Socialist Worker

Struggle is spreading to stop council cuts

by Mark L Thomas
Issue No. 2230

Students joined a lively march in Oxford last Saturday  (Pic: Jamie Pitman)

Students joined a lively march in Oxford last Saturday (Pic: Jamie Pitman)


A massacre of jobs and services is sweeping Britain—but resistance is growing.

Council leaders last week said that 140,000 jobs will go in local government across England and Wales over the next year.

A glimpse of what this can mean can be seen in proposals from Camden council in north London last week.

It will move children with severe special needs to schools that serve children with less complex conditions.

And the council has indicated that only minimal support from psychologists will be provided. These cuts will take £1 million a year away from those children.

The council also plans to cut back on provision of free nursery care for three and four year olds.

It is considering closing two children’s centres, ending funding for breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and holiday classes.

Meanwhile 250 libraries are earmarked for closure across Britain. Oxfordshire county council is to stop funding almost half of its libraries. It says local volunteers should run them instead, as part of David Cameron’s “Big Society”.

Teenagers

The fightback against the attacks is gathering pace. In Oxford more than 700 people joined an anti-cuts march last Saturday.

Jamie Pitman told Socialist Worker, “Angry teenagers from local comprehensives and colleges chanted, ‘Money for school courses not for police horses’.”

A sit down in the high street was followed by a rally where the head of Oxford TUC and a 14-year old school student addressed the crowd.

Around 50 people then occupied a local branch of Barclays bank. When police moved them out, the protesters moved to a Vodafone shop, where staff scrambled to bring down their shop shutters.

“The emboldened demonstrators then caused three more banks and the town centre’s second Vodafone branch to close in panic,” added Jamie.

There are important signs that the mood of resistance is spreading into workplaces across the country.

In Kirklees in West Yorkshire, workers are a step closer to the first big strike against council job cuts.

Unison’s 8,500 members in the council are this week starting a strike ballot. The union is expected to call for a five‑day strike and intends to start action early in the new year.

The council wants compulsory redundancies, lower redundancy pay and cuts in redeployment rights. It also wants to use sickness records to decide who to sack.

Nick Ruff, chair of Kirklees Union, told Socialist Worker, “The Labour council added insult to injury when it issued more HR1 redundancy notices last week—putting a further 1,500 at risk of redundancy on top of the 1,100 already announced.”

The Unite union is also balloting its members in Kirklees and the GMB is conducting a consultative ballot. Workers will lobby the council on Wednesday of next week and march in nearby Huddersfield on 8 January.

Big angry union meetings also took place in Southampton and Barnsley last week.

The Tory council in Southampton wants to sack 250 workers and cut wages.

More than 400 workers spontaneously marched to the civic centre to demonstrate on Wednesday of last week.

Conservative leader of the council, Royston Smith, watched from a first floor window. He was greeted with the chant, “Why don’t you go and work at Costco?”

Sacked

This was a reference to his suggestion that sacked council workers could find work at the new superstore opening in Southampton next year.

In Barnsley, South Yorkshire, 450 council workers attended the biggest union meeting that anyone can remember.

They rejected proposed attacks on their terms and conditions—and unanimously agreed to take industrial action if they were imposed.

The council management has proposed to abolish sick pay and annual pay increments and to cut pay by 5 percent.

Speaker after speaker from the floor demanded that Unison provide a much stronger national leadership in the campaign against the cuts.

The biggest applause came when one member suggested that management and the government should be told to “get stuffed”.

The meeting agreed to build a demonstration in Barnsley on Saturday 11 December and to pack coaches for the national TUC demonstration on 26 March.

Thanks to everyone who sent in reports. Send messages of support to Kirklees Unison, 20 Queen Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2SP

People brave the snow to march in Ipswich  (Pic: Ralph Piggott)

People brave the snow to march in Ipswich (Pic: Ralph Piggott)



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