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Campaigning against the cuts
Nearly 100 people braved the cold and rain last Saturday in Cardiff to protest against attempts to scapegoat benefit claimants for the economic crisis.
Cardiff Against The Cuts put out a call for trade unionists, disabled activists, the unemployed and other campaigners to unite in the face of a determined attempt by the government to divide the growing opposition to its assault on the welfare state, by pitting those in work against those who are out of work.
Cameron's lie that "we are all in it together" has never been so obvious. In the same week that benefit claimants were told that they deserve a real cut in their incomes, MPs claimed that they deserve an extra £20,000 a year - a 32% increase!
Osborne's call for us to turn on our neighbours when we're angry at the cuts is an insult to our intelligence.
Even a child could see through the deception. That was made clear by Hannah Mainstone (aged nine), who spoke at the rally and explained how her family will lose money as a result of benefit cuts. "My stepdad Nathan is ill with sarcoidosis," she said. "The cuts have got to stop.
"They are taking money off the poor and giving it to the rich. It is not fair and it has got to change."
One slightly older activist, Mark, explained that his parents were long-term unemployed when he was a child in the 1980s. "Me and my sisters have all got good jobs now and my dad got back on his feet and works at the tax office.
"It wouldn't have been possible for us to keep things together if it wasn't for the safety net."
Backup from the trade union movement was out in force. Katrine Williams, chair of PCS Wales explained we need a united campaign. Phil Jones from the RMT brought greetings.
Cardiff Against The Cuts is holding its AGM, at 7.30pm on Tuesday 29 January in Transport House.
The Tory-led North Yorkshire County Council has embarked on a series of "budget consultations" with the public over the impact of spending cuts in the region.
The council has already begun to implement a £69 million cut in spending over four years, up to 2015.
However, an additional £24 million in spending cuts is now required over the next two years.
On 16 January the council held a consultation in Harrogate. At the meeting, the deputy leader of the council and the police commissioner (elected on a 13.3% turnout) spoke of the "inevitability" of cuts and the need for "difficult choices".
We were even presented with what was described as a "graph of doom" to highlight the rising costs of social care for adults and were told that there needs to be a review of "every service the council provides".
These cuts will have a devastating impact on services and jobs across North Yorkshire. However, the self-styled "consultation" was nothing more than a propaganda exercise in trying to persuade the public to accept the cuts.
Strangely, the "inevitable cuts" and the "graph of doom" have not prevented the council from giving the go-ahead to a £1.4 billion waste incinerator between York and Harrogate which has been condemned by both environmental campaigners and local residents.
Only 20 people turned up for the Harrogate meeting and five of those were local councillors. Socialist Party members attended and queried which local services the council was planning to cut. The council refused to respond.
They did concede that they could use their reserves (totalling around £30-40 million) to support their budget and would "consider" using "some" of those reserves in 2013/14.
However, there was no commitment to a wider strategy of using the reserves to ensure that no cuts would take place over the next financial year and building a campaign across the region to defend our communities.
In Plymouth the Labour administration has launched a consultation into ending child poverty.
Members of the Socialist Party in Plymouth have been frustrated to see that the only solutions offered within the introductory consultation booklet are: a) giving better benefits advice; and b) getting people on water meters!
Our concern is that this is a window dressing PR exercise as opposed to a meaningful attempt to take real action.
Nevertheless, we held a meeting to discuss real solutions to poverty in Plymouth and now intend to submit this to the consultation.
We want to challenge the idea that you can end child poverty without thinking about what is going on in the lives of their parents.
We have then bullet pointed real suggestions from restoring EMA student payments, offering free breakfast clubs to school students, stopping the bedroom tax, ensuring that the council pay a living wage.
We intend to campaign on this issue in Plymouth to push for less posturing and more action.
Despite the snow, some 500 protestors marched and demonstrated against Sheffield council's plans to shut half the children's centres in the city.
At the rally outside the Town Hall, parents and workers from the centres condemned the council's plans.
More than a dozen Socialist Party members took part in the protest, collecting signatures against the closure of the children's centres and also for the council to set a 'needs' budget and fight the government.
The next stage is a lobby of the council, when a petition on the children's centres will be presented. Over 8,000 have now signed the petition, forcing a full council debate.
In The Socialist 23 January 2013:
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