New Labour right-winger imposed in Sherbourne – vote for an anti-austerity candidate

New Labour right-winger imposed in Sherbourne – vote for an anti-austerity candidate

Jim Hensman with Dave Nellist

Jim Hensman with Dave Nellist

Across Coventry, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be standing candidates to put forward the anti-cuts alternative in the local elections on Thursday 5th May.

This includes Sherbourne where we will be standing Jim Hensman. There has been considerable controversy over the imposition of Blairite Lynnette Kelly as the Labour candidate, against the wishes of the members of Sherbourne ward Labour Party. In her election leaflet she says “the Labour Council will continue to work closely with big businesses”. For us this highlights the priorities of leading figures in Coventry Labour Party – they see this as more important than opposing and fighting Tory cuts.

We need Councillors who will actually stand up against the cuts, not just implement them.

TUSC does not want to stand against Labour and will support any Labour candidate that has opposed the cuts or pledges to do so.

As Jeremy Corbyn has said, “Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity”.

Unfortunately Blairite Labour councillors nationally have been making the political choice for austerity and expelling Labour councillors who oppose the cuts.

Former councillors like these, together with trade union activists and campaigners from groups like the one fighting the closure of the last two play centres in Coventry, make up the candidates standing for TUSC. Saving the play centres would only cost £100,000. Yet Coventry Labour Council increased their reserves this year by £3 million. The cuts are definitely a political choice – vote TUSC and fight austerity!

The following are extracts from one of our election communications in Sherbourne.

Jim Hensman, our TUSC candidate has lived in the ward for over 40 years


A message to Labour voters in Sherbourne

The Labour candidate is Lynnette Kelly. She was a councillor in Henley ward until 2015 before stepping down in a failed attempt to become a MP in Warwick and Leamington at the last general election.

The local press have reported how she has been imposed on Sherbourne Labour Party by the regional Party machine, against the wishes of the members. The local Labour Party Secretary who opposed her appointment was also suspended without being given any reason. So much for democracy!

When Lynnette was a councillor she voted for cuts, along with the rest of the Labour group. She is a supporter of the Blairite Progress faction which seeks to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. Is this the sort of representative Sherbourne needs? We want Labour to stand up and vote against the cuts in the Council chamber. Not just act like Tories.

Our candidate, Jim Hensman has lived in the ward for over 40 years.  He has a long history of standing up for ordinary people, has been a trade unionist all of his life and was expelled from Labour for standing up for his Socialist views and being a supporter of Dave Nellist.

Unlike the establishment parties, Jim would be a voice on the Council for ordinary people and would oppose and vote against any more cuts to our local services.

Jim says

“The establishment have been shaken to the core by the support for Corbyn and now the Panama tax scandal. The Tories are weak and divided on every issue, and with the news that David Cameron had his nose in the Panama tax trough…We say he has to go!

But Coventry’s Labour Councillors spend more time attacking Corbyn than the Tories and carry on with further devastating cuts. TUSC councillors will fight to defend the jobs and services that we as ordinary people rely on. We need to build a city-wide campaign against the cuts to demand the return of money stolen by central government, whether it was Labour or Conservatives in power.”

The Tories are trying to rob Coventry, and the Labour Council are letting them!

Instead of fighting back, Labour in Coventry have made cuts that any Tory Council would be proud of. The Council have £84 million in reserves, this should be used to fund services and to buy time to build a campaign win back money for our city.

Despite the election of Jeremy Corbyn who is trying to oppose the Tories, your local Labour Council have voted to

  • Close libraries and want to replace staff with unpaid volunteers
  • Shut play centres
  • Make over 1,000 workers redundant over the next few years
  • Close public toilets across the city

Labour signed us up for George Osborne’s West Midlands Combined Authority – Ann Lucas and Co didn’t even want Coventry people to have a vote. Is that because they were afraid about what we would say?

If you would want to help the TUSC campaign in Sherbourne (for eg helping us leaflet, putting up a poster or donating), fill in the form below!

Coventry Socialists announce 2016 election campaign

Coventry Socialists announce 2016 election campaign

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TUSC activists rally against cuts

Election nominations are closed and we can now confirm that Socialist candidates will be standing in all 18 wards in Coventry for the local elections in May. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), backed by the RMT transport workers union, will be standing anti-cuts candidates across the country.

Before making the decision to stand, we wrote to every Labour candidate in Coventry and asked them to meet with us to discuss whether they would be willing to vote against cuts – cuts that will lead to the closure of libraries, public toilets, adult education centres and community centres. None of them would even agree to meet us. Ann Lucas and her colleagues have also signed up the city up to George Osborne’s West Midlands Combined Authority, without even allowing Coventry people a vote.

Our candidates include Dave Nellist in St Michaels, as well as leading trade unionists, young workers, students and community activists.

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, wants to fight austerity .We support Jeremy’s anti-austerity policies – it is regrettable that Coventry Labour Councillors have voted to implement the Tory cuts on our city with some Councillors more concerned with attacking Jeremy than fighting the Tories.

As we have done previously, the Socialist Party and TUSC will set out a programme to fight the cuts – including the use of some of the £84 million of reserves that the Council has. This could fund services and delay the cuts, buying time for the building of a mass city wide campaign involving unions, local communities and anti-cuts groups to win back the money stolen from our city by the Tories.

We will also make the case that the Panama Papers tax scandal shows that the money exists in our society for decent public services and housing for all – the problem is that it is in the hands of the 1 per cent at the top. It is austerity for us, tax evasion for the rich! That is why we need socialism.

Will you be voting for the Socialists? Can you help with our campaign by leafleting, putting up a poster or donating? If so, fill in the form below!

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

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Cllr David Kershaw

A Coventry Labour councillor has set up a business designed to take over schools and turn them into academies. Councillor David Kershaw, who is cabinet member for education, is heading a new academy company called the West Midlands Academy Trust.

Writing in the Coventry Observer, Les Reid revealed that the company was set up just last month by Cllr Kershaw and is believed “to be in line to win Tory government permission to take over five struggling schools in Birmingham. The five schools are understood to be those which make up the Perry Beeches Trust and are already Academies. The fact that these schools are struggling is a clear indictment of the government’s Academies programme.

Cllr Kershaw has done this at a time when Labour are campaigning against Tory plans to force schools to become academies, and have been distributing leaflets around Woodlands ward claiming local Labour council candidate Patricia Hetherton is “fully behind the campaign to save Woodlands Academy”. After the release of the Panama Papers implicating leading politicians in tax dodging, this is yet another example of hypocrisy.

Hetherton’s leaflet also claims that “[she] knew that the opening of Finham Park 2 would have an impact on student numbers in the area”. “Local” Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson also features on the leaflet, and last month he said the same to the Coventry Telegraph. However, while they say this now, Cllr Kershaw wrote to the Department for Education last year expressing support for Finham Park 2!

Cllr Kershaw has also been key in advocating and pushing through the council’s library closure plans, and the (currently shelved) plans to cut transport to schools for disabled children. As a former headteacher, it is shocking that he seems willing to make cuts that will clearly damage children’s education.

Other partners in the business include Alan East, a Labour candidate for Bablake ward in May. Locally this is yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another – how do Kershaw’s actions compare with the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are campaigning against the enforced academisation of all schools and will be balloted over strike action against funding cuts and threats to teacher’s contracts and pay and conditions. We give them our full support – concerted industrial action can stop these plans and bring this government down!

Protesters lobby Coventry council against cuts

Protesters lobby Coventry council against cuts

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Photo from Cov Telegraph

Protesters from trade unions, community groups and anti-cuts campaigners held a lobby of Coventry Council to protest against the budget passed yesterday.

UNISON Branch Secretary Sarah Feeney spoke and called on the council to use the £84million they have in reserves – a sum which they have increased by £3.5million in the last 12 months – to fund services and build a campaign against the cuts.

Dave Nellist spoke representing Coventry Against the Cuts and called on council workers to take action to defend their jobs – and their terms and conditions, which are also being threatened by the council – and echoed the call for the council to fight the cuts. “By the end of this Parliament 80p in every £1 of this city’s budget will have been robbed by the Tories in London, so that bankers can have the same Christmas bonuses this year as they did in the year they caused the financial crash.”

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Local Labour Cllr Pervez Akhtar then spoke and said that Labour councillors are “at pains” because of the cuts, but said they had no choice and they would not set an illegal budget. While it is welcome that Cllr Akhtar came and spoke – other councillors have not done so – he unfortunately misrepresented the position advocated by the groups assembled. We are not calling for an illegal budget to be set, we are calling for the council to pass a legal no-cuts budget by using the money they have in reserves. Of course Labour councillors do not want to make cuts – and we want to work with them to fight the Tories, rather than fighting them while they pass on Tory cuts.

These cuts will mean more job losses, play centres being closed, libraries opening hours reduced and council workers terms and conditions being threatened. We need to fight back.

 

Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

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UNISON members marching against austerity

Coventry TUC has organised a protest outside the council house on Tuesday 23rd, when Coventry Council will set the budget for the next year. The planned budget includes proposals to close libraries and reduce their opening hours, close Edgwick and Eagle St play centres, close public toilets and cut another 1000 council jobs.

UNISON, the largest union on Coventry Council, is calling on the council to pass a legal no-cuts budget, using the £84million+ the council has in reserves to avoid making cuts and to build a campaign to win more money for local services.

The protest is outside the council house from 1pm on Tuesday 23rd February.

Ann Lucas told – cut cake, not libraries!

Ann Lucas told – cut cake, not libraries!

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Protesters highlighting Lucas’ record of cuts

Library campaigners protested against Cllr Ann Lucas at an event last week. Sarah Smith was one of them, and she wrote this report.

February 10th marked the 30th birthday of Central Library, and the guest of honour at the celebration was Cllr Ann Lucas – leader of Coventry City Council. She proudly cut a cake to celebrate – despite her leading the council that’s cutting our libraries!

All libraries are still threatened with closure, and under the current plans almost all libraries other than Central will be closing on a Wednesday and Sunday, and Central will be closing an hour earlier. Willenhall and Arena library are both being moved to cheaper buildings, 35 library jobs will be cut and the mobile library is being scrapped altogether.

We at Save Coventry Libraries went to the event to tell Ann Lucas to cut the cake but not the libraries. We had a peaceful protest to highlight the hypocrisy of Coventry City Council.We were thanked and supported by a number of people in the audience at the event – and we will carry on fighting for our libraries!

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

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Ann Lucas – pic from Coventry Telegraph website

Coventry’s brilliant Central Library has now been around for 30 years, and staff and service users will be celebrating its birthday on Wednesday 10th February with a number of events. It’s great that the library has been around for so long – but the future of libraries throughout Coventry is under threat, and one of the people behind the planned cuts will also be cutting the birthday cake.

Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith said “It’s ironic that Cllr Ann Lucas is a guest of honour at Central Library’s 30th birthday and cutting a cake, considering she leads the council that’s voted to cut our libraries. I will be there to represent Save Coventry Libraries, to tell Cllr Lucas that she can cut the cake but not our libraries!”

The next meeting of Save Coventry Libraries is on Monday February 15th, 6pm at Central Library. Join the Facebook page here

 

Fighting to save Coventry’s last two play centres

Fighting to save Coventry’s last two play centres

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Campaigners outside Edgwick Play Centre

Parents and children who use Edgwick and Eagle St play centres took to the streets of Coventry on Saturday as part of their campaign to save the City’s last 2 play centres.

The centres face closure as part of the council’s latest cuts.

Speaking outside the council house, Nebiyu one of the children using Eagle Street play centre said “It’s wrong to close play centres. They are somewhere safe to go.”

One Nanny present confirmed that saying that her grandson “suffered bullying at school and the play centre was the only socialising he gets with kids his own age.”

Protest organiser Simon Evans says the campaign will go on. “The support from parents and kids has been marvellous and our local schools including St Elizabeth’s and our local police centre are determined to help us keep this open, and have spoken out with their concerns if they are to be closed.”

Simon’s daughter Kimberly said: “Most of these kids, like me, have made brilliant friends and has helped with socialisation. It’s so sad.”

The play centre provides a service 6 days a week  (3 to 5.30, 10 to 2.30 Saturdays) and the site is used to run a youth club on 3 evenings. George Sands of UNISON says it will mean the loss of more female, part-time jobs. He believes the council plan to hand the building over to a private firm for an under 2’s nursery. “But why can’t both services use the facility?”

Jane Nellist of the NUT, the teachers union, and secretary of Coventry Trades Union Council said that “play is central to children’s development and there should be many more play centres, not none! It cannot be right that in Coventry we will have 2 giant universities and no play centres.” Jane attacked government cuts pointing out that Britain is a rich country but that if play centres were being closed then the money is in the wrong hands.

We urge all readers to support the play centre campaigners.

Simon can be reached at simon_evansuk@yahoo.co.uk

Austerity: how many more protests like this do we have to witness outside the council house?

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Outside the Council House

The Socialist Party supported and will continue to support the protest of the play centre campaigners and believes it is sad that year after year we have seen countless groups of Coventry people campaigning to save services. From schools, disabled workshops, youth clubs, play centres, swimming baths and so many more. When will this be enough for local councils to say enough is enough?

Dave Nellist warmed to this theme. He said it was shameful that we had to see “Kids and parents defending play centres outside the council house and that not one councillor was here. What are councillors there for if not to defend our city and it’s people’s services?”

He added that “…the Council now has £84 million in reserves, and what would it cost to keep these play centres open? £100,000?”

They could be kept open, he argued, while a campaign was built to fight to win back some of the money that the government has stolen from our city.

In the parents own words…  Why a play centre is so important

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Save our play centres!

Simon Evans: “My children Kimberly, aged 11 and Rhian, aged 7 will be affected by the closure. Kimberly is now at secondary school and her favourite thing to do is to play football, which if not for the play centre, she would rarely be able to do this as she feels unable to join the boys at her school to play, while her girl friends there do not play.

Rhian has built up a lot of confidence since she started going to the play centre. When she first went she would not speak to more than a few children. Now she speaks to several children there, and even joins in with games. I am very concerned with the safety of the park if the play centre closes, as the staff there report any suspicious activity that they witness to the local police.”

Lucy O’Donoghue’s child Saskia goes to the play centre states: “The closure of the play centre will have a very big negative impact on our family. I am a single mum with no transport and limited resources, my daughter is an only child and the play centre provide a safe positive, multicultural, tolerant environment for her to play, trips to go on.”

Lisa Achrar whose children Adriam and Mishara go to the play centre says: “It will mean I would be unable to work to provide for my family”.

Salma Begum, whose child Muhammed goes there says: “There will be nowhere to go. If parents need to go to work they will know that children are safe without having to worry.”

Roxanne Richmond’s whose child Olivia goes there says: “The play centre has a huge impact on Olivia’s social skills and enables her to mix with the children from all sorts of backgrounds and ethnic groups; This enables her to become more confident and has brought her lots of new social skills.”

Herbert Art Gallery and Belgrade Theatre facing cuts

Herbert Art Gallery and Belgrade Theatre facing cuts

The Herbert faces closure due to austerity cuts

The Herbert faces closure due to austerity cuts

Coventry Council has taken aim at funding for the Herbert Art Gallery and the Belgrade Theatre in its next round of austerity measures, with £250K of cuts planned for each of them.

Just a few months ago staff at the Herbert Art Gallery, run by Culture Coventry, were threatened with the sack unless they agreed to new terms and conditions for their work, including huge pay cuts. Now their jobs are on the line due to council cuts – and the future of the Herbert is at risk as well, as the cuts could lead to its closure.

The Belgrade has already warned that if its funding is cut it may be unable to continue supporting local grassroots productions, negatively impacting theatre groups in the city.

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For a city that is bidding to be “City of Culture”, the council seem set on attacking the “culture” we have. Libraries, theatres and galleries face closure, along with many other services across the city. Coventry has a wealth of culture and history that we can be proud of – from poets like Philip Larkin to bands like The Specials, our city has created more than our fair share of working class talent. Slashing funding to theatres and galleries will stifle that spark of creativity.

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Save Coventry Libraries organised a demonstration on Saturday at Earlsdon library with very short notice. Dozens of people attended of all ages. It was an incredibly lively protest with home made banners and placards. Many cars passing hooted in support and it was absolutely clear that everyone was there to show support for all Coventry libraries. The demonstrators were, also, absolutely clear that they do not support austerity and cuts to service. The fight against these cuts must and will continue.

The demonstration was, in part, a response to a meeting in Earlsdon that had been advertised entitled ‘delivering communities differently’. The posters for this meeting had a photograph on them of Earlsdon library. They did not give any more details of what the meeting would be about or who the organisers were. The campaign group could only assume from this that ‘delivering communities differently’ meant not through the city council. We have already attended meetings organised by residents associations that have looked at other models, including community volunteer led libraries. We had every intention of attending the meeting on Saturday to debate the issues.

We were deeply saddened that the organisers of this meeting (we are still not sure who they were) decided to cancel it. The reason we have been given for doing so, was that they thought families would have been intimidated by the protest outside the library. It’s interesting as the families that would have gone to the meeting are probably the same as were on the protest. In fact all of the people at the protest would have gone to the meeting.

Part of the discussion at the meeting, we have since learned, was to be about social enterprise. York was one of the first local authorities to consider social enterprise for libraries. It’s model means that the library employees partly own and run the libraries. This involves, as the unions in York have rightly warned, significant financial risk being transferred to library staff. Staff, many of whom, work part time on relatively low wages. We don’t as yet know whether this is the preferred model for Coventry because there has been no open and frank consultation of library provision. This is something we would welcome and would be happy to highlight the pitfalls of each privatisation model.

There are further problems with finding individual solutions for Coventry libraries. It leaves those less ‘attractive’ completely at risk. Particularly those that serve the poorest areas of the city with the greatest need of library provision.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

We have seen in this city, recent investment in roads and new council buildings. But why aren’t the council seeking long term investment in libraries? Investment that doesn’t involve handing them over to private companies, institutions or individuals? Investment that means they are fit for purpose with the best up to date facilities. Investment perhaps from Coventry based firms that wish to support but not take over the libraries. Why is privatisation seen as the only solution?

It’s absolutely clear that libraries are essential to so many people, but particularly the poorest families and individuals in Coventry. Many people in Coventry and certainly at the protest yesterday can talk about why the library is important to them. It’s, also, clear that the libraries are offering far more services than books. Over the past year we know that the city council has been shocked by the level of support for the libraries and the level of anger when the question of privatisation in any of its forms is raised. This is why we won a year’s reprieve. The city councillors should now be open and honest about what the plans are for the city’s libraries. There should be no more meetings behind closed doors or with unspecific agendas. As one protestor echoed yesterday ‘once we hand the libraries over, they will be gone and we won’t get them back!’ This cannot happen which is why we will keep fighting to save every library.

We now need regular demonstrations like Saturday’s outside every library in Coventry as every single library in Coventry is still under threat of closure or privatisation. No cuts to services. No austerity.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries

Join the Save Coventry Libraries campaign – email Save.Coventry.Libraries@gmail.com

 Facebook: Save Coventry Libraries