For a working class socialist voice in the Senedd to resist Covid austerity!
Cuts to public services emanating from Tory governments in Westminster have rained down on Wales for over a decade. The Welsh Labour governments in that period have failed to protect working people in Wales from those cuts – in fact they have implemented most of them. These cuts have been most cruelly exposed in this Covid crisis by the cuts to NHS hospital beds. The number of beds since 2008 have been cut by 21% which has meant that Wales entered the Covid crisis with the lowest number of intensive care beds per person in western Europe – lower even than NHS England under the Tories.
Covid has revealed both the drastic situation our local public services are in – with the NHS and councils massively underfunded – but also some of the many things the Welsh government has the power to do that could improve our lives.
For example, why not extend the scheme that housed the homeless during the first lockdown and banned evictions and make it permanent? And the Welsh government has spent £2 billion in grants to business during the Covid crisis. But it should have ensured that any government aid to individual businesses is dependent on retaining jobs and pursuing ethical employment practices – ensuring workers are not forced to work in unsafe Covid conditions; not using fire and rehire to drive down wages.
The Welsh Labour government’s defence for cutting services in the past is that it’s funding in real terms has been cut by the UK Tory government. But where has been the fight against these cuts? In fact there are a whole number of levers that the Welsh government can use to protect Welsh public services from Tory cuts – where there is a will there is a way!
Sadly the Covid crisis means that more Tory austerity will be on its way to Wales – the working class will be expected to foot the bill for the economic effects of the crisis, just as working class communities suffered the worst from the effects of the virus itself. It is expected that NHS spending will be 8% less than the level in 2010-11 before the cuts began. Now more than ever we need a Welsh government that will stand up for working people in Wales against more cuts.
Instead of passively implementing the cuts it can refuse to carry out Tory austerity and begin a mass campaign to force the Westminster government to return the funds denied to public services. In the 1980s Liverpool city council with a socialist leadership refused to cut back services and instead successfully demanded extra funds from the Thatcher government to expand council housing, education and other services. If one city could force the ‘iron lady’ to back down in 1984 imagine what an entire nation could achieve against a weak and divided Tory government.
The next time it receives a budget from Westminster that demands further cuts it can pool its reserves with Welsh local authorities, refuse to implement further cuts and instead spend what working people in Wales need on the NHS, education, social services, housing.
It can use this breathing space to take its campaign to all our communities desperate for these services and mobilise them in a national campaign to fight for what we need. The campaign should draw on the hundreds of thousands of trade union members and the best traditions of the Welsh workers’ movement with a dynamic campaign of workplace rallies, demonstrations and strikes to resist Tory austerity.
The multiple U-turns made by Johnson and his chancellor, spending billions when the pressure is on them, show that if the Welsh government used the powers it has to refuse to implement any more cuts and spend what is necessary instead, the Tories could be made to pay up and return the cash they have stolen from Wales and our public services.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has a policy platform for the Welsh parliament elections (see below) which could make a real difference. Even one Member of the Senedd (MS) taking a stand, if they used their position in the Senedd chamber to appeal to those outside, could give confidence to trade unionists and community campaigners to fight.
Socialist MSs would link up with those taking action against climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and campaigns against attacks on women’s rights and services. They would be at the heart of any struggle that is a step towards a society in which people can enjoy life to its fullest without the fear of unemployment, homelessness, poverty and discrimination.
Agreement with the platform below is the minimum basis on which any prospective Senedd candidate can stand under the TUSC name in the 2021 election – but it is a minimum, not a limit to the issues candidates will raise.
Every trade unionist, anti-cuts campaigner, community activist and all those who want to see an alternative to austerity politicians can become a TUSC candidate. But voters should know that any Member of the Senedd elected under the TUSC banner will fight for:
- Opposition to all cuts and closures to public services, jobs, pay and conditions. We reject the claim that ‘some cuts’ are necessary to our services or that the Covid crisis is a reason for austerity.
- Support all workers’ struggles against government policies making ordinary people pay for the crisis.
- A united working class struggle against racism and all forms of oppression.
- Reverse cuts to the NHS.
- The permanent renationalisation of public transport including the rail infrastructure and for an integrated public transport system.
- Free school meals for all school-aged children in Wales.
- For free education – scrap tuition fees.
- Reject income tax, council tax, rent and service charge increases for working class people to make up for cuts in funding and demand the UK government restores the cuts in funding it has imposed.
- Use the Welsh government’s powers to begin a mass building programme of eco-friendly affordable council homes to tackle the housing crisis. For rent controls and an end to evictions.
- Vote against the outsourcing, privatisation of public sector jobs and services, or the transfer of council services to social enterprises or ‘arms-length’ management organisations which are first steps to their privatisation. Bring all services back in-house.
- For the right of national self-determination for Wales.