Coventry refuse workers take unofficial action to defend victimised union rep

Coventry refuse workers take unofficial action to defend victimised union rep

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Outside the Council House

 

Coventry refuse workers based at Whitley Depot today downed tools in response to the suspension of a UNITE shop steward amid allegations of ongoing bullying by management.

In a show of strength and solidarity over 30 workers descended on Coventry Council House in the City Centre to protest and support their colleague, as union representatives talked with management.

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Workers receiving updates from union officials

Determined to show their support, workers remained outside the building all morning and early afternoon. A meeting tomorrow morning was planned to discuss any updates and any further action. It is vital that UNITE nationally throws its support behind the rep and this group of workers, and activists from other Council unions need to discuss how to show support. Unions are fighting not just for their own members, but also the future of public services. Everyone in Coventry needs to support the action today, and any future action called by the union.

An injury to one is an injury to all! We demand the immediate reinstatement of the suspended rep!

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Discussing the next steps

 

Council workers – reject the pay offer

Council workers – reject the pay offer

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Reject!

By a council worker in Coventry

Local government unions have just started consulting hundreds of thousands of members who work in Councils across the country over the latest pay award.

Paltry offer – sick pay and annual leave not protected

The headline is that the employers are offering a paltry 2 per cent pay deal over two years (1 per cent per year to cover 2016 – 2018). Significantly they have also refused to protect our current sick pay and annual leave.

We are getting worse and worse off. A Midlands TUC report released this week shows that wages in the West Midlands are on average £38 less in real terms compared to 2008. Our day to day experience shows that we are under more pressure at work – being subjected to sometimes oppressive performance management regimes, unrealistic expectations where management want us to provide the same vital service but with far less staff, all of which leads to more and more stress.

The position of UNISON, UNITE and GMB

UNISON and UNITE are both recommending that the offer is rejected and this is welcome. The GMB have made no recommendation. Why not? Surely it is either a good offer or bad offer? This is all the more strange since the GMB congress in 2014 voted to campaign for a £10 per hour minimum wage. This offer does not provide for that so it makes no sense to not recommend rejection. GMB members who want to see a fightback over pay should be asking these questions.

How can we win our pay award?

We need a massive rejection of the pay offer in this consultation. We need to tell the employers we mean business, and also the leaderships of our unions that we need to resist.

In a welcome development, the UNISON ballot paper has three options for those choosing to reject. They are – all out strike action, selective strike action and action short of strike action. Members can mark up to 3 of these options and we would encourage all 3 to be ticked.

What kind of action?

Some activists will see selective action as a way of winning our campaign – of bringing out groups of workers who in their eyes have more clout to really hit home. However selective action has certain dangers. It should not be seen as a panacea, as a short cut to winning our just demands. There is a danger that bringing out small groups of workers can mean the mass of members are bystanders and gives the impression that campaigns can be won by proxy.

This is being looked to (in many ways, understandably) by some activists due to the previous campaigns from the local government unions, particularly on pay and pensions (2014 and 2011 being the latest), where there have been highly successful and well supported days of strike action involving huge numbers of members. The union leadership has then sold us short – however the problem wasn’t the mass strike action which was highly successful but the fact that the leadership had little strategy and no plan of action, ultimately selling us short.

Selective action (or regional action) can be a useful auxiliary to mass national action but it is no substitute for it, likewise action short of strike action. However, as part of an overall strategy all three options should be supported in the ballot, with selective action and action short of a strike used to back up a programme of all out action.

What is at stake?

We need to not only reject this offer but to have a plan of how we fight for pay justice and also the wider austerity agenda. Much is at stake, yes our pay but also our jobs, terms and conditions and indeed the future of public services. The employer certainly recognises this – every time the unions have made way without a fight or have squandered powerful positions as in the disputes over pensions in 2011 and pay in 2014, the bosses in central and local government have been emboldened.

We need to challenge austerity strongly at a national and local level. We need to rebuild our trade unions recruiting more shop stewards and strengthening basic union organisation on the shopfloor. With Britain being the 6th richest country in the world and it being revealed that the 62 richest people in the world have as much wealth as half of the world’s population, we know the money is there for decent pay. The trouble is the system. We need to fight for socialism. Socialist Party members in the council trade unions are fighting for a programme of action and change – join us!

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 trade unions under attack from Labour council

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers - on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers – on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

By Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT joint secretary (personal capacity)

Coventry City Council, a Labour controlled authority, is seeking to make draconian cuts on the trade union facilities time of the recognised trade unions.

Recently in The Socialist newspaper we have had reports of attacks on trade unions in Conservative councils which are being fought alongside mass privatisation of services, but these attacks, from a Labour controlled council are an absolute disgrace.  Trade Unions are organising and mobilising members to defend our rights to support our members.

What’s worse is the manner in which they are trying to railroad this through without proper negotiation and regard to our collective agreements.

A Collective Dispute lodged on behalf of Unison, Unite, NUT, NASUWT and ATL has been disregarded.  The proposals outlined in a flawed document, which is defended with references to the arguments used by the Tax Payers Alliance, would mean that unions would suffer severe reductions in the time allocated for Trade Union duties to support their members, with Unison losing 45%, Unite, 21% and the NUT losing 70% of facilities time.

Pressure by the two Labour Party affiliated trade unions to persuade Labour leaders to intervene and withdraw the proposals has had no impact which makes members question more seriously why their unions are funding the Labour Party.   A wide campaign has now been launched to challenge the attacks.

Two issues need to be highlighted.  City Council Trade Unions have been at the forefront of the campaign to defend council services in the city.  We have had some success in pressurising the council to pull back on some areas of cuts to more vulnerable services such as Library cuts, disabled transport for schools and an employment service for vulnerable adults (TESS).  More importantly, these attacks coincide with the plans for the huge cuts which are about to come because Coventry Council, like others across the country have refused to stand up to Tory cuts.

It’s not just going to be services that are under attack.  As well as the 1000 jobs already cut, we know that there will be more job losses planned as well as huge attacks on pay and conditions on our members.

The key issue here is that whilst you sort of expect it from Tory councils, the fact that Labour is now openly preparing the way for the Tory’s dirty work exposes just why we need political representation that supports workers and defends our services.

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

The National Shop Stewards Network on Saturday, demonstrated how important it is to have fighting trade unions. The NSSN conference heard from trade unionists in Coventry about the campaign – with hundreds of union activists, including shop stewards, NEC members and general secretaries pledging their support for us

The fight in Coventry needs to be supported locally, nationally and internationally because if they get away with it here then your council or workplace trade union facility time will be next.

Our trade union movement has made great advances over the decades, but what we are seeing now challenges to all of those gains.  This must not be allowed to happen.

Support us by

  • Signing the online petition here
  • Like the Facebook campaign page here
  • Join the protests against austerity on Wednesday 8th July, 5.30pm Broadgate

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist 

Dave speaking at Coventry's May Day rally

Dave speaking at Coventry’s May Day rally

This letter about council cuts from former Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist was printed in yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph. Read this article if you want more background on the council’s planned cuts and what the Socialist Party would do differently.

“There’s been little coverage, so far, of the 18 contests for city council seats also taking place on May 7. So allow me raise one issue that I think could define those elections.

On April 22 the Telegraph carried the welcome story of a stay of execution for a City Council jobs service which helps some of the most vulnerable people in the city, at least until the end of the year.

This follows earlier decisions to delay for consultation the imminent closure of libraries, and cuts to disabled children’s transport. None of those decisions will now be taken before the election.

But in fact none of those decisions need to be taken at all.

None of the planned cuts to libraries, children’s and family centres, community centres, adult education centres, lollipop men and women, street cleaners and park maintenance are necessary.

Because when the City Council made its decision in February to set a budget including £15 million worth of cuts to the services mentioned above (and another thousand secure jobs lost to young people in the city) it did so on the money it knew at that time it had as income.

But since then we have learned that Wasps RFC is going to re-pay this summer the balance of the £14.4 million council loan, given to the Ricoh management company which Wasps now own. In other words the City Council will have for this year’s budget £14 million more than 3 months ago it thought it would have.

So here’s a question we could ask to every aspiring councillor in the last few days of the campaign: do you agree that the repayment of that £14 million Ricoh loan should be used to save our libraries, lollipop men and women, disabled children’s transport, jobs service for the most vulnerable and the other services under threat?

Yours sincerely,

Dave Nellist
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition”

Agree with Dave? Want to fight the council cuts? Fill in the form below to get involved!

Coventry – Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry- Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry

Coventry

We are pleased to publish this article by Jane Nellist, a leading trade unionist and anti cuts campaigner in our city, regarding the future of Coventry. It is a contribution to a debate about the way forward, how we can develop Coventry and what sort of policies need to be carried out. We welcome any feedback or comments, see bottom of the article about how to do this (to reply on the website rather than sending us a message scroll right to the bottom). It is particularly relevant at the present time with the forthcoming elections and the new development next to Coventry train station.


Coventry is not my birth city but I, like many others, seeking jobs, family or escaping from devastated countries, have made it their home.  Over the last hundred years, the city has grown to become the 10th biggest city in England with a rich mixture of people and cultures.  It is my city now; my three children were born, educated and grew up here.  I have spent over 30 years campaigning alongside my partner who, for nearly 10 of those years, was a Member of Parliament and then for 14 years a councillor in the city.

To know where we are and where we want to get to, we have to know where we have come from.  As a teacher in the city for over 20 years, I am passionate about teaching children about our city.

The medieval Coventry grew rich on wool and trade.  At one time, the city had the richest collection of medieval buildings to rival those of York and other heritage places.  Most of them destroyed by the bulldozers in the name of development not the Luftwaffe who bombed the city in 1940. They had become slums because there had been no investment in them.

The city has always been  at the heart of the pounding Industrial Revolution with a rich variety of skilled workers making watches, ribbon weaving, bicycles, machine tools  and of course cars.  In the boom of the 50s and 60s the city was rich with the highest paid factory workers the country.   The city centre was an amazing shopping experience – renowned as the best outside of London!  How things have changed!

Out of the rubble of the war, with the post war development we describe Coventry as a Phoenix.  The first purpose built shopping precinct, new homes instead of the decrepit ‘courts’ system, full employment with factories booming,  and of course, the ring road, which to some it’s an efficient way of keeping traffic moving around the centre, to others it’s a concrete collar strangling the city centre.

Housing estates grew very rapidly, hugging the city with green spaces, schools, shops, libraries, pubs and clubs and a heart of their own.  Many of those facilities are now closed and demolished – local services such as libraries are under threat as the council revenue is squeezed by government cuts and the Coalition’s Big Society

So what has gone wrong?  Two words come to mind- Recession and Austerity – Capitalism at its most brutish and thuggish.  It gives some of us the ‘good times’ then slaps you down.  It takes the profits and then moves on.  Huge factories across Coventry have closed, replaced with shopping outlets and lower waged businesses or, like Peugeot who closed the Ryton factory with a loss of 2300 jobs and moved the production to Slovakia.

We now have the most Food Banks.  Poverty blights our communities.  Poor housing contributes to poor health.  Benefit and welfare cuts impoverish our population. Low pay blights our communities. The ‘haves’ blame the ‘have not’s’ and the ‘have not’s’ are ignored or pilloried by the politicians.

So what is the Big Plan?  What are our elected officials and ‘city fathers’ doing to revive us?

Local councillors are fast at picking up their allowances but don’t give us much in return. MPs fly under the radar apart from a few articles in the local paper.  Why haven’t they spearheaded campaigns to save our services?   Democracy is suffering in our city. It’s hard to find much difference between Labour and Tories –all the councillors voted to implement huge cuts  with hardly a whimper of protest!  They wouldn’t even organise a protest to Westminster about the unfair cuts to the budget for the city or join other councils in an organised lobby of government.

Our council services are being hacked to pieces; children’s centres, libraries, community centres, resources to charities and voluntary sector services, education services, elderly care and youth services…….the list goes on.  Services that past generations fought for are being wiped out.

The City Council has recently produced the City Plan which identifies land for development and how they are going to meet the need for more housing and employment in our city.

Housing is a huge issue. With thousands on the housing waiting list, more living in over-crowded, poor housing, the Council’s answer is to build thousands of houses with an emphasis on detached housing on the greenbelt – Coventry apparently doesn’t have enough detached housing!

Our priority must be to urgently build affordable, low rent high quality family homes to relieve the misery. We need to also implement a huge programme of house improvement. Walk around the streets of Coventry and see how many homes need serious structural improvements including re-roofing and a whole host of repairs as well as efficient glazing.

Tenants are being left in the hands of big landlords and private letting agents, many charging exorbitant rents and ‘admin’ fees, often for poor quality housing. In the university areas, landlords have crammed four or more students into what had previously been two-bed properties, pushing families out of the area. This situation has been worsened by the Tory bedroom tax.

There are more and more homeless people visibly living on our streets. These are people who have fallen into a spiral of traps which they can’t get out of. Poor mental health services and the lack of drug and alcohol support programmes, lack of emergency housing, ‘Catch-22’ benefit system and a society that seeks to demonise the homeless mean that they have few ways out. In our city, that should be unacceptable. Everyone should have the right to a home. More supported housing is needed for those most vulnerable.

Over the last few years, the impact of unemployment especially amongst young people, benefit cuts, zero hour contracts and lower wages have had a devastating impact on our communities. Child poverty is going through the roof which has such an impact on young people for potentially, the rest of their life. That’s why I strongly support the demand for £10 an hour minimum wage and an end to zero hour contracts and the restoration of welfare and benefit support for those most in need. This would immediately lift those poorest families in Coventry to start to have a more decent life.

One of the big debates in our city at the moment is the impact of the growth of the two universities in our city- (yes that’s right- Warwick University is geographically within Coventry!) It’s not just about student numbers, although that is a big issue.

As a teacher, it’s great that we have two successful universities. However, there is a growing imbalance in our city, especially with the impact of Coventry University. The foot print of the university on our relatively small city centre is becoming like a big hob nail boot. Now the university is to take over office space used currently by the City Council which is moving into accommodation at the new train station development- Friargate. I hear more and more people commenting on the takeover of the city by the university. Soon our signs on approaching Coventry will say ‘welcome to Coventry University, the Home of Coventry’. We need to call a halt to this.

The proportion of young people in our city is growing and that’s good but many of those are the growing student numbers who only live in the city for only part of the year.   How can we build a successful commercial space when many of those are only here term time?

Coventry does have a great future if we have a plan that meets the needs of all of it’s people.

We need more investment and better paid jobs for local people. If we don’t have the skills, we need proper training facilities.

We need more resources for our public services especially for our elderly. The development of the over 50 complex at The Butts is great but what about those who do not have the wealth to move in there?

Too many elderly people who have given their working life to the companies who have made loads of money out of their labour are not receiving the care they need now. Too many private care homes are poor quality. Council Care homes are being closed. We need resources quickly to make their life more comfortable and enjoyable.

Our shopping centre suffers, as do many others with competition from out of city shopping citadels. Other towns and cities, easily accessible, offer a more pleasant shopping experience, so they say.  Empty shops, a plethora of charity shops, pound shops, betting and pawn shops as well temporary pop-up shops seem to be the norm in our city.  Many of the locally owned shops struggle with high rates in the city centre so you end up with the same High Street companies vying for our hard earned pounds- or credit.  At night, the city centre closes down and becomes a dead zone. No vibrant café culture for us. Clubs closing down and too few places for our young people to let off steam and dance the night away!

With the axing of youth centres across the city, there are few places for young people to meet up.  Entertainment is expensive and if you have not got the money, street corners are the only place to congregate.  We need better resources for our young people.

There are also fewer public toilets and baby changing/feeding places in the city.  We should have more. They need to be well lit, clean  and safe.

There is no doubt that our Phoenix is not in good health at all!  Our city is now a ‘Marmot’ city- a city that has been identified because of poor health indicators and health inequalities.  We have some of the lowest life expectancy in our poorest areas.  Some may say we are ‘Marmite’ city- you love it or hate it!  The latest atrocity is the new Study Inn in the old AXA building- a tetris or lego block, gaudy in its red grey and black garb. How did we allow this? The 3 spires are supposed to be the focal point.

There are some great things happening in the city- Fargo in Gosford Street is amazing and a breath of fresh air, Ego theatre, Artspace and other art venues, Warwick Arts Centre is the biggest outside of London.  Where people stand firm, we can win- look at the success of Charterhouse. By standing firm, residents have won and not only kept the field and the Charterhouse buildings but also, with Lottery Heritage funding, the facilities will be enhanced.  If it had been left up to the council, those community resources would have  been lost forever.

We have a great tourist trade with the Cathedrals and other historic buildings such as the world renowned Coventry Transport Museum, but we don’t harness it.  Our city should be buzzing at night with all of the varied restaurant and culture we have to offer.

The Herbert Gallery and Museum has a great collection and fantastic visiting exhibitions. We have the Two Tone Village which celebrates our rich musical heritage and of course the Belgrade Theatre.

Often, it’s hard to find out what is going on in the city- we are not good at telling people until it has happened!  It’s even harder if you have limited resources.  How often are venues half full or audiences that quite frankly are not representative of our population? – wouldn’t it be great if prices were reduced so that it could be more accessible.    I believe that we should have more free events. Culture should be at the heart of the city and accessible to all.  The Godiva festival is a great example how Coventry comes together with a free event.  Even that is now threatened with the Council cuts.

If you tell me that all of this is pie in the sky and that there is no money, ask yourself- Why are the rich getting so much richer? How come bankers are still getting over £80 billion in bonuses alone? Of course there is money, it’s just that we don’t control where it is spent. That’s why I am voting for TUSC in this election because there is a different way forward.

So what should we campaign for to ensure a brighter future for our city? :

  • Build more affordable housing in the city. Homes that are energy efficient. Mixed housing, flats and family homes with gardens. This is an urgent priority.
  • Ensure all brown field sites are utilised fully for priority housing and employment.
  • We should protect Green Belt land. It’s not ‘nimbyism’, the Green Belt belongs to everyone and should be protected for leisure pursuits with quality footpaths for wheelchair use and pushchairs and cycleways.
  • Improve the public transport system making it cheaper for people to use. Expand the ‘ring and ride’ so that those with certain needs can take part in the wider life of the city.
  • Build homes for people in the city centre. We need to re-populate the city centre. Stop the city becoming a student village with companies making huge amounts of profit out of students.
  • Stop the use of family homes for students and put more duties on landlords to look after the properties, including ensuring that homes are safe and well repaired, keeping entries accessible and clear of rubbish. Multiple occupancy homes should be registered with higher standards. If landlords fail to meet standards then have powers to transfer the homes to council ownership.
  • Build high quality student accommodation in other areas of the city.
  • Restore the Street Warden scheme and increase street cleaning. Ensure that there are facilities for people to get rid of bulky rubbish instead of dumping it on street corners.
  • Curb the development of the two Universities. There is a serious imbalance within the City Centre which is becoming increasingly Coventry University campus. Encourage the University to open up their facilities for the people of Coventry.
  • An immediate increase of the minimum wage to £10 hour for all workers whatever their age.
  • End zero hours contracts and limit the use of agency workers.
  • Increase the number of Apprentices with proper training, an increase in pay and a guaranteed job at the end of the training.
  • In conjunction with the Universities and Colleges, set up training programmes for those unemployed to equip them with skills for jobs.
  • Initiate an urgent city wide investigation into Child Poverty tasked with drawing up a plan to eradicate it in our city.
  • Stop the closure of libraries and other local services.
  • Increase Adult Education in the city.
  • Expand leisure and health facilities in the city. We should be building a 50 metre pool in the city.
  • Develop community facilities in local areas around Coventry. These should be freely accessible offering a wide range of entertainment, education and proper public information sessions.

Agree, disagree? Leave a comment or contact us if you want to get involved!

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

At Coventry Council’s budget meeting on Tuesday February 24th, the governing Labour group voted unanimously to support a budget containing £15million worth of cuts. These cuts will lead to the closure of libraries, adult education centres, children’s centres, and the sacking of many council workers including lollipop men and women.

The National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), former MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, handed in a 1,500 strong petition against the cuts to the Cabinet meeting held in the morning before the budget “debate”. When presenting the petition, Dave argued that the council should use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign to get the money back from central Government, and campaign for an incoming Government to provide financial relief to councils which used reserves to fund services.

Dave pointed out that the council has doubled its reserves from £40million to £80million, as well as making political decisions to use reserves for the ACL loan (£14million), investing in Coombe Abbey hotel (over £6million) and £millions more in Study Inn sites – “why don’t they make the political decision to use these reserves to fund services we need now, not for projects in 5, 6 or 7 years time?”

“This is nothing new. 40 years ago the Council faced cuts from a Labour Government under the IMF, and the Council leader, Arthur Waugh Sr., called a meeting in St Mary’s Hall of every Labour local authority, to call on the Labour Government not to make cuts.” Dave Nellist

In his brief response to reject the petition, Labour councillor Damian Gannon, Cabinet member for finance, claimed that reserves cannot legally be used – we would strongly challenge this claim, and ask under what law is it illegal for the council to use its own reserves? Even Tory minister Eric Pickles has called on councils to use reserves, and he isn’t known for advocating illegal budgets!

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Mr Gannon also claimed that the majority of the reserves cannot be used – however, even taking into account the £18million set aside for schools, the £10million the council plans to spend on privately-built old people’s homes (which should be built by the council, not private businesses), £4million for Ofsted improvements and around £3.5million that the council has used to fund children’s services and disabled children’s transport (demonstrating that the reserves can be used to fund expenditure!), there is around £45.5million left. Instead of setting this money aside for future projects, or “for a rainy day”, the council should acknowledge that it’s already “raining” and use it now!

If the councillors believed that the election of a Labour Government in May would make a difference, they could begin campaigning now for an incoming Labour Government to reverse all cuts, restore funding to local Government and reimburse any money the council had to use from reserves. However, despite council leader Ann Lucas’ theatrical prayer for a Labour Government in the council chamber, the evidence suggests that they know a Labour Government will act in the same way as the Tories. Perhaps they have heeded the words of their director of finance, Chris West, who said recently that “there is very little difference between the financial plans of the two main parties. Whoever wins the next election, the picture is broadly the same.”

Reflecting on the Cabinet meeting at which the petition was rejected, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist and community campaigner Robert McArdle said “It seems as though Labour councillors are willing to use reserves for anything except fighting cuts, and aren’t prepared to mount a battle against austerity.”

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

Before the budget meeting in the afternoon a group of trade unionists and socialists lobbied the council to ask the councillors going in if they would vote against cuts. Sadly none of the councillors were swayed – we believe this shows the need for an anti-austerity challenge at the next election, to elect councillors who will listen and fight.

The budget meeting was more eventful than most council meetings, particularly as the opposition to cuts throughout was demonstrated by the presentation of 3 petitions against library closures – one of them presented by Labour cllr Ram Lakha, who went on to vote for the budget which will probably lead to the closure of the libraries!

Labour’s Damian Gannon moved the budget, which was described by a Tory cllr as “a Gannon korma not a Nellist vindaloo”! Even this is perhaps flattering to the budget, however, which many people across Coventry will have found hard to swallow.

For the most part the budget consisted of “tangible service cuts that our residents will see and feel”, in cllr Gannon’s own words. However, the proposal of a £500,000 “transition fund” to enable “community groups” to run services was notable. This concept chimes perfectly with David Cameron’s vision of a “big society”, in which the state and local government have ceased to run services and they are instead taken over by volunteers – not the first time that our Labour council has echoed Tory values.

While volunteers can do valuable work, a team of untrained individuals, however dedicated, will not be able to run services as effectively as trained staff. The council is using this fund as a way to distract from the massive damage these cuts will cause. It is also important to ask how much of this £500K will be going to private vultures like PriceWaterhouseCooper, who the council have previously used?

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

Cllr Gannon said that the council has “no choice but to make cuts”, and “has made bold and brave decisions”. A bold and brave decision would be to fight the cuts, not do the Tories’ dirty work!

During council leader Ann Lucas’ speech, despite appealing to the trade unions to work with the council, she attacked their position towards the council as “drivel” and criticised the “outraged middle class” for protesting against cuts. We want the council to work with the trade unions as well – but we want them to work together to fight the cuts, not make them.

Coventry Council does have a choice. They could use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign against cuts – but they’ve chosen instead to make ordinary people pay with our jobs and services. Cllr Gannon rightly said that the Tories are “on the side of the few not the many” – but which side are Labour on?

The Socialist Party will keep building the campaign against austerity within the trade unions, in our communities and in elections as part of TUSC . We will also campaign against the capitalist system, the cause of austerity – and replace it with a socialist system, run by the millions not the millionaires.