Over 100 children, parents and members of the community surrounded the entrance to Leicester Town Hall last night, chanting, “No to cuts!”. Leicester Council is shamefully considering cutting its funding to adventure playgrounds by 40%, putting nine adventure playgrounds across the city at risk as a result. These are sited in areas of deprivation, and allow children the freedom to play safely in supervised surroundings. They have been a feature of growing up in Leicester since the nineteen-sixties and seventies. The council’s actions have been announced, without even the usual pretense of consultation.
More protests are planned, and the campaign will not give up. As the Labour council in Leicester has a huge majority, with only one councillor in opposition, it is not surprising that people are asking themselves why can they not stand up against Tory cuts to the budget?
I am a member of Leicestershire Against The Cuts, a body which seeks to unite opposition to all cuts to services across the city and county. The principle we must apply is “an injury to one is an injury to all” – that if one service is threatened, the whole community must gather round to protect it, whether they themselves are affected or not. Organised at very short notice, the protest drew together groups of people from across the city – this must be replicated wherever cuts are made.
Leicestershire Against The Cuts and the Socialist Party, instead of capitulating to Tory cuts to council budgets, would put forward a fighting programme – of building opposition to the council’s plans in every estate in the city, of linking up with other councils willing to fight, and of putting forwards a needs budget, to win necessary resources back from central government. We believe that there is no need to make cuts to any services.
These cuts are on top of the council passing on the Tories’ bedroom tax, and cutting council tax benefit, both of which are hurting the disabled and the poor disproportionately. We are also organising campaigns, together with Unite Community, to blockade people’s houses if anyone is in danger of eviction. We must resist all cuts and in elections, we stand as part of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), standing against privatisation and cuts to services.
However, Labour councils up and down the country have shown themselves to be unwilling to participate in this struggle, shrugging their shoulders in apology, but still adhering slavishly to Cameron’s austerity programme. It is because they can see no alternative to austerity, and are wedded to this system of capitalism. However, just as PASOK (the equivalent of New Labour) has lost much of its support in Greece because of its capitulation to the demands of the EU, and Socialist Alternative is challenging the Democrats in the US, on the back of the Occupy movement and the shutdown of government caused by the impasse around the budget deficit, in Britain too, people will look for an alternative.
For socialists, that alternative is democratic planning and decision making, bringing companies into public ownership, and an equal distribution of the wealth which is in society.
It wasn’t ordinary people who created this economic crisis, it was speculation by bankers, gambling on mortgages, which were paid with money people simply didn’t have. We should not be the ones who have to pay the price.