Labour is not providing an alternative to the misery and anger that the Tories’ cuts are creating, say two former Labour Party councillors.
Dean Kirk and Gill Kennett left the party in April this year after they were indefinitely suspended for refusing to vote through a package of cuts on Hull city council.
Hull is a city mired in poverty.
Tory austerity has made the situation even worse. And city services that are already struggling have been hit by a cuts package of £48 million to be rolled out over the next two years.
But rather than offer an alternative, the Labour-led council voted through an annual budget which accepted the cuts.
Council leader Daren Hale confirmed that this would see hundreds of jobs being axed. Children’s services and adult social care will also be cut back.
Residents will also face over inflation rises in charges, with 1.9 percent council tax increase.
Gill worked in social services for 25 years and lost her job at the authority in 2010 after a round of cuts which saw 1,000 jobs go.
She was not prepared to vote through the Labour budget, and rebelled along fellow councillors Dean Kirk and Gary Wareing.
“I couldn’t vote through the cuts,” she told Socialist Worker. “I know the people who would be hit hardest. I’ve sat in their houses, I’ve seen the poverty they face.
“I know the suffering would have been worsened. So many more children would have been made vulnerable.”
Both Gill and Dean had been Labour Party members for most of their lives. But they don’t see themselves as having moved away from the party.
Gill said, “We like to say the party moved from us. It’s very disappointing. The principles and values I hold, I believed Labour was the party for me.
“We got elected as councillors on a campaign of no cuts. People do not want Labour to just do the Tories’ bidding.”
Dean, who is a health worker, said he didn’t want to leave Labour but felt he didn’t have a choice.
“I was brought up during the miners’ strike,” he said. “My dad worked maintaining the pit wheel, and even though he wasn’t a miner, he refused to break the strike.
“Times were very hard, as a result my parents divorced. I know what it’s like for people, and I’m not prepared to do the Tories’ work.”
Dean said the cuts would make it even harder for a struggling health service to care for the sick and the vulnerable.
“My colleagues will be bearing the brunt of the council cuts,” he said.
“As a councillor I’ve had calls from GPs and social workers asking me if there is a campaign going on against the cuts to health services.”
The lack of alternative to the attacks on the poor and working class people also influenced Gill and Dean’s decision to leave Labour.
In the local elections in May Ukip emerged as the second party behind Labour.
Ukip candidate Richard Barrett took the Southcoates East ward seat from Labour councillor David Gemmell by just nine votes. Gemmell had been a councillor for 26 years.
Dean argued that this must act as a wake up call for Labour—but not to move to the right and chase Ukip’s policies.
“It’s extremely worrying,” he said. “Southcoates East is a very deprived ward, with a lot of people claiming working benefits.
“It doesn’t make sense to have a Ukip councillor, but people think it’s a change. It’s not.”
The upcoming general election will put Labour to the test.
“It will be a very strange election,” said Dean. “There’s not much difference in politics. I have no confidence in Ed Miliband whatsoever.
“Why did he wait so long to come out against the bedroom tax? Labour has lost a lot of votes in Hull. I’ll be voting Labour, but I know a lot of my family who won’t.”
Since leaving Labour Dean and Gill still work with their old colleagues on a number of issues. But they have formed the Independent Labour group on the council.
They are organising to present a people’s budget, where local people will have their say over funding. Dean is up for re-election next year, and will be standing firmly on a no cuts campaign.
“We’re doing the right thing to provide an alternative,” he said. “I took my seat from a Lib Dem councillor because I campaigned to fight the cuts.”
Gill urged more Labour councillors to make a stand against austerity.
“Somebody’s got to do something,” she said. “I didn’t want my grandchildren to turn to me one day and ask why I let what people worked for be destroyed.
“If Labour do get in after the general election and let people down then that is a real worry. People need to be socialists and take a stand.”