On 24 February, councillors in Coventry will deal a savage blow to our city. They will vote on a budget making £15 million in cuts.
Just like everywhere else in austerity Britain, our Labour council's plans will close libraries, community centres, children's services, public toilets and more. These services are critical for people across the city and need to be firmly defended. Labour's plans will also cause hundreds of job losses.
The council's 'consultation' consists not of asking whether Coventry people agree with the proposals, but whether they would be prepared to run services themselves for free! Our Labour council has surrendered lock, stock and barrel to the austerity agenda.
Unlike our councillors, people in Coventry have not taken this lying down. Campaigns are springing up, particularly around the library closures. Thousands have signed petitions and attended lively protests.
We need to continue this, to put maximum pressure on councillors. We need to tell them they should be defending services in our city, not surrendering without a fight.
The council says it has no choice but to impose the Tory-led government's cuts. This is not good enough: there is always a choice.
The council has over £80 million in reserves. It should use this to hold the line against funding reduction, buying time to build an almighty campaign. It could call on unions, services users and community groups to come together in demanding more money from central government.
If the cuts budget is passed, we will need to step up our campaigning still further. Council workers have been battered by job losses, service cuts and the lack of a national lead from their own trade unions. Union branches have been left to fight on their own.
With big attacks expected on our terms and conditions, unions will need to discuss how we can take industrial action to defend our members. We will also need to increase our links with service users and the public in general.
Any action would gain support from the public - as can be seen from our pension and pay disputes, where we were applauded through the streets of Coventry when we marched.
Equally important, we need to fight on the political front. The three main council unions - Unison, GMB and Unite - continue to be affiliated to the Labour Party. Labour is a party which locally is implementing central cuts, and nationally has committed itself to maintaining central cuts!
In May there will be elections at local and national level. Among those standing for TUSC will be activists from community campaigns and many different trade unions.
It is time the unions stopped backing those cutting services. It is time they started backing those who are campaigning in the interests of their members and ordinary people in general.
If - or rather when - our councillors vote for cuts, they need to be punished at the ballot box in May.
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