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Stop These Council Cuts
"I USE the centre because it's convenient for me and my family and friends. We're not rich, we can't afford to join posh health clubs where the fees are very high. Soon there'll be nowhere to go and the young will be back on the streets getting into all kinds of trouble."
Nick Chaffey, Save St Marys Leisure Centre Campaign
That's how a local resident felt about plans by Liberal councillors in Southampton to close St Marys Leisure Centre and cut other services whilst asking us to pay an extra 6% in council tax for the pleasure!
A recent government regeneration scheme gave £26 million public money to property developers who built private housing, hotels and a new football stadium but nothing for local leisure users.
The community, staff, trade unions and users are fighting to keep the centre open. Hundreds have signed petitions and a demo is planned for 7 February. The campaign and UNISON are organising a joint lobby of the council budget setting on 18 February.
Southampton's leisure facilities are not safe with the current parties on the council. Socialist Party members support calls for campaigners to stand local candidates who will put up a real fight to improve services.
We argue for a council budget based on the city's needs, fully funded by central government and a freeze in council tax levels.
AROUND 300 people lobbied Leicester city council's meeting on 29 January. The Liberal/Tory ruling group's proposed £4 million cuts threaten hundreds of jobs in vital voluntary projects and direct council services.
Bethan Lloyd, worker at the Braunstone Adventure playground, says that Liberal council leader, Roger Blackmore had: "...asked us 'What does the Adventure playground do? What age groups does it take? When is it open?' Shouldn't he have asked these questions before he said he'd shut us? He's clueless about what he's cutting!"
The Liberals gained power in May after campaigning against Labour's previous cuts and rate rises, but now the council propose cuts, a 14% rate rise and widespread privatisation of parks and gardens, museums etc. One parks worker said: "They're talking about hiving us off to a 'charitable status' trust which will receive a grant from the council.
"I asked would the council be legally obliged to give that money? A couple of years down the line they could stop it, just as they're destroying the voluntary sector now as it's outside the council's 'front line' services."
All three major parties stand for cuts and ignore the long-term fundamental issue of under-funding by national government. The Socialist Party says that a deficit budget is needed - i.e. refuse to make cuts or massively increase council tax and organise a mass struggle to force the missing cash from the government.
Demo organised by "Playfair - Save our Services". Saturday 7 February, 1pm Victoria Park, Leicester. March to Town Hall square for 2.45 pm approx.)
Protest against Ealing's cuts
DESPITE OPPOSITION from the staff, unions and local community, Ealing council in west London is determined to press ahead with its programme of cuts. On 3 February there was a mass lobby of the New Labour cabinet, called to set the budget and council tax for next year.
Brian Blake, Ealing UNISON and Ealing trades council, personal capacity
This was a very angry demo, enabling ordinary workers and the people of Ealing to show the cabinet members how they really feel about their handling of the current financial crisis. (Full report next week).
The proposed increase in the council tax is estimated to be around 9%, though the government would like it to remain in the low single figures. On top of this the council is intending to increase charges in many areas. They are intending to stop delivering black bin sacks, for example, forcing people to buy their own. Many families already struggle to make ends meet and charges like this will penalise them further.
They also want to cut grants to community organisations, including the only centre providing facilities in the borough for people of Afro-Caribbean origin.
At the same time, the council is determined to push ahead with its pet scheme, "Making A World of Difference" (MAWOD) despite growing local opposition. The leader of the council, John Cudmore, was reported in the local paper this week to be getting very upset with the opposition to MAWOD. That is going to be nothing to the anger this New Labour council will face if they continue with their programme of cuts and council tax rises.
In The Socialist 7 February 2004:
War and occupation
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis