Leicester Labour councillors accept fire service cuts while TUSC says No
Leicester is facing severe cuts to its fire services - with the city's Labour councillors accepting the cuts without a fight. The directly-elected Labour Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, sits alongside a Tory as vice-chair of the local fire authority which is pushing these cuts through.
A sham 'consultation' exercise is currently being carried out to axe fire services by £1.5 million a year. In concrete terms, this represents a one-third reduction in firefighters and the closure of two local fire stations: Leicester Central, the busiest fire station in the city, and Kibworth, which serves a more rural and isolated population.
Response times would be at least doubled and with the fire service unable to provide an effective emergency response in the case of a large fire, lives will ultimately be lost if these cuts go through.
But the cuts are not necessary. The Labour-controlled Leicester city council has some £56 million in reserves, which in the short term could be used to keep services going, while building a campaign, rooted in local communities, to fight the cuts.
However, the Labour Party locally, in the home city of failed Blairite Labour leadership contender, Liz Kendall, has been completely unwilling to fight. The only party to put forward an unequivocal no-cuts position has been the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Barbara Potter and Wayne Naylor (ex-Labour councillors who joined TUSC, unable to stomach cuts to their community services) both attended a recent demonstration against the cuts, along with leading local representatives of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
Some of the speakers pleaded with the public to pressure their councillors to vote against cuts. Barbara pointed out, "where are they then?" - not a single one of Leicester's 51 Labour councillors were to be seen on the protest.
In order to save services, such protests need to be the start of a mass campaign, involving a united fightback of trade unions and local people to save our services.
The jobs of staff in council libraries are under threat, as are hospital wards locally threatened with closure in a planned £400 million of cuts over five years. Two hundred hospital beds could go along with the possible downgrading of the General Hospital, with the loss of maternity services there.
If we are to protect decent services, we will need public sector unions to take joint action and we will need councillors who will refuse to carry through Tory cuts.
Stop the cuts to Leicester's fire services
Monday 23rd November
Leicester Secular Hall, 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB
Called by Leicester TUSC and the National Shop Stewards Network