In a sign of the growing size of the anti-cuts movement, over 1,000 people joined a march against cuts in Nottingham organised by Notts Save Our Services last Saturday.
On the same day over 1,000 also marched in Gloucester.
There were 11 union banners on the Nottingham protest. Students marching behind a “Notts Students Against the Cuts” banner mingled with a contingent from Notts Pensioners Action.
Karen Houghton, a single mum and student at Nottingham Trent University, told Socialist Worker, “More and more cuts are being announced. It’s a struggle to feed the kids now. What will it be like in 12 months time?
“It’s like the 1980s again. They say we’re all in it together—but I bet they won’t economise on the royal wedding.”
Ian Durose said, “I’m on incapacity benefit. I’ve had a hip replacement and some mental health problems. I’m sick of being made a scapegoat.”
Ian’s wife Jane is a teaching assistant. The Labour-run Nottingham City Council wants to cut workers’ wages by 25 percent—over £5,000 a year.
After a thousand teaching assistants protested last month the council delayed the cut until next year, but Jane is worried about what will happen then.
“The rich are lapping it up and dumping the problems onto poor people,” she said.
A large and lively group of pupils, parents and staff from Gedling School, which is facing closure, joined the march.
Jane Crich, an NUT union rep at Gedling, told Socialist Worker, “The council say that there are surplus school places. But we know that in other schools there isn’t enough space already.”
The closure of the school with over 600 pupils will have a huge impact. “Gedling is a former mining community,” says Jane.
“Many feel the community is under threat again—the pub has closed, the library faces a big cut in its opening hours.” But there’s a fightback. “We had a public meeting of 500 people and have campaign meetings of 80 to 100 every Sunday,” says Jane.
Strikes are going to be vital to beat back the cuts.
Martin Sleath, branch secretary of Nottingham County Unison union, was on the march with a delegation of workers.
He said, “The council wants to cut £150 million over three years from a budget of £450 million, excluding schools.” Council plans include sacking 3,000 workers.
“We’ve organised workplace meetings to argue for a strike and will hold a consultative ballot at the end of each one. We’ll then look to hold a ballot for industrial action,” Martin said.
Paul Williams from the PCS union told the rally, “We face the most serious attacks since the formation of the welfare state.
“We need to challenge the government politically and industrially. Next year there is no doubt we’ll be on strike. We need to stand together—we need a general strike.”
Speakers from disability groups and community centres that are under threat also spoke.
Doreen Walker, a wheelchair user, said that she will have to pay £10.50 a week out of her benefits to attend the Acorn Day Centre.
A group of Labour Party members and councillors from Hucknall, another former mining town, marched with their banner.
One Labour member said, “We should be taxing the rich, not hurting those with no option but to use these services.”
Trevor Locke, a Labour councillor and lead member for finance on Ashfield council, said “We should do something about the £120 billion in tax fraud and avoidance. We should cancel Trident and take the £7 billion in bankers’ bonuses.”
Central government funding to councils will be slashed by 27 percent over the next four years—the biggest cuts of any government department. The GMB union says that 40,000 job losses have already been announced.
The Tories want Labour councils to do their dirty work. But Labour councillors should refuse to impose cuts and call on local workers to back their stand.
Any council that did this would become a beacon of resistance, boosting the fightback.
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