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

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

An appeal to all members of GMB, UNISON and UNITE….Reject the pay proposal! Restart the industrial action to win fair pay!

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

The following is the text of the Issue 20 of The Cov Council Socialist – a bulletin produced by and for local authority workers in Coventry

By a union steward at Coventry City Council

Tuesday 14th October should have seen over 1 million council workers take industrial action in the campaign to win a fair pay deal. This was due to be part of a 3 day programme of industrial action, with colleagues in the NHS taking action on the Monday, UCU members in Further Education (UCU also stopped their strike) as well council workers on Tuesday and PCS in the Civil Service on Wednesday.

Just a few days before our action started, the leaderships of GMB, UNISON and UN ITE agreed to suspend the action because the Labour controlled Local Government Association (LGA), our employers, had made a new proposal.

The new ‘offer’ is an ‘indecent proposal’

We believe that to suspend the action was a mistake for a number of reasons. The proposal does not go anywhere near solving the chronic problem of low pay in local government. Years of real term pay cuts have seen us get worse and worse off. The proposal is still not a formal offer, and they want to give us 2.2 per cent over two years. This actually leaves us worse off this pay year (2014-15) than the “derisory” 1% offer from the employer we took action over in July and costs the employer less. In January 2015, 2.2% will be added to all pay spines to last until 31 March 2016. It’s a cunningly presented two year response to a one year pay claim attempt to buy off and shut up low paid council workers in the run up to a general election.

A 2 year deal designed to avoid any pay disputes in the first year of a potential Labour government? Pay cuts hurt whether they are from a Tory or Labour government / LGA!

It would be a big mistake for us to accept a 2 year pay deal, particularly one that is so sub-standard. The proposal appears to want to put the issue of pay well and truly off the agenda until 2016. The rate of inflation could easily go up, but our pay would be stuck. This means we would continue to experience a fall in our standard of living, and keep things ‘nice and quiet’ for Ed Miliband in the first year of a Labour government. This is wrong firstly because it is by no means certain Labour will get elected, and secondly they have already stated they will be signing up Tory spending plans. Union members need to come before the interests of a Labour Party which supports Tory austerity. Once again this shows the need for the unions to break the link with Labour.

Reject the proposal and restart the action

We all know that although the strike on 10th July was about pay, in reality it was also about the attacks on our jobs, terms and condition and the defence of public services.  It is always a difficult decision to strike however we were left with no alternative and in most areas the strike was well supported. Preparations had been made for 14th October and by suspending the strike the union leaderships have shown weakness and we risk losing momentum and the chance of co-ordinated action with other public sector unions.

Socialists in the council unions will be campaigning for the maximum possible rejection of the proposal and for the restarting of the action. Linked to this, we need to campaign to transform our unions in to democratic, combative organisations that are prepared to lead a concerted and bold fight against pay cuts and austerity.

If you agree with the above, we urge you to get in contact with us to help campaign to get the proposal rejected and to help build the voice of socialism in the unions. Please fill in the form below