Monday, 3 December 2012

Another £21 Million Cuts Planned - But £59 Million for a new Council HQ!

Oblivious to the massive anger across Stoke-on-Trent to the real effects of council cuts highlighted in the recent documentary “The Year The Town Hall Shrank” and their lunatic plan to borrow up £59 million to build a new council HQ our Labour led city council is preparing to do the Con Dems dirty work yet again.

Council and Labour leader Mohammed Pervez said: "The cuts are severe. We simply can't afford to carry on the way we have."

No Pervez that's not correct - with £44,000 a year for your part time job as council leader you CAN carry on the way you are. It's the rest of us - the suffering 250,000 who can't carry on the way we have been for two years now - bearing the burden of cuts, cuts and more cuts!

This latest £21 million worth of cuts will include;

  • Another 250 council jobs to go. This is on top of the 2,500 already lost according to the GMB union
  • A fourth year of pay freezes despite increasing inflation - in effect a fourth year of pay cuts
  • Worker's contractual conditions are also to be attacked.
  • 848 of the lowest paid workers, most of whom are part-time, will receive pay increases to lift them from the minimum wage to a national 'living wage' (in reality an 'existing wage') of £7.45 an hour. In other words, after year on year inflation is taken into account it still means a pay cut.
  • This while Mohammed Pervez gets around £28 an hour for his part time job as council leader and Chief Executive John van de Laarschot was paid £223,203 last year alone in salary, expenses and pension payment.
  • Despite the 250,000 people who live in Stoke-on-Trent suffering from the accumulated loss of £56 million of council cuts to jobs and services over the last two years and another £21 million next year our council tax will be 'frozen'. But only after being increased significantly in recent years! Why are we being made to pay more for less?
  • Cutting crossing patrols at schools with a pedestrian crossing – unless they agree to pay for them. So what are already cash strapped schools supposed to sacrifice? Many already have collections to buy books!
  • But the Labour council want to go even further than this. They also plan to 'increase other school service charges to raise £427,00' - in other words they plan to extract another £427,000 out of schools budgets as well.
  • Reducing CCTV monitoring to focus on trouble spot areas at peak times and axing the environmental crime unit
  • Shutting the St Michael's care home, in Chell with private company vultures circling above.
  • Increasing prices at leisure facilities like Dimensions and Fenton Manor by three per cent – where do they suggest hard pressed families are going to get all this extra money from?
  • Slashing free nursery class provision from 30 hours a week to the legal minimum of 15 hours. This means many parents will have to pay for extra hours so they can continue working. This in a city with 22% youth unemployment.
  • Axing £50,000 funding to voluntary groups.

Unelected Stoke-on-Trent City Council Chief executive John van de Laarschot says: "We have tried to delay it for as long as possible, but we are getting to the level now where we have to start looking at reductions in front line services."

What universe do these people live in? Over the last two years they have closed swimming pools, libraries, care homes etc. Are these not 'front line services'?

We can only draw one of two conclusions - either they lack the bottle to stand up to Cameron and his government or they agree with the Tories and that is why they are so willingly and pliantly implementing the cuts and acting as the dutiful hatchet men and women of the Tories.

Resistance needed

However if they were to launch a campaign of resistance to central government, the Socialist Party would give our 100% support to any campaign and would help mobilise support across the city, in trade unions and in communities, through demonstrations, rallies, protests etc.

Within communities we need to oppose ALL cuts to prevent cuts councils from trying to divide us. We have to oppose the idea put forward by councillors that 'if we save a swimming pool we would have to close something else'. We would be stronger if all the various campaigns came together to fight against all cuts.

We do not believe the council when it says it has no choice. If the council refused to implement the cuts they would get massive support from across the city and further afield.

A budget could be set that meets the needs of the people of Stoke-on-Trent, as part of mass campaign involving unions, service users, all Stoke-on-Trent people, to demand more money from central government.

Linking up with other local authorities, the government could be forced into granting more resources to the city.

Locally the unions, Unison, GMB, and Unite, with the teaching unions, need to coordinate to discuss 'battle plans', and a firm response to these attacks. Members' meetings need to be organised by the unions to discuss the way forward. If the council refuses to back down then the unions need to prepare for a programme of industrial action.

The Socialist Party also thinks that trade unions should stop handing over millions of pounds of their members money to a Labour Party that is carrying out cuts across Britain on behalf of the Tories. That money could be used instead to finance real anti-cuts candidates.

With 80% of the cuts still to come in, unless we fight now, things are only going to get much worse. This is looking increasingly like what it will come to. Unless these plans are fought, the future for our city is even grimmer than it is now.

National coordination

Nationally, the unions need a strategy to beat these attacks. Unison for example, is currently letting each council workforce fight on its own. This is nothing but a dereliction of duty on behalf of the Unison national leadership.

If the council unions coordinated industrial action against the council cuts, on a national level, it would raise the confidence of all those fighting against cuts and massively increase the chance of victory.

But we need to go further, the TUC urgently needs to name the date for a 24-hour general strike, as part of a programme of action to beat austerity.

Why should ordinary working class and middle class people pay for an economic crisis created by big business, top bankers and successive governments! We say tax the rich instead! If the annual £120 billion tax 'avoidance' scams of big business companies like Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Thames Water etc. were stopped we would not need any cuts!

It's time council leader Mohammed Pervez and the rest of the Labour councillors decided which side they are on. The choice is simple - the Con-Dems, or your own workforce and the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

We need councillors who will spend their time fighting for the government to fully fund a budget based on our needs instead of carrying out the government's dirty work of savage cuts. Those councillors who are not prepared to do so should move aside and allow those that do to take their place.

This is why the Socialist Party will be standing anti-cuts candidates in forthcoming council elections. We will be standing as part of the anti-cuts Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition to provide a fighting opposition to all the cuts parties.