Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%

Coventry councillors vote to hike Council Tax by nearly 5%

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Marching against cuts in Coventry

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

“Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories” – Dave Nellist

“Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories” – Dave Nellist

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Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

We are pleased to share the below letter published by the Coventry Telegraph this week by Dave Nellist, former Militant Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor in Coventry. This week a petition organised by young service users will be presented to the council against youth club closures as part of an ongoing campaign against the “Connecting Communities” scheme.
“Cuts that Coventry Council are planning will radically worsen public services in our city, but in fact are entirely unnecessary.
Saying that governments of both hues over the last 10 years have originated the cuts is not enough.  Local councils do have alternatives to reducing proper library provision, to cutting youth clubs and funding for children’s centres, to reducing bin collections.
Coventry Council has increased its reserves from £41m six years ago to £95m today.  That’s five times the planned cuts for the next financial year!  The Council has lent millions of pounds to private businesses (for example to a hotel and for student accomodation) – that money should be being used to defend the city’s public services that everyone in the city relies on.
Labour council leaders held a national meeting on 17th February at Warwick University.  They could have drawn up a coordinated plan of resistance to pressurise the government to  restore money stolen from our towns and cities.
Unfortunately, it seems that if council leaders have a strategy it’s limited to waiting for the next general election in 2020 for a change of direction.  By then, 70% of council services will be gone, and thousands of local jobs will no longer be available for school leavers.
And anyway, on present form, with Labour councillors cutting service after service, there’s little incentive for people to vote Labour locally, and no guarantee of a general election victory in three years time.
Bluntly, Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories, whilst there are still public services left to defend.”

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

Thousands sign petitions against library and youth service closures

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

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

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

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

Bailey Evatt with Dave Nellist

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

Campaigners holding a poster created by youth club users

Coventry City Council announces plans for devastating cuts

Coventry City Council announces plans for devastating cuts

Coventry City Council plans more cuts

Coventry City Council has announced plans for further crushing cuts that will affect people all across our city.

Working class people across the board will be hit – there are plans to increase Council Tax whilst weekly bin collections are stopped meaning the public paying more but getting less, reductions in Council Tax Support that will damage low paid workers, the threat of another 200 jobs being slashed (on top of the 2,100 that have been lost since 2010), and the possibility of the terms and conditions of the remaining staff being attacked and much more.

The Council are already ‘consulting’ on plans to close and cut public libraries, nursery provision and youth clubs, looking to replace staff in libraries with volunteers who will work for free. All this at the time Coventry is bidding for City of Culture!

In addition to the council cuts, of £19 million in the next financial year rising to £36 million a year by 2020, Coventry is also due to lose by 2020 a further £30 million across all schools in the city. That’s a 14% funding cut and, if those cuts are not challenged, they could be hundreds less teachers in the city in four years’ time.

Tory austerity is hitting cities like Coventry hard. The Coventry Telegraph estimates that the city has lost around £95 million in funding since 2010.

Is there an alternative to hundreds of job losses, “redesign” of bin collections, rising charges for burials and cremation, for car parks and in the council tax – whilst the vulnerable and the working poor face cuts in Council Tax Support?

Yes. And it has to start with Labour standing up to the Tories, not just, however unwillingly, doing their work.

Unfortunately rather than put up any resistance the Council have proceeded to implement all cuts that have been asked for by central government.

The Labour Council should be honest with the people of Coventry: cuts are already hurting – and the further cuts coming in educational services such as speech therapy and the Performing Arts service make hollow the aspiration to be UK City of Culture 2021.

Total council reserves, which rose from £41 million to £84 million over the last five years, have risen again, to £95 million! Surely, within that sum, there is scope for not proceeding with the £19 million cuts proposed for 2017/18 and instead temporarily funding those services from reserves whilst leading a serious campaign against the Tories for the restoration of essential local funding.

Cllr John Mutton and others have said that this is not a solution and you can only use reserves once. However what the Socialist Party have consistently argued is that the reserves should be used as a short term measure to plug the gap and keep key services going whilst at the same time building a massive campaign to demand more funds from central government.

We have explained before how this approach worked in cities like Liverpool where the equivalent of £60 million was won for the city from the claws of Margaret Thatcher. Would this be easy? No, absolutely not. The choice though is to fight, or to implement cuts that are going to hit the people of Coventry. Labour have a duty to stand up for the people of Coventry, not carry out this savage austerity.

A campaign should include:

  • public meetings in every ward explaining the consequences of Tory cuts;
  • a march and rally through the city, with national labour and trade union speakers, to unite the thousands who could be involved if a serious lead was given;
  • a conference held in Coventry of Labour local authority representatives and trade unions from across the country, to broaden support and work out a common agenda of resistance;
  • a national demonstration organised by Labour and the TUC early in the New Year to demand an end to cuts and restoration of the billions of pounds stolen from local towns and cities.
  • The council trade unions should gear up to oppose these cuts and defend jobs and services, if necessary by taking industrial action

The Socialist Party will be campaigning against these attacks, and for a fighting programme to defend our jobs and vital services. If you agree and want to get involved, fill in the form below

We urge readers to join the campaign event organised by unions outside the Central Library on Saturday 3rd December at 12pm

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.

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.

Coventry Council Scrap Planned Cuts to Disabled Children’s Transport

Coventry Council Scrap Planned Cuts to Disabled Children’s Transport

Protestors outside the Council House

Protestors outside the Council House

Coventry Council announced today that disabled children’s transport to school will continue to be funded for at least another year, after protests over the planned cuts.

Over 50 people protested last month outside the Council House, including Socialist Students and TUSC activists as well as members of Warwick for Free Education. The protest was organised by community campaigner and DPAC member Eleanor Lisney.

This victory shows that protest and pressure works, and councils can be forced to back down over planned cuts – however, as the funding has only been guaranteed for another year it shows the importance of keeping that pressure up, both in terms of protest and electoral challenges to councillors who continue to vote for cuts.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students

It is urgent that the Council use the £80million+ reserves to stop any cuts to buy time to build a mass fightback in the city, linking up with other councils, to demand proper funding from central Government.

Protest against Labour’s plans to cut transport for children with disabilities

Protest against Labour’s plans to cut transport for children with disabilities

Protestors outside the Council House

Protestors outside the Council House

Around 60 protesters lobbied Coventry Council today in protest at their planned cuts to disabled children’s transport to school. These cuts could leave many children unable to get to school, as many families may be unable to pay for the transport required. Activists from the Socialist Party,the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students attended the demonstration, which was organised by Eleanor Lisney, a local campaigner and member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). Coventry’s Labour Council is choosing to carry out Tory cuts rather than fighting back and passing a budget that meets the needs of the people of Coventry.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students

They should use some of the £81million they have in reserves to fund services temporarily, while building a campaign with service users, trade unions and community groups to demand central Government provides the money to fund the services we need.

For coverage in the Coventry Telegraph click here