Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

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Campaigning in the City Centre

Members of Coventry Socialist Party were campaigning against library closures over the weekend, with a campaign stall in the City Centre and supporting the Save Coventry Libraries campaign at Arena Park Library.

Over 800 people signed the petition over the day, showing how strongly people object to the councils plan to close libraries across Coventry. Some libraries are threatened with closure altogether while some will be closed unless volunteers come forward to run them. Many staff will lose their jobs.

Arena Park is a well used library, but is scheduled to close on August 27th. While campaigning there on Saturday we found that many service users were not aware that it was closing and that there is no alternative provision.

More than 1000 people have signed the petition in total – Coventry Council should listen and not close libraries!

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith (left) collecting signatures

70 people join lobby of Coventry Council against library closures

70 people join lobby of Coventry Council against library closures

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Lobbying the council – save our libraries!

Around 70 people braved the rain yesterday and joined a lobby of Coventry Labour Council organised by Save Coventry Libraries.

A number of councillors passed the demo and spoke to protesters saying that while they appreciate that libraries are a crucial service, they have no choice but to make cuts and close libraries. Let’s be clear, they do have a choice – the council could use the £84million+ that they have in reserves to fund services for a year, while building a campaign to demand the money back from central Government.

It is unfortunate but not surprising that most of the Labour councillors who voted to close these libraries are opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. It is a sad state of affairs when they spend more time attacking socialists on Twitter than they do defending the jobs and services of people in Coventry!

Save Coventry Libraries is encouraging people to write to their local councillors and MPs and tell them what your libraries mean to you, and that libraries are a necessity and a basic human right, not a luxury.

The campaign has three upcoming events – “Love Willenhall Library day” on Monday July 25th at 1pm, “Love Arena Park Library day” on Saturday July 30th at 12 noon, and a further lobby of Coventry Council on September 6th at 1pm.

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

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Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

We are pleased to carry the below article by Hannah Sell, the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party. Hannah will be speaking at our post-election rally.

The right-wing media had been claiming that this year’s elections would prove it was unpopular to oppose austerity.

The Blairites in the Labour Party have sung from the same hymn sheet – predicting that Labour would lose a huge number of seats, resulting in Corbyn being forced out.

One right-wing Labour MP even told Kevin Maguire of the Mirror that, “a defeat for Labour’s London Mayor hopeful Sadiq Khan was a price worth paying if it triggered Corbyn’s downfall”.

But to the disappointment of the Tories and pro-austerity Labour MPs the elections showed not the popularity of austerity, cuts and privatisation but the growing anger against them.

At the time of writing not all elections have been counted but it is clear that the Tories have been decisively defeated in the London Mayoral contest and that Labour’s vote has held up in the English council elections.

In the year since the general election this government for the super-rich has escalated its attacks on the rest of us.

Austerity Myth

The myth that austerity was temporary and misery today would lead to plenty for all in the future has also been severely undermined. As a result increasing numbers of voters set out to express their anger at the polls.

However, there was no one party which voters used to protest against austerity. Instead anti-austerity anger was fragmented.

While many voted Labour others refused to do so because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats will try and lay the blame at Corbyn’s door, but they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme.

That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the SNP in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for UKIP.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

Unfortunately, all of those parties with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level.

TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services.

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners, including the transport workers’ union, the RMT, which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box.

We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledging not to stand against those that did so.

However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves.

Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year and could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tories Split

Split down the middle over Europe, the Tories have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues; including now on the academisation of schools.

A powerful united movement could bring a halt of austerity and force the Tories to call a general election.

Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24 hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party.

Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity.

Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party. Events of recent weeks show that no compromise is possible with the pro-capitalist wing – which is determined to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as soon as possible.

The election results do not give them the excuse they hoped for to move quickly, but they will act as soon as they can.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood in a mass, democratic movement.

To succeed this cannot be led by those who see the way forward within the narrow and undemocratic constraints of the existing Labour Party and whose approach is for endless compromise with the pro-austerity warmongers that dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Instead it means building a movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those workers, young people and community activists who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party. The Socialist Party will do all we can to assist in the building of such a movement.

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!

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

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On the bus to London – Tories out!

Coventry Socialist Party members are joining a march against austerity in London today. Trade unionists on the Coventry bus represented a number of unions including Unite, UNISON, Coventry TUC, NUT, CWU and PCS.

Jane Nellist from Coventry NUT said “We are joining the march today because we have to ensure that we build a fightback against Tory plans to destroy our public services.”

Socialists will be building the fight against austerity and arguing for a socialist alternative to capitalism. The Tories are split, the trade union movement needs to organise a 24 hour general strike to co-ordinate the fightback!

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NUT and CWU members from Coventry

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!

Coventry teacher ‘We need to highlight homelessness’

Coventry teacher ‘We need to highlight homelessness’

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Campaigners outside Edgwick Play Centre – defending play facilities and homes is critical

The following was a speech written by a delegate from Coventry to the NUT conference. Unfortunately due to time constraints the speech wasn’t made, however we are publishing it on our website as it raises some critical issues for our city.


 

This week I sat with one of my students as he described with glee that he had moved into a new home. He showed me photographs of his new home and talked about how he could now fly his remote control helicopter in his living room. A month ago he was a completely different child. He lived in one room with his family in a hostel.

A hostel that provided nothing, not enough beds, no cooking facilities and washing facilities that were shared amongst many families. Every day he arrived late as he had to travel across the city to school.

Despite the conditions he has been living in, he always smiles, but he has found it incredibly hard to cope with school. Learning has not been important as his priorities have been led by basic needs. In the past month, since being rehoused, he has made more progress than he has made in the previous six months. He has started to speak more confidently and read and write.

As teachers, we know that if children are living in poverty and deprivation, it will adversely affect their mental health and in turn their learning. In this data driven education system, this is one thing that can be measured. But we are told that this is irrelevant and all children in Primary should be working at the same level. It’s crazy.

There are an increasing number of children in exactly the same position in my school. In Coventry, in the last year, 290 homes were repossessed. The CAB has recorded a 100% rise in enquiries on homelessness.

Many of these will have been from families with school age children. The main reasons for this, the CAB quotes, is the changes to benefits and benefit sanctions which have led to sanctions that have meant that many cannot pay rent or mortgages and stay in their home.

We need to highlight homelessness in the same way as we have raised the use of food banks in Coventry. The publication of the numbers of our children and families living with constant transience and homelessness should shame this government in exactly the same way. Forcing them to resign and pull back on benefit sanctions.

We need to fight the austerity cuts locally, whoever they are carried out by. Cuts that are removing homelessness support services and money for refuges that are the last line of support for many of these families.

We need to shame the landlords that are profiting from this situation and that are evicting our families. Shame the banks that are repossessing homes. We need to defend those who face eviction. We need to demand that all our children have a right to safety, to a home and to an education that is not fractured because of government policy.