socialist Party strongly counters the idea – repeated ad nauseam in the capitalist media – that working people are fundamentally divided on this issue.

A dangerous and inciting example of this was shown in Will Hutton’s 17 March column in the Observer. He argued that on the one side in society are pro-EU Remainers who recognise the “interdependencies” between European countries, realise the need for EU institutions that can tackle climate change, want a strong public

sector, effective trade unions, and are not hostile to other cultures, languages and people. On the other side, are those who support Brexit, who want “a world of closure, intolerance and suspicion of the other”, according to Hutton.

The idea that useful and desirable cooperation between people across Europe is only possible by supporting membership of the EU is complete fiction and pro-capitalist propaganda. The EU is, in essence, an alliance of the ruling classes across Europe, to serve the interests of big business, not those of working-class and middle-class people across the continent.

A socialist confederation of European states would be able to achieve levels of cooperation and mutual benefit for ordinary people way beyond what is possible on a capitalist basis.

Public ownership of the top companies that dominate the economies, together with democratic socialist planning, would mean the raising of living standards for all working people. This, and the removal of profit-making and market competition as over-riding forces, would also lay the basis for resources and cooperation to stop environmental disaster and enable rapid progress in useful technology and medicines.

It would be the very opposite of a Europe of ‘intolerance and suspicion’. Rather, it would be one where the removal of poverty and austerity would cut the ground from beneath distrust and racism.

Working-class people, whether they presently identify with the Remain or Leave side, have the same class interests. Corbyn recognises this. For instance, he said in Wakefield in January: “The real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.
He must cut across the confusion and scepticism arising from the manoeuvrings in parliament and get out this message loud and clear, along with a promise of pro-working-class measures both regarding Brexit and irrespective of it.
This also means standing firm against the Labour Blairites who want to reverse the EU referendum result. Corbyn needs to stick to the demand for a general election, and help to mobilise the labour and trade union movement to urgently bring it about.

If you agree with us, get involved! Click here for more information.

 

UNISON holds ballot for industrial action among school staff

UNISON holds ballot for industrial action among school staff

By an education worker and UNISON member in Coventry

The public sector union, UNISON, is currently holding a consultative ballot for industrial action among school support staff.

Three questions are being asked:

  • Do you believe that government funding cuts are having a negative effect on jobs, workloads, stress, pay and terms and conditions in your schools?
  • Do you believe that UNISON should continue to campaign on school funding for jobs, pay and terms and conditions?
  • Would you be prepared to take industrial action to secure more money for jobs, pay and terms and conditions in schools?

Socialists in UNISON are calling for a Yes vote on all three questions. School funding has reached crisis levels, and support staff are now expected to cover classes and take on more and more work. Our children, our teachers and our support staff deserve better than this, and the “little extras” we were promised by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, aren’t going to cut it.

We also need to go further and demand that our union ballots for industrial action properly, and co-ordinates action with other unions representing school staff and teachers. Parents and students should also be involved in a movement to demand more funding for our schools – we were promised an end to austerity, let’s fight for it!

Coventry Socialists attend Trans Day of Remembrance 2018

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Coventry Socialist Party members at an LGBT vigil in 2016

On Tuesday 20th November thousands of people across the world come together to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance.

 

Trans Day of Remembrance is a day to remember those who have been murdered due to anti-transgender hatred, as well as trans people who have committed suicide, and to recognise the oppression and suffering so many trans people face.

 

One such event was held in Coventry, and members of Coventry Socialist Party attended to pay our respects.

 

In the evening around 50 people gathered in a hall in an event organised by the local Pride group.

 

The event began with speeches, personal stories, and poems. From the start it was clear that this is a community not just saddened but deeply infuriated by the hatred they have collectively endured.

 

Many of the speakers called for urgent change in an unjust world, criticising governments across the world for failing to protect them.

 

Socialist Party members spoke at this vigil as members of the trans community and as trade unionists.

 

We emphasised that the capitalist system we live under has caused the suffering and deaths of many trans people. Under capitalism they are left homeless when they could be housed, suffering mental illness when they could and should be helped, desperate when they need not be, and so often commit suicide or are forced into the dangerous situations that lead to their murders because of a system that deprives them of the chance to live.

 

We gave an idea of how to fight this, stating the vital role trade unions play now and the real potential they have to defend and fight for trans people alongside all of the working class, linked to the struggle for the socialist transformation of society.

 

These messages were well received by a community that has been at the forefront of right-wing attacks and austerity cuts in recent years and has been subject to such horrific treatment for far too long.

 

This was all too clear when the names were read out of the three hundred and twelve recorded murders in the last year. Each name was read out, with their age, and where and how they died.

 

Many were in Brazil, where the far-right proud homophobe Bolsonaro has just been elected president.

 

Many were also in the USA, where Trump has sought to erode the rights of trans people, and plenty of Republicans express hatred for them.

 

The rights, protection, and ultimately the liberation of transgender people cannot be obtained without fighting for revolutionary change across the world.

 

In this, the working class must be united in our collective goals for healthcare, for safe communities, for rights not limited by reactionary ideas or by greed.

 

 

 

If you agree with what we say on this, please get in touch with the form below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probation staff speak out against privatisation disaster

Probation staff speak out against privatisation disaster

We have recieved the below report from a NAPO member in Coventry about the ongoing privatisation in the probation sector.

Privatising probation services through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme has been an absolute disaster, and an expensive one at £3.7 billion! Trade unions have opposed privatisation throughout this experiment, and the Commons Justice Committee has now agreed that the scheme has been a failure. Yet the Tories are still set to throw hundreds of millions more pounds at it!

The experiment in using private “Community Rehabilitation Companies” [CRCs] for probation services has resulted in a worse service for staff and for prisoners.

The splitting of services between public and private contracts has created a “two-tier system” and created a range of complications in administration and in delivery. Putting unnecessary complications in rehabilitation creates a serious risk to the successful rehabilitation of those leaving prison.

Privatisation often leads to cost-cutting measures to maximise profits. The CRCs often fail to provide anything more than phone calls and signposting to other organisations as their form of “continuous support” for people leaving prison. Reducing rates of re-offending requires a building of trust with prisoners, and weeks of support in housing, finance, education and so on – with CRCs proving they are incapable of delivering this.

The CRCs now owe £110 million in fines due to their failure to meet performance targets; despite this outright failure they’ll be paid £2.2 billion anyway!

Meanwhile, staff morale is at an “all-time low” due to high workloads, redundancies, a nine year pay freeze, and de-professionalisation. These are issues probation unions raise constantly, yet they fall on deaf ears.

The Tories have refused to listen to the clear evidence. Instead, they have cut existing contracts by two years to 2020 – at a cost of £170 million – only so that they can begin re-tendering larger contracts! We see the same issue in the NHS; under the guise of unifying health and social care, health contracts are being put to tender covering far more services than previously, with the aim of making the offers more lucrative to private businesses. This carving up of public services for private contract serves no benefit to the public; its only benefit is to give profits to giant companies and their shareholders, at our expense.

Against the evidence that privatisation in any part of the public sector does not work, the Tories are pushing through their capitalist and neoliberal ideology of ending public ownership wherever they can. Not only have they refused to listen, NAPO suspects that the Tories have pushed through these changes just before parliamentary recess so that they can be brought in with as little scrutiny and challenge as possible in parliament.

Urgent action from the trade union movement and from Labour is needed to fight privatisation and end Tory rule. Unions and campaigners should push to inform more probation staff and take a leading role in rallying support for industrial action and protest. Mass action of workers in the probation sector, supported by the wider trade union movement, can push back Tory plans and put this weak government on the back foot – making them fold to the demands of workers in the probation sector

Obituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

Obituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

Socialist Party members in Coventry were amongst those saddened to learn that Ged Travers passed away on Saturday 14th July, after two years of brave and dignified struggle against cancer.

Ged worked in a number of jobs over the years, starting with service in the RAF Regiment in Northern Ireland, “the mob” as he put it, where he learned a healthy disrespect for authority. He first joined our party in the early 1980’s. Years then as a firefighter at Birmingham airport introduced him to trade unionism. As a Coventry bus driver he successfully helped lead a major strike in 2001, where his character and vast knowledge of past strikes were invaluable.

He always had a passion for reading and learning. This included areas like film and photography but mostly he wanted to know about working-class struggle. This took him to study at Ruskin College of Oxford University. He was incredibly well-read and was debating the details of Trotsky’s memoirs with Party members only days before passing away. One Coventry Socialist remarked “Ged inspired me to read, read independently and read critically”.

There was a personal struggle as well, over some years, with alcohol and drugs. We mention this because in 2011 he achieved the rare feat of giving both up completely. The determination and strength of character that took was one of Ged’s most impressive characteristics.

Ged on a demonstration in Greece

Free to resume life, he took a low-cost journey around the Balkans ending up in Greece, a country entering political crisis. He took a liking to that country’s fighters, as they did to him. We can do no better than end with the obituary they wrote:

On July 14, our comrade Ged Travers left our life.

We met Ged in Greece in 2011 when he first came here for a few months to find out what was happening in our country during the crisis. He liked and stayed in Thessalonica, where he photographed scenes in the city, mainly from a political and journalistic perspective.

He stayed in our country for several years, making friends and forming relationships with many people. He actively participated in the political life of Xekinima (the Greek sister organisation of the Socialist Party) despite the language barrier. He took part in many mobilizations of the anti-gold mining movement in Halkidiki, which he recorded with his camera.

His favourite book was “Captains” by Dominique Eudes, which he read and re-read. He was fascinated by the history of the Greek resistance and guerrilla struggle against the Nazis.

Ged was born in England in 1957. He did a lot of jobs, but the turning point that radicalized his conscience was his term as a soldier in Ireland, where the British army functioned as an occupying force. He joined Millitant, our sister organization in Britain, later renamed the Socialist Party. Despite disagreements he had with us at times, he remained a supporter of revolutionary ideas until the end of his life. In addition to the collective struggle he also fought a personal battle, as he suffered for some years from his dependence on alcohol. He was strong and stubborn enough cope with it, free himself, and move on with life.

Laughing and always easy to talk to, he was a very warm presence for all of us. About two years ago, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer. He returned to England where he started treatments. He treated the illness with composure, patience, and even humour. But unfortunately his body was too distressed to endure. Farewell Good Comrade Ged, we will always remember your smile!