Determined Junior Doctors begin 48 hour strike in Coventry

Determined Junior Doctors begin 48 hour strike in Coventry

Junior Doctors took to the picket line at the entrance to Walsgrave Hospital once again this morning despite the relentless rain.

It marked the beginning of the first of three 48 hour strikes planned by the BMA for 9-10 March, 6-7 and 26-27 April, in response to Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s declaration of war on the doctors by imposing a contract which will remove safeguards to them working more unsocial hours, and for less pay.

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It’s clear that this dispute is over so much more than pay and hours. Junior doctors know the NHS is under threat. This contract is part of the Tories’ plan to destabilise the NHS, run it down, claim it is failing, and then pass it over to the eagerly waiting hands of the private sector.

Doctors didn’t pick this fight but make no mistake, they are determined to win it! They know what’s at stake. It is essential for all health workers and all of us who use the NHS to support them in their fight. Other health unions need to show the determination of their BMA colleagues and come together to organise coordinated action to save the NHS.

Emergency protest

A national demonstration in March should be called as an emergency to galvanise support behind health workers and build for an intensive campaign to defeat the government.

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

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Cllr Julia Lepoidevin (Woodlands)

A Tory councillor in Coventry has attacked benefit claimants during a full council meeting – after previously calling food bank users “selfish”.

Cllr Julia Lepoidevin, who represents Woodlands ward and is shadow cabinet member for children’s services, claimed that “What drives families into poverty is more than just income measures. It is addiction, family breakdown, domestic abuse, debt, leaving school with no qualifications. Give an addict an increase in benefit and it will be spent on the addiction, create further debt, cause mental health issues and break up families.”

While no-one would deny that the causes of poverty can be complex, Cllr Lepoidevin deliberately chose to attack a tiny minority of vulnerable people rather than accepting that many ordinary people will be forced into poverty by her party’s benefit cuts. Labour councillors rightly attacked her for these disgraceful comments – unfortunately, they are passing on these cuts at a local level and they are hurting Coventry people with council tax rises.

This is not Cllr Lepoidevin’s first attack on working class people – in 2014, she called food bank users “selfish” and claimed they spend money on drugs and alcohol rather than food and rent.

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Sarah Smith (left) protesting against the eviction of a bedroom tax victim

Sarah Smith, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in Woodlands ward, said the comments were “appalling”. “Not content with just making these cuts, Cllr Lepoidevin wants to rub salt in the wound. I will continue to campaign against her and any other councillors who want to attack ordinary people.”

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

 

Rally to save Edgwick Play Centre

Rally to save Edgwick Play Centre

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Users of Edgwick Play Centre in Foleshill have organised protests on Saturday 30th January against its proposed closure. The centre is used by many local residents, and if closed would be the second local leisure centre to be closed in the area in recent years, after Livingstone Baths was shut by the council.

Lucy O’Donughue, whose daughter Saskia uses the play centre, said “The closure of the play centre will have a very big negative effect/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 provides a safe positive, multicultural, tolerant environment for her to play.”

Simon Evans has two children, Kimberly and Rhian, who use the centre regularly. He says “Kimberly’s favourite thing to do is play football, which if not for the play centre she would rarely be able to do.” Kimberly said “Most of these kids like me, have made brilliant friends and [the play centre] has helped with socialisation. It’s so sad.”

Edgwick Play Centre is one of the many services that faces closure by the council. Other services under threat include many libraries, community centres and youth centres. Council workers are also facing job losses and some services may end up being run by volunteers rather than council staff. We think councillors have a choice not to make these cuts – read more about it here.

The protests are on Saturday 30th January, the first is outside Edgwick Play Centre at 12 midday and the second is outside the council house at 2pm. Come along and protest against cuts and closures!

Lower Stoke by election – Socialist Party statement

Lower Stoke by election – Socialist Party statement

Coventry Socialist Party has decided not to propose nomination of a TUSC candidate in the forthcoming Lower Stoke by-election.

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Dave Nellist with Lower Stoke Socialist Party campaigner Rob McArdle

Former Coventry councillor Dave Nellist, explained today:

“Socialists in Coventry remain resolutely opposed to the cuts the Labour Council are continuing to pass on.  Such as the £3 million cut to Council Tax support for the city’s poorest.

We now know that over 1400 council jobs have been cut in the last five years, and the council plans to cut 1000 more.  That’s 2,500 young people in Coventry denied the chance of a decent job.  And Councillor Damian Gannon, Cabinet Member for Finance, has said the authority is ‘looking at altering employment terms such as holiday and sickness pay’ of those who remain.

It’s no defence for Labour to say they are responding to national Tory cuts – locally, Labour has doubled its reserves in the last four years from £41m to £84m; it could use a proportion of that to delay cuts whilst launching a campaign to force the government to restore proper funding to the city.

These are the arguments we will continue to put.  But we are conscious that this is the first local by-election since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the new leader of the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn says the Labour Party will be anti-austerity and we want to work with members of Labour, especially new members, who support that.

Unfortunately TUSC hasn’t yet had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy to discuss what he can do to get Labour councillors, in Coventry and elsewhere, to refuse to implement Tory cuts.

Or to find out what he thinks council service users, trade unionists, and community campaigners should do in elections if all the likely candidates on the ballot paper are going to carry out the cuts.

So, on this occasion, the Socialist Party has agreed not to stand a candidate, so that there is no artificial obstacle to having that discussion with Jeremy and his supporters.

But time is short. Standing aside in a council by-election is one thing. But in May there will be over 2000 councillors up for election, including 18 seats in Coventry.

We want to have a serious discussion with those in Labour who are serious about fighting the cuts. But the Socialist Party is also clear that any politician who votes for cuts cannot expect to have a free run at the ballot box, no matter what party label they wear.”

 

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

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