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Colne Valley / Huddersfield: Kirklees' only fighting councillor
SOCIALIST PARTY member Jackie Grunsell was elected to Kirklees council in 2006 after a campaign to protect local health services. She is now TUSC candidate in the local election in Crosland Moor and Netherton ward and in the parliamentary seat of Colne Valley.
Jackie Grunsell, GP and councillor, speaks at a Save Huddersfield NHS demonstration, photo Huddersfield SP
Since her election, Jackie stands out as Kirklees' only fighting councillor. Throughout 2006 and 2007, she played a leading national and local role in organising resistance to the government's cuts agenda for the NHS. By the end of 2007, Labour backed away from imposing more cuts, but they are now ominously planned for after the general election.
Locally Jackie was the driving force behind the launch of Save Our Services (SOS), a group with the backing of trade union branches of six major unions and several campaign groups. After the elections, its work will be crucial in mobilising opposition to the huge cuts agenda.
Jackie Grunsell told Socialist reporters: "Our brilliant campaign four years ago stands us in good stead in this local election. We have canvassed the whole ward and the returns are very promising. However this is also a general election, and people will be tempted to vote Labour to keep out the Tories, which could be repeated locally so it's still all to play for.
"People are fed up with the mainstream parties offering the same old medicine. On the doorstep we try to convince people that we are different, that we can make a difference, and that their vote counts. The corruption scandal around MPs' expenses is still a huge issue. It makes a big difference explaining that I have not taken a penny in expenses and donated back my free parking permit.
"People are anxious about jobs and services. Too many people told us about their own pay cuts, losing their job, the decline in services. There is despondency and anger. They are fed up with New Labour, but have no faith in any other party to deal with these problems. Our campaign offers people hope that there is resistance.
"My overwhelmingly youthful canvassers work night and day to secure my re-election. People are impressed that so many young people are concerned about politics. Almost 20 people have applied to join the Socialist Party, which is brilliant."
A council in deep crisis
KIRKLEES COUNCIL is in deep crisis and its Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in chaos. Last year, Labour and LibDem councillors combined to throw out the Tories, but are now promising to create two new academy schools, putting them on a collision course with parents and trade unions. Other schools are earmarked for closure.
The new minority Labour administration pushed through a £400 million cuts budget with the prospect of 2,000 job losses, for which there was all-party support (with only Jackie Grunsell voting against). Already, up to 800 workers have left the council on voluntary redundancies or early retirement.
The council is now tearing up the single status deal it agreed with the major public sector unions last year. Hundreds of council workers have lost pay through downgrading with only a year's protection. Others lost various enhancements such as overtime rates, bonus payments, and other allowances.
The local Unison branch could be leaving a ballot for industrial action dangerously late, it should be before workers' pay is lost forever when protection arrangements end by June. An indicative ballot for action is now underway.
Eight chief council officers in Kirklees have a combined income of over £1 million! The redundancy scheme has cost the council almost £30 million, yet some of the best paid officers who leave are getting massive payouts and then come back through the front door as highly paid consultants!
The council has even paid Deloittes £35,000 to advise them how to impose the cuts. Little wonder that the council is in such a mess. Jackie's re-election, along with independent candidates who share a similar platform, can provide a springboard for organised resistance to the jobs and services onslaught.
In The Socialist 21 April 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party features
Socialist Party workplace news