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Councillors can disobey orders to impose cuts

Services have been slashed in cities across Britain, but campaigners are arguing for resistance to more cuts

Issue No. 2342

Manchester city council is preparing to vote on a plan that would slash £80 million from its budget.

This would cut six libraries, four swimming pools and more than 800 jobs.

The new budget would mean the council has lost more than a third of its workforce since 2010.

But a series of anti-cuts protests is putting pressure on Labour councillors to make a stand.

The campaign to save Levenshulme baths and library has held local demonstrations of more than 500, as well as a night-time sit-in at the library.

Stuart Fear, a campaigner, told Socialist Worker, “It would mean the heart of the community was ripped out.

“There is an alternative—it’s up to the conscience of the councillors to refuse to do it. We need more of that disobedience.”

Recent council elections have wiped out the Liberal Democrats on the ward.

Labour councillors came in on a manifesto that challenged the coalition’s cuts.

Several councillors have supported the Levenshulme campaign and now hope to amend the budget to save the pools and libraries.

Councillor Julie Reed joined 300-strong march on Saturday of last week. But unfortunately she won’t refuse to impose cuts.

“None of us want to make cuts,” she told Socialist Worker. “But if we refused to make any then Eric Pickles would tear us apart. He’d delight in doing as much damage to Manchester as he could.

“We’re trying to find the money but each year with more cuts it gets harder.

“Having all this going on—the protests, people blocking the road and occupying the library—will be a way of keeping the pool open and making sure the council executive is listening.”

There have also been large demonstrations to save Withington pool, as well as mass meetings against cuts in Chorlton, Burnage, Fallowfield and Moston.

Council workers are debating their own response.

“There are services that used to have 25 people working on them and now have just four,” said Jimmy Thornton, convenor of the council workers’ Unite union.

“The Labour council is becoming an agent of the government.”

“We need to take industrial action, to fight fire with fire.”

Workers in the much larger Unison union have been voting to elect a branch secretary.

Marion Doherty is campaigning for a union that resists the cuts.

“It’s true that the government is targeting Labour councils, but that doesn’t mean those councils should accept it,” she said.

“There are virtually no youth centres left in Manchester after the cuts two years ago.

“Last year the Sure Start centres were slashed, and this year they’re coming for adult social care.

“Once these services have gone they won’t come back.”

Protests against the cuts

This week protests took place against the cuts at council budget meetings across Britain.

In Birmingham protesters tried to blockade the council.

Protests were planned for Thursday of this week to lobby the councils in Hull and Stoke. There 700 people marched led by a model white elephant last Saturday, representing the council’s spending £40 million on new headquarters while they make cuts.

Children marched over the closure of their pool. But the far right Ukip party also took part. Coventry Unison organised a march and rally last Saturday against 800 Council job cuts.

In Middlesbrough students lobbied councillors against cuts to student bus passes.

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Tue 26 Feb 2013, 16:52 GMT
Issue No. 2342
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