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Southampton: Socialist stand against council and education cuts
Josh Asker, Southampton Socialist Party
"If you mobilise your community to fight, then you can win!" These were the words of Socialist Party candidate Sue Atkins, standing as Socialist Alternative, at a public meeting on the eve of the Coxford council by-election in Southampton. On 14 March she stands to maintain the trio of anti-cuts councillors in the ward.
Voters in Coxford have a heritage of fighting the cuts imposed by the right-wing Labour council and have had councillors prepared to back them in the council chamber. With one of these councillors, Keith Morrell, standing down, it is important that he is replaced by someone who will vote against cuts when it counts.
Staff, parents and pupils on the other side of the city will be watching carefully. On election day, teachers in the National Education Union (NEU) at Valentine's Primary School start six days of strike action. This is in the face of council bosses determined to force the head to make cuts to children's education.
One Southampton head teacher and NEU member tells the Socialist: "For the last three years, as government funding cuts have hit with rising costs and pupil numbers, our deficit has grown, despite making cuts.
"For everyone in the school working hard to provide for the needs of all our children, we have reached a tipping point. If we are to erase our deficit, as our Labour council is demanding, we will lose all but our teachers and the impact will be devastating on our children.
"It's the same for all schools. 7,000 of us have written to millions of parents to spell out this crisis. It is now for the government to wake up and fully fund our schools. It is time for local councils to join our fight."
Socialist councillors backing up the campaign in the council chamber can help to force the council to change course. One voter remarked: "There is always something they can do! The idea that they can justify doing nothing with things the way they are is a disgrace."
Sue is standing on a program for using the council's reserves and borrowing powers to back the schools, save the care homes and re-open respite centres full-time. This could mobilise workers in Southampton to fight the Tory minority government for the £136 million stolen from the city since 2010.
- This issue went to press before election day, to see the result and analysis see socialistparty.org.uk and next week's issue of the Socialist
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