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Fire cuts cost lives
Andrew Walton, Leicester Socialist Party
Leicester is facing some of the most severe cuts to the fire service in the country. You might be forgiven for thinking that we live under a Tory council, but Labour mayor and vice-chair of the local fire authority, Sir Peter Soulsby, is pushing these cuts through.
A sham "consultation" exercise is currently being carried out to axe fire services by £1.5 million a year. This represents a one-third reduction in firefighters and the closure of two local fire stations including the busiest in the city.
Response times would double and the fire service wouldn't be able to provide effective emergency response in the case of a large fire, meaning lives will be lost if these cuts go through. On 14 November Leicester Socialist Party helped organise a lively protest against cuts which was attended by leading Fire Brigades Union representatives locally.
We handed over petitions and pointed out that service cuts are not necessary and would cost lives. In the short term, Leicester City Council has £56 million in reserves, which could be used to keep services going, while building a campaign to fight the cuts.
But the only party putting forward an unequivocal no-cuts budget is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Barbara Potter and Wayne Naylor, ex-Labour councillors now backed by TUSC, called on the public to pressure their councillors to vote against cuts. Barbara pointed out: "Where are they then?" - referring to the 51 Labour councillors who didn't turn up to the demonstration.
The rally must be the start of a mass campaign, uniting trade unions and local people to save our services. We also need councillors to refuse to carry through Tory cuts and privatisation.
London and Lincoln's fire engines were handed over to Asset Company, who three years ago sold them on to a private equity firm for £2! We call for public services to be run under democratic, public ownership and control.
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