Leicester Race Equality Centre (TREC) has represented the people of Leicester for the last 50 years, giving advice and support to an estimated 150,000 people during that time. Leicester is one of the few cities left in the UK with a Race Equality Centre and the city has been touted by the council, with their slogan “One Leicester”, as a model of multiculturalism. Yet this has been shown to be a hollow boast, when it comes to cutting services supporting community cohesion.
The need for the Race Equality Centre is shown by the fact that Leicester has seen recent protests by the far right, and threats against a community centre in a local estate called Thurnby Lodge, which was used by an Islamic group , as well as many other community groups. Asylum seekers and immigrants in the city still face prejudice, as the right-wing media whip up hatred against minorities. TREC complained to the council’s Antisocial Behaviour Unit, about the problems faced by members of the community in Thurnby Lodge, but was ignored. Campaigners for the centre feel that its political stance, in standing up for the rights of minorities against the council, has contributed to the council’s decision to cut its funding.
TREC offers services to the whole of Leicester’s population. It has successfully brought communities together in dialogue. They have been told that people seeking support will have to go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau instead, which is itself under-funded and over-stretched.
Leicester’s Labour council (52 out of 54 Labour councillors) and Sir Peter Soulsby, the city’s Labour mayor are cutting not just TREC, but also many other services – nine adventure playgrounds across the city are under threat, and 133 council staff working in children’s services face possible redundancy.
Members of TREC and other local campaigns approached the local Socialist Party and Leicestershire Against The Cuts to fight the council’s cuts, by petitioning to remove the office of executive mayor altogether. We highlighted that just getting rid of a mayor wasn’t going to solve all of the problems in the city – wherever Labour councillors voted for cuts, we vow to stand against them in elections. Leicestershire Against The Cuts seeks to bring all those facing cuts together to fight back.
A public meeting was called, and 130 people gathered to oppose cuts to the centre. We decided to pressurise the council by organising a mass lobby of its next meeting at the Town Hall, 5pm on Wednesday 9th April. A petition to support the Race Equality Centre is here – http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/help-save-the-race-equality-centre and the Save Our Services Sack Soulsby petition can be found here – http://goo.gl/XGzhUd
The Socialist Party supports these petitions, but believes that petitioning alone is not enough, as the council have already ignored the findings of “consultations”. We need a mass movement to force them to back down. We point out that there is no need to cut services, when money is being ploughed into capital projects such as Jubilee Square are going ahead at the cost of £4m, or an area of the city centre is being re-paved at a cost of £500,000. The council also has reserves, which instead of being used to pay employees’ redundancy payments, could be used to keep services open while it fought the Tory cuts, and called on other Labour councils across the country to do the same.
As the forerunner to the Socialist Party Militant proved in its struggle in Liverpool from 1984-87, there was a council which built more council houses in that one city than the rest of the country combined, which protected jobs and services and mobilised a mass campaign to force money from the Thatcher government. The Socialist Party, as part of TUSC, still stands opposed to all cuts in all public services. We point out that the resources are there in society to invest in communities, it is just that there is no political voice to stand up for the interests of ordinary people. We are part of rebuilding that movement.