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.

 

 

 

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

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Coventry NUT (National Union of Teachers) has organised a protest this week against Tory plans to turn every school in the country into an academy. The protest is outside Coventry DFE (Department for Education) offices in the Butts on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm.

We have already seen the negative effects of “academisation” in Coventry, with a number of schools such as Blue Coat, Grace Academy and Woodlands facing financial difficulty – Woodlands Academy is currently under threat of closure.

Forcing all schools to become academies is indicative of the Tories’ desire to privatise public services, by removing schools from local authority control and handing them over to big businesses. Teachers, parents and students need to fight these plans – save our schools!

Protest outside Coventry DFE on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm! 

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

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Protest outside Woodlands Academy (photo Cov Telegraph)

Over 200 staff, parents and pupils gathered outside the gates of Woodlands Academy on a very cold and wet afternoon to protest at the proposals to effectively close Coventry’s only all boys school. Please read and share the below report from Jane Nellist, joint divisional secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers (NUT) which represents many teaching staff at the school.

A consultation letter was sent to all parents and staff outlining plans to close Woodlands School and merge pupils into the neighbouring Tile Hill Academy, currently an all girls school, and that it would be renamed and become a co-ed school in 2017.

Woodlands School was built in 1954 as a purpose built Comprehensive school, one of the very first Comprehensive schools in the country.  It became an Academy in 2011 even though teachers and unions protested against the proposals and took strike action against the conversion.  At the time, unions warned that there was no guarantees of extra funding and new school buildings. That’s exactly what has happened.

We know that by 2020, Coventry will need to find many more school places for children that are currently in Primary Schools in the city due to population growth, and that’s without accounting for further housebuilding in the city.

This situation highlights the government’s chaotic  education policies with the growth in Academies along with the demise of the Local Authority and sensible democratic accountability, oversight and planning for school places. It is also a consequence of the government’s policy of agreeing to Free school expansion, including a Free school in the area, Finham 2, which has added to the destabilisation of school places in this area of Coventry.

The Department for Education, whilst agreeing to the Free Schools and pushing schools into becoming Academies is failing to step in and support schools. The marketisation of our schools and increased competition, encouraged by the Tories, is proving a disaster.

This has all contributed to the very worrying situation of the planned closure of one of Coventry’s schools, and the job losses of teachers and support staff at Woodlands.

Parents are angry, pupils are unsettled and staff are left with not knowing if they have a job.

Coventry parents, pupils and education staff deserve far better.

 

 

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.