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Coventry Against the Cuts challenge councillors' 'legal obligation'
Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist addresses a Coventry Against the Cuts protest, photo Coventry Socialist Party (Click to enlarge)
"When the real impact of these cuts is felt in services for children, young people and some of the most vulnerable communities in Coventry, there will be outrage that all the other councillors were united in passing these cuts."
These were the words of Socialist Party member Dave Nellist, the only Coventry councillor to oppose cuts at an emergency city council meeting on 10 August.
Coventry's Labour council responded to the Tory/Lib Dem government's demand for £3.7 million worth of cuts by proposing cuts of £4.5 million. Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors all voted for the cuts package. This was the start of £146 million in cutbacks due over the next four years.
Coventry Against the Cuts, initiated by Coventry Trades Union Council, organised a protest outside the Council House on the day of the cuts vote. As councillors arrived protesters asked them simply if they were 'with us' or 'against us'. A few Labour councillors signed the anti-cuts petition, but when Socialist Party members asked how they could then vote for cuts their response was that they had 'a legal obligation to vote for them'.
The additional £800,000 cuts are to come from the Supporting People budget, meant to be spent on the city's most vulnerable residents, including homeless people and victims of domestic violence.
£1.64 million of the cuts are from children and young people's services, and almost £1 million from employment and 'local enterprise' budgets. A Coventry newspaper recently featured a desperate 17-year-old college student who has made 500 plumbing apprenticeship applications, without success.
80% of the £4.5 million cuts were not explained in the documents before councillors. The documents said that the 'options' for cutting £832,000 from the local enterprise and growth initiative budget would be 'reviewed'.
But Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist obtained material two hours before the council meeting which showed that Labour councillors had already held a secret board meeting six weeks earlier at which the cuts had been decided. For example, £155,000 was to be cut from employment advisers in two of the poorest areas in the city, Willenhall and Hillfields, meaning more than 850 unemployed people lose support or help from those employment projects.
"It's no good individual councillors lamenting their role in these cuts, we need a campaign in Coventry and every town and city across the country," said Dave Nellist, who was given only three minutes to speak. Dave requested extra speaking time as he was the sole opposition to cuts, but Labour councillors voted against this.
The city council meeting was webcast for the first time and can be viewed at http://bit.ly/c6F9LW. Go forward to 26 minutes to see Dave Nellist attacking the council
Coventry TUC is planning transport to the lobby of the TUC conference in September, demanding that the TUC organises a national anti-cuts demonstration.
Coventry Socialist Party members
In The Socialist 18 August 2010:
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Socialist Party youth and students
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