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Southampton: Councillors must fight attacks on council services
No cuts! Save jobs!
In Southampton youth workers and young people are campaigning to stop the decimation of youth services. Campaigners are fighting back against vicious cuts in other council services. They have the support of two councillors, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who have put up a real battle against the Labour-led council's cuts agenda. But they were expelled from the Labour Party as a result of voting against cuts.
Since then Keith and Don have won widespread support from campaigners and trade unionists, including the RMT and Unite leaderships. For Keith and Don the bottom line is 'no cuts'; why should ordinary people pay for the bankers' crisis? To that end they proposed an alternative budget which could have given campaigners time to build a mass fightback against the cuts.
Southampton council would not even allow it to be debated. But, as Keith explains here, the fight is far from over and a new battle is unfolding.
"In Southampton, because the previous Conservative administration had spent up to the hilt, we couldn't propose using reserves to see us through the coming 12 months. But we worked out another way of maintaining services and protecting jobs.
We proposed using the prudential borrowing powers that are available to the city council and capitalisation, which involves identifying revenue spending that can be transferred to capital. We were able to put forward a balanced budget which would see us through the next 12 months.
It wasn't a silver bullet, it wouldn't have resolved the financial black hole that the government has created for us, but it would have bought us the time to work with other local authorities and with the trade unions in particular to mount a robust campaign to force the government to give us back the money it has taken from the city.
But despite very loud protests from the public gallery, the mayor ruled that our budget should not even be discussed in full council.
The Labour administration raised the white flag before a shot had been fired. So they are having to make swingeing cuts in services and sack several hundred council workers. That's the cost of their refusal to put up a fight.
But now there are groups all around the city that are coming together because they realise that their local services, their libraries, their Sure Start centres, their play centres, their youth clubs are under threat. We will work with them to build a resistance.
We're confident that, as people begin to realise what is happening, they will start to organise. We want to help them coordinate so that we can present a united front to the city councillors and demand that they don't take the easy (for them) route and put their hands up to more cuts.
This government is weak and it hangs onto power simply because there doesn't appear to be any political alternative. If the Labour group on Southampton city council had been prepared to make a stand it would have been an example to other councillors.
But I'm confident that others will realise they have to make a stand like us.
As one of the youth workers shouted out as he left the council chamber: 'It's not over, the fight goes on!'"
In The Socialist 27 February 2013:
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