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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 March 2020

Councils must break austerity rules to fight coronavirus

Council must stop doing the Tories' dirty work, photo by Socialist Party Wales

Council must stop doing the Tories' dirty work, photo by Socialist Party Wales   (Click to enlarge)

Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party

As the Champagne flowed in the corporate entertainment boxes at Cheltenham Racecourse, austerity-hit councils were waking up to the frightening reality of Covid-19, and how to ensure the vulnerable will be safe and get the care they need.

All the cuts of the last decade are showing the weaknesses of the care system, particularly the impact on the poorest in working-class communities - unable to eat well, or isolated and unable to take care of themselves.

The welfare safety net which the working class fought so hard for has been shredded by cuts. When a crisis appears, we are left stranded.

Councils are in a key position to act rapidly to address the needs of our communities. Labour councils, in conjunction with the local trade unions, must establish an immediate battle plan for addressing those needs, and demand immediate government funding to resource them.

The most urgent tasks are for those with symptoms to be tested immediately, cared for, and quarantined to help prevent the spread of the virus. In conjunction with local NHS hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries, council care facilities should be set up for this purpose.

If the government won't do so, councils should move to requisition any needed private sector resources, including care homes, hospitals and hotels. Would the Tories really dare to oppose councils taking such action in this crisis?

Staff shortages, particularly of skilled nursing and social care teams, are a result of a decade of austerity. Many leave the health service early due to the intolerable working conditions. Appealing for former staff to return will work best if linked to permanent funding to reverse austerity, privatisation, understaffing, and related problems.

It is more than likely schools will be closed. This will put enormous pressures on poor families who rely on free school meals. Suspend all school cuts. Councils must use their reserves and borrowing powers to set up emergency hardship funds - and demand that Westminster foots the bill.

The Tories have raised the prospect of thousands of volunteer students being rapidly trained to assist with this crisis. Surely the government and councils should also be turning to the 600,000 council workers made redundant in the last decade - from youth centres, Sure Start centres, schools and social services.

These workers know their local communities and could play a vital role in ensuring the needs of the vulnerable, children and their families are met.

Labour councils and the trade unions should use their platforms to coordinate the community response to this crisis - and lead a fight for the immediate resources needed, linked to reversing all cuts and privatisation.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 18 March 2020:


Workplace news and analysis

Stop Press: postal workers deliver massive strike vote and offer to become additional 'emergency service'

East London bin workers strike to get back unpaid holiday pay

Determined St Mungo's homelessness workers strike for three days


International socialist news and analysis

French local elections: CWI candidate elected

New pamphlet: constituent assemblies and the revolutionary programme


Socialist history

South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre


Coronavirus

Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!

Capitalist crisis and corona: Johnson's budget for the bosses

Coronavirus - a workers charter 2020

Coronavirus: socialist planning, not capitalist chaos!

Coronavirus housing emergency - suspend rent and mortgage payments, seize empty homes

PCS union demands better deal for benefits claimants

Councils must break austerity rules

Action needed to protect shop workers and access to essential goods

Coronavirus hospital worker: amazing response from staff - but worst still to come

'Health not profit' strike wave sweeps Italy

United States: private healthcare exposed as Trump throws money at markets

Workers at Lewisham coronavirus hospital walk out after not being paid

Coronavirus - waste processing employers putting us at risk

Bexley bin workers strike over lack of hand sanitiser

Going viral: socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

Under the microscope: socialist coronavirus news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Help us fund the Socialist

Stop gentrification of Lea Bridge

Tory student plot defeated at Cardiff uni

Nottingham uni occupation ends

Socialist Students speaking tour

Selling the Socialist


Readers' opinion

TV: Noughts and Crosses


 

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