A hundred workers, council tenants, parents, service-users and pensioners protested outside Lambeth council’s “Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee”, at very short notice, on 19 July. (Children and Young People’s Services are the sharp end of the Labour council’s cuts programme, set to lose £20 million over two years.)
Lambeth council is pushing through cuts, privatisation and anti-working class measures independently of the Tory cuts, and was doing so long before the election..
Some of their measures do not even pretend to save money. All the workers (but none of the senior managers) in the borough’s One O’Clock Clubs are being sacked and forced to reapply if they want new jobs. This will save no money whatsoever: what it will do is disrupt a much valued service for young children, but also remove an inconvenient nest of trade union strength, where density is almost 100 percent, paving the way for cuts later.
In the period ahead, every Labour councillor will have to choose between “respectable” collaboration with the Tories and the interests of the working-class communities they claim to represent. In the case of Lambeth, the council’s record suggests they will not choose the latter unless subjected to unbearable pressure from below. Let’s build that pressure!
Barnet is becoming notorious, first for Future Shape/easyCouncil, now for the great councillors’ allowances hike, the charge being led by GLA member and Barnet councillor Brian Coleman, the second highest paid councillor in the country, we now learn.
When Barnet residents tried to ask a question at a “Residents’ Forum” about the council Leader and Cabinet voting themselves 55-99% allowances increases last week they were told they weren’t allowed.
The council is pushing local schools to apply for Academy status, there were 18 lining up at the last count. Most of the council services are being “bundled up” for privatisation. Sheltered housing wardens are likely to face the axe soon - the council had to put that cut off for one year due to a lively political and legal campaign led by elderly residents.
The trades council was revived in 2008. This summer we are putting in place plans for a big Barnet Public Services Alliance meeting on 23 September. We hope to repeat the success we had in 2008 when we organised a public and staff meeting about Future Shape that drew 300 people.
We now have three regular sites for street stalls in Finchley Central, High Barnet and Burnt Oak, and hope to add to these as more people get active.
At the same time Barnet Anti Academies Alliance has been set up – this is concentrating efforts on informing staff, parents and governors at one of the local secondaries and is putting together a newspaper to distribute at schools at the start of term.
Camden Trades Council called an anti-cuts campaign meeting on 12 July, attended by about 100 people. The meeting did not set up a continuing anti-cuts committee, but it looks as if that will eventually be set up.
Unfortunately nothing seemed to have been done to inform school NUT groups about the meeting.
Unfortunately also speakers offered a restatement of what the audience already knew about the cuts and the Government being bad, plus a plug for that speaker’s particular “thing”.
Only two rank-and-file activists from local unions other than Unison could get in.
There was a debate on whether or not to have “unity” and a “coalition against the cuts” with the Labour Party which controls the council.
The nearest thing to a debate was the responses from the floor to the speech by Labour. Hugo Pierre, a Unison activist and SPer, responded well, saying that no-one should prejudge the Labour council as the enemy, but the council should join with unions and community groups to fight the cuts instead of carrying them out.
It is important for activists to go into these meeting with a specific written proposal for how a committee should be set up and what initial activities it should do.
More than 50 people attended a meeting on the cuts called by Nottinghamshire Trades Council on 14 July. There were many “new” faces at the meeting and people came to directly report recent cuts and issues in thier workplaces, including victimisation cases as well as redundancies.
The meeting voted to set up an anti-cuts committee and called a local conference of shop stewards and activists to coordinate action and solidarity after the summer.
Merseyside TUC launched a Merseyside Public Sector Alliance at a meeting of over 100 this month.
The meeting adopted an action plan which included establishing delegate-based committees across Merseyside to be co-ordinated through trades councils, organising a demonstration outside Lib Dem conference, booking a train to the TUC demonstration on 19 October, as well as planning some action to co-ordinate with the European Day of Action (26 September).
Peter John, Soutwark’s Labour Council leader, wouldn’t say anything concrete about the cuts at Southwark TUC’s meeting about the cuts on Monday 19 July.
However, the latest Southwark News says the Council expects a £76 million cut in central government funding. The current council budget is £319 million, 75% of which comes from central government. An anti-cuts group is expected to be set up soon.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock showed his contempt for anti-cuts campaigners at a Council meeting on 14 July when he called us “fucking idiots”. 100 activists, demanding no cuts to jobs or services, attended the protest organised by the local NUT.
Bullock went on to approve £2.75 million of cuts for this year — but there is much more to come in November.
A range of deeper cuts, including the closure of five libraries and at least one early childhood centre plus slashing jobs across all the council’s departments, are also being considered for implementation over the next three years.
Later Bullock said he had left his microphone on while making an aside. He added, “The idea that Lewisham Council can decide that we won’t make any cuts while the rest of Britain is having its public services reduced by 25 per cent is nonsense.”
A modest-in-size but productive meeting on 27 July set up a Lewisham Anti-cuts Alliance, bringing together the trades council and campaign groups. The new group plans regular stalls, organising meetings and demonstrations.