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27 June 2012

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: Building the fight against all cuts

With growing numbers of people across Europe turning to anti-austerity alternatives at the ballot box, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee met in June to discuss contesting future elections here in Britain.

The steering committee contains leading trade unionists from unions including the PCS, POA, RMT and FBU, members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party, and independent socialists.

May 2013 will see elections for 35 non-metropolitan county councils and other authorities in England, and Anglesey council in Wales, with nearly 2,500 seats to be filled.

TUSC national chair Dave Nellist, who was a county councillor in the 1980s before going on to be Coventry South East MP from 1983 to 1992, said: "The county council elections are vital for the 24 million people who use the key services these councils administer - from education, adult social services and libraries, to youth provision, planning and regeneration, highways and emergency services.

"These councils spend over 43 billion on public services, employing over 750,000 workers, and are facing a third year of savage cuts in central government funding.

"With growing public opposition to austerity, in Britain as in Greece, Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe, there couldn't be a more opportune time for the widest-ever election challenge to be organised on TUSC's clear local elections policy platform of opposing all cuts in council jobs, services, pay and conditions; resisting the privatisation of council jobs and services or their transfer to half-way house 'social enterprises'; and pushing councils to set budgets that meet the needs of local communities and to demand that the government makes up any funding shortfall."

TUSC is appealing to trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to come forward as prospective candidates now for the 2013 elections. TUSC's local elections policy will be debated at the TUSC supporters national conference on 22 September.

Bristol and Manchester

The steering committee agreed that there should be a TUSC candidate in the Bristol mayoral election on 15 November, following the vote in May's referendum to establish a directly elected mayor.

Strong criticism was made of the 'executive mayor' system of running councils, which actually erodes local democracy. It is easier for one person, elected every four years, to take unpopular decisions to favour big business interests and cut or privatise services, than it is for support for such decisions to be won among a wider group of councillors who have to justify themselves to local electors.

But, it was felt, if a mayoral system is established the election provides a platform for a clear alternative to the pro-austerity establishment parties, as was shown in Liverpool in May, when the TUSC candidate polled 4,792 votes (4.73%), beating both the Tories and Ukip.

The steering committee also discussed the need for a trade union-rooted anti-austerity candidate in the parliamentary byelection in Manchester Central, where the sitting Labour MP Tony Lloyd is standing down to contest the police commissioner elections.

The TUSC steering committee wrote to Respect in May to discuss possible electoral collaboration in such contests. They still await a response.

TUSC local campaigning

Labour takes Liverpool for granted

Socialist Party members in Liverpool have spent the last four weeks campaigning for council byelection TUSC candidates Chris McDermott and Lynne Wild.

The Riverside council seat, where Chris is standing, was made vacant when Labour's council leader Joe Anderson became the city's mayor. Lynne Wild is contesting the Allerton and Hunts Cross ward.

The Labour Party has not canvassed Riverside ward and has only distributed one leaflet - it seems it is taking the ward for granted. The other three parties standing have not produced a leaflet nor knocked on any doors.

TUSC has produced two leaflets and canvassed in the main working class parts of the ward. Many voters have welcomed the opportunity to discuss on the doorstep with us, the only group that stands against all cuts.

In May's mayoral election, TUSC candidate Tony Mulhearn finished second highest in Riverside ward. With sales of the Socialist and voters displaying TUSC posters, the Socialist Party and TUSC are increasing their support in south Liverpool.

Rachel Potter

TUSC candidate forces byelection

Lincoln East will elect a new county councillor in the next two months after a successful byelection request, signed by two residents of the ward, from Lincoln and District TUC president Nick Parker.

Tory councillor Sara Cliff quit the seat after being exposed for claiming 23,000 in allowances. Cliff attended just 19 meetings in over three years, the equivalent of 484 an hour!

Lincolnshire county council has cut over 1,000 jobs, shut eight elderly care homes, slashed 80% of Connexions youth service, and cut or privatised 31 day care centres.

Nick, who lives in the ward, has been selected as the TUSC byelection candidate.

TUSC argues for the Con-Dem government to reverse its funding cuts to the local authority.

It opposes the council's academy school programme, and calls for the authority to continue Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) payments to the county's eligible sixth form and college students.

Stoke: We need homes, not new council HQ

On 26 July there will be a Stoke byelection for Springfields and Trent Vale ward, with Matthew Wright standing as the TUSC candidate.

Up and down the country, Labour councils are implementing the Con-Dem government's cuts, with Stoke-on-Trent city council being no exception. After carrying out cuts of 35 million last year, and another 24 million this year, services in Stoke have been decimated.

If elected, Matthew will vote against all cuts. 40 million has been borrowed for a new council HQ. This money should instead be used for building affordable council homes for the 3,000-plus people on waiting lists, as well as protecting vital local services. He will also call on the council to use its powers to 'call in' for scrutiny the changes to the NHS, as well as to reinstate EMA.

Liat Norris

Warwickshire: 'Lights out' puts lives at risk

"Warwickshire County Council has already made massive cuts to the services we all use, and there have been considerable job losses as a result," said Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren.

"We have seen the virtual wipe out of all youth provision in Warwickshire, along with the closures of fire stations, care homes and libraries. Bus services have been severely cut back.

"Now we hear that the county council is prepared to put lives at risk by switching off most of its street lights between midnight and 5.30am.

"There is much less money available from the county council for voluntary and community groups - the so called Big Society that the Tories and Lib Dems so recently championed. Local organisations which have lost out include a homeless charity, the Race Equality Partnership, local sports groups and clubs for young people."

Rugby TUSC intends to coordinate an anti-cuts electoral challenge across Warwickshire in the 2013 county council elections.

From Athens to Coventry...

In a post-Greek election editorial on the Europe-wide significance of the rise of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), the Guardian compared it to the future of Britain being shaped by 'elections to Coventry city council', given Greece's relative size within the EU. Picking up this theme, Clive Heemskerk, TUSC national nominating officer, sent a brief letter printed below. The Guardian, continuing with its editorial theme of refusing to give any coverage to TUSC, did not print it. But the points, of course, are still valid.

Interesting that you chose "elections for Coventry city council" as your UK comparator for the relative significance of Greek voters within the EU (Greek elections: The replay that deepens the divide, 18 June), in more ways than your readers may at first appreciate.

Coventry's 2012 council elections saw the continued domination by the pro-austerity Labour and Conservative duopoly but third place this time, with 5.8% of the city-wide vote, went to the Socialist Party, part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

TUSC doesn't recognise itself as "a fringe coalition of malcontents", your description of what Syriza was just three years ago. It has growing support in the trade unions with, for example, two trade union general secretaries, Bob Crow (RMT) and Steve Gillan (POA), serving on our national committee.

But the point you make about Syriza's "path from obscurity" remains. TUSC too can expect its anti-austerity message to gain an ever-wider response as what you refer to as the "lingering hopes" of Britain "remaining an island of [relative] economic tranquillity" fade.

2012 Coventry council election city-wide votes:

Labour 32,414; Conservative 16,697; Socialist Party (part of TUSC) 3,614 - 5.8%; Green 2,985; Liberal Democrats 1,998; BNP 1,718; UKIP 1,457; Independents 1,234; Christian 106

Total votes: 62,223