Southampton by-election: Labour non-answers show why anti-cuts councillors are needed
"CAN YOU guarantee that this time next year, Sure Start, local libraries, and Woolston youth centre will still be open?" Twice Carol Cunio, one of the Labour councillors for Southampton's Woolston ward, where a council by-election is taking place on June 13th, was challenged by Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate Sue Atkins.
Chairing the TUSC Woolston by-election campaign launch meeting, anti-cuts councillor Keith Morrell invited the Labour councillor to answer.
The meeting was met with silence. It revealed to everyone there why electing a third anti-cuts councillor in Southampton is an urgent task for those fighting to protect jobs and services from Con-Dem cuts.
Southampton is a Labour-controlled council. The first Labour by-election leaflet tells voters that the party is "on your side in tough times".
But over 500 jobs have gone at the council since Labour took power last May, with further cuts of ¬£40 million to come over the next two years.
"If we don't take a stand, what will be left? That's why I pledge if elected I will stand with Keith Morrell and Don Thomas and refuse to implement cuts.
"Councillors have a choice: I won't vote for cuts". This was the clear case put by Sue, who backed the approach taken by Keith and Don at the council budget-making meeting in February when they called for the council to use its legal borrowing powers to avoid making cuts this year to buy time to build a campaign for the money taken from the city by the Con-Dems to be returned (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/press180213.php)
Josh Asker, from the Save Southampton City Youth Services campaign, spoke about the threat to the local youth centre, which the campaign has helped to win a one-year reprieve for. "It shows campaigning can have an effect, but if things are going to change we need councillors who are prepared to challenge the Con-Dem cuts".
Hannah Sell, the Socialist Party representative on the TUSC national steering committee, passed on the support of the national committee to Sue, Keith and Don.
In her contribution, Hannah outlined how the money was there to provide jobs and public services. But, in the pockets of the rich 1% and big business, it was lying idle, uninvested.
"We would implement a levy on the ¬£850 billion sitting in the bank vaults of big business and invest in building affordable housing to end the housing crisis and create jobs".
The discussion covered a variety of issues including the challenge for trade unionists to build fighting unions that can defeat the austerity agenda.
Over 30 attended the meeting; a mix of trade unionists, anti-cuts activists and new faces from the local community. ¬£120 was donated to the campaign appeal, a very positive reflection of the mood at the meeting.
Help TUSC's election campaign
Could you put some time in helping out the campaign in Woolston? There's plenty of leafleting and door-knocking to do and regular street stalls throughout the campaign.
Contact the election agent Nick Chaffey at [email protected] or phone 07833 681910.
And if you can't physically come to Southampton to help, could you make a donation instead? There's a PayPal facility on the TUSC website (at http://www.tusc.org.uk/donate.php) or you can send cheques, made payable to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, to TUSC, 17 Colebert House, Colebert Avenue, London, E1 4JP.