Jobs and services slashed in Norfolk
By Pat Yarker
Tory-controlled Norfolk County Council sent a clear message to the poorest and most vulnerable on Valentine’s Day: if you’re in need, you’re on your own. As 250 people protested outside the council-chamber, and dozens more protested inside it (including three members of Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts who were briefly arrested for trying to ask questions) Council leader Derek Murphy said: “People are rightly passionate about their county, their services and their jobs. But needs must, and those needs are very great indeed.” Councilor Murphy and his fellows bowed to the “needs” of Tory budgetary dogma, the financial logic of the ruling-class, and voted to slice £60m from council spending. Another £90m worth of cuts is likely over the next few years. Youth and children’s services, adoption and family intervention work are especially badly hit. Unions who organise council-workers must step up the fight to save every job and maintain every service. They need a campaign to build for strike action.
Bromley Council in south east London is set to make massive cuts to children's and youth centres, sheltered housing and library services. Activists plan a protest outside the council meeting, outside the Civic Centre, at 6pm on Monday 28 February. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barnet's anti-cuts group lobbied the council cabinet meeting that adopted a cuts package of £54.4 million over three years. We were joined by first-time protesters, including staff, parents and children from schools whose crossing patrols are being cut, and angry residents living in the Controlled Parking Zones, whose charges are going up by 130-400 per cent to plug a gap in the highways budget.
The meeting was raucous, the cabinet were heckled throughout and adjourned for 45 minutes, hoping that the crowd would quieten down or go away. One resident was threatened with expulsion for trying to film the meeting on his phone. We will make "the right to film" a feature of our lobby of the council meeting on 1 March to ratify the budget. We are also mobilising in the services facing direct cuts, particularly the youth service which will be gone in four years if Barnet's Tories get their way.
More than 200 people marched from Leyton to Walthamstow; the march was organised by the Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union, a Socialist Party initiative. The demo was broad, and emphasised youth services and the NHS. Less was said about elderly care — an area where the borough faces massive cuts.
Around 1000 people took part in Lewisham Carnival Against Cuts on 19 February.
Liverpool: the cuts put women's lives at risk
By Elaine Jones, Merseyside Women Against the Cuts
On 18 February the Rape and Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre in Liverpool received a standard email from the council informing them that their budget has been withdrawn.
Removing these services, which rely on small grants to survive, will put women's lives at risk. Service co-ordinator Joe Wood said:
“RASA is absolutely horrified after receiving notification from Liverpool City Council that their ISVA funding for sexual violence survivors from 1 April has been withdrawn completely, while claiming that they aim to protect the most vulnerable in their budget cuts.
“In 2010, RASA saw 522 victims of sexual violence at their outreach centre in Liverpool. Total value of counselling and support hours for clients in 2010 was £352,580.
“In the period, RASA received £60,000 under the Citysafe funding for ISVA services. The counselling aspect was provided unfunded, un-commissioned and at no cost to the City of Liverpool. Despite this, the City of Liverpool refused to give us 100% rates relief so we were, in effect, paying them to allow us to serve their residents.
“Now that the only statutory funding has been reduced to zero, RASA will not be able to sustain the current level of service — at a time when we need to be expanding to cater for the 200 existing clients, we may not be able to afford to even pay the rent!”
Labour-led Liverpool city council is making these cuts. Joe Anderson, council leader, has done interviews saying he has no choice — he has even called an “anti-cuts” demonstration. Merseyside Women Against the Cuts have organised a petition and will organise protests against the loss of this vital funding.
On Thursday 17 February Islington council unions a lobby of Islington's council meeting where the Labour majority would be voting their cuts budget through. The rally outside the town hall was also supported by the local trades council and IHOOPS the local anti-cuts campaign. Despite this it wasn't well attended with significantly less (at most 200) than the demo held in mid December. The rally this time was focussed on the Labour party and our call for them not to vote through the cuts, this is the same Labour council who led the last demo against the cuts, whose leader Catherine West spoke about "fighting the cuts", noticeable initially by their absence and later by their decision to have us removed by the police from the public gallery.
This rally was more focussed politically and a lot more coherent. It was also more 'flat', cuts have started to bite in Islington without much sign of an official fightback from the Unions and the SWP led calls for a 'general strike' weren't there this time. There were some inspiring speeches including one from a local pensioner who had recently been involved in an occupation of a local day centre (Sotheby Mews) which has won them a reprieve against closure, seen rightly as an opportunity to organise and lots of calls for people to come into the council meeting that night and make their feelings known. Despite Labours bleating about how terrible the cuts were and even noises from Hackney Labour party about some councillors considering voting against we all knew the way Islington Labour councillors (without exception) were going to vote that night.
Despite a small attempt at getting in the main hall the main focus was simply to go into the public gallery and make things uncomfortable for the people who have until very recently been leading demos and speaking at public meetings against the cuts. We did this for the first hour of the meeting including my favourite chant of the evening "Labour councils gone beserk, doing all the Tories work". This shouting made it impossible for Labour to discuss let alone vote on their budget and had a really good spirit and feel to it.
To Labour's shame the police were called on us this was clearly a 'warning' as when we didn't 'calm down' the meeting took a 10 mninute break during which time the police suddenly appeared with re-enforcements. The second time the police were much more physical immediately forcing people out including dragging people and threatening them with being arrested for breach of the peace.
Predictably, once the police had cleared the pubic gallery the council unanimously voted through the cuts budget. Despite this defeat the struggle in Islington must go on, building for the TUC demo on 26th. Most campaigners had no illusions in the Labour Party council, but they must also beware of the ability of our own union leaders to derail an industrial fight, grassroots campaigns will continue to be essential to force union leaders to allow our class to fight.
More than 1,000 people turned out on a demonstration on Sunday called by Liverpool City Council ‘against’ the cuts.
It was revealed on Thursday that the council intends to make cuts totalling £91 million this year with the loss of 1500 jobs (not including those lost due to cuts to funding of the voluntary sector). This is to be followed by a further £50 million in cuts next year. Central government funding to the council has been reduced by 22% - the highest anywhere in the country. Liverpool is already the most deprived city in England and Wales.
Most people on the demonstration were either workers or service users from places already facing immediate cuts, however the mood was nervous rather than visibly angry, with very little chanting as we walked through the city centre.
The demonstration was publicised under the slogan ‘Fair Deal for Liverpool’. The argument being that the cut to Liverpool is disproportionate, that if the cuts had been applied ‘evenly’ across local authorities, then Liverpool would ‘only’ be facing a cut of 9% and therefore be some £27 million better off.
The Labour group has formed a ‘coalition’ to write this budget with the Lib Dems, the Liberal party, and the Greens. The rationale for this ‘united front’ as described by the [Liberal] Lord Mayor Hazel Williams, is being described publicly as some kind of ‘blitz spirit’ effort do deal with this ‘emergency’ and not let ‘party politics’ get in the way. In fact, at the last Liverpool Riverside Constituency Labour Party it was made abundantly clear by Councillor Paul Brant (with some smugness!) that this was being done order to protect the Labour councillors from attacks from the right: Come election time, the Lib Dems and others would not be able to criticise the cuts, as they had helped write them!
Council leader Joe Anderson led the demonstration and opened the rally by railing against the government, the banks and saluted the demonstration for showing the Tories that ‘Liverpool was sticking together’. There were some people heckling and shouting, but mostly people cheered this on.
In fact last Thursday Anderson had come to speak at Liverpool Trades Council at which he had made it abundantly clear that there would be no fight – the council would seek to do the best job it could with the card they had been dealt. On the demo he used his final remarks to hammer the ‘looney left’, that ‘there would be no return to the 80s’ – referring to the period where the council was controlled by the Militant Tendency which led then eventually called off an attempt to defy Thatcher. This is a favourite trick of the Labour leadership in Liverpool. They use the example of a fight that was cocked up to affirm that defeat and humiliation is always what you get when you stand up.
The people who did get a hard time were the Lib Dems and the Greens. Councillor Warren Bradley, the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, could hardly be heard and the [very posh] speaker from the Green Party was forced to give up halfway through her speech after she had said that ‘some cuts will be necessary.’
Clearly there are very contradictory things going on. In the absence of anything better, despite everything, people still see the Labour Party as the force that is going to protect them from the tory attacks, but, as was made very clear by many people you spoke to, this is on the basis that they expect a fight.
I spoke to a group of women from a Youth Offenders’ Unit who described the consequences if these cuts are allowed to happen as ‘leaving Liverpool a Moonscape’.
Liverpool Trades Council has called a lobby of the council for its official budget setting on March 2nd. Workers’ Liberty activists in the city will be doing all we can to try and use this as a point to catalyse the kind of fight that will be needed to stop these catastrophic cuts.