Editors

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Grangetown needs socialist councillors

 


By Joe Fathallah, TUSC candidate for Grangetown

I’m standing as a candidate in the Cardiff Council elections on May 5th, in Grangetown ward, for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Grangetown has 44% of children growing up in poverty, and this is in no small part due to the actions of the council in passing on vicious cuts to our communities. 

Council leader Huw Thomas recently announced that Cardiff is aiming to participate in UNICEF’s ‘Child Friendly Cities’ initiative, but this is a sick joke when held up against the reality faced by working-class children. Grangetown Playcentre, locally known as the adventure playground, was effectively closed by the Labour-controlled council. The centre’s funding was cut, and it was transferred into ‘community control’, but this was a death sentence. A facility like this needs professionally trained staff working full time, and it wasn’t long before the centre ceased to function.

This was despite a heroic campaign conducted by young people, parents, and youth workers, and supported by campaign group Cardiff Against the Cuts. We held a mass protest stopping traffic outside the centre, and marched on and occupied County Hall, gaining significant attention and media coverage. The council pressed ahead with the cuts, and there are no longer any facilities like this for children in Grangetown. 

In 2014, the same council had presented a proposal to build a school on the site of Channel View leisure centre, another vital community facility. There was, and is, a genuine need and demand for Welsh-medium education in this part of the city, and we fully supported the building of the school – but not on top of the leisure centre! The council themselves presented alternative siting options in their public meetings on the issue, but it was clear to everyone in attendance that there was a preference for this site. The council officers claimed that the public would be able to use the leisure facilities at the school! There would have been huge issues with this, including child protection, and clashing with PE lessons, school team matches, and so on. A campaign to save the leisure centre, in which I played a leading role, was successful in causing the council to back off, showing the need to community organisation to fight cuts. The council clearly tried to play off those who used the leisure centre against those parents who wanted the new school. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided in the fight against austerity. 

Other facilities cut over the years have included the old Grangetown Library, which was sold off and converted into flats. It was replaced by the ‘Grangetown Hub’, but this doesn’t have all the same facilities, and it was clear that this was motivated by the land sale. Working-class communities such as Grangetown have been targeted in this way because the Labour councillors (as well and Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats when they were previously in coalition) have proved totally incapable of standing up and fighting against Tory austerity, and have instead passed cuts budgets year after year, resulting in the loss of vital jobs and facilities. 

Vote TUSC in the election on May 5th! All TUSC candidates pledge to fight against austerity in deeds not just in words. If elected, instead of voting through cuts budgets, I would draw up in collaboration with local communities, an alternative budget based on the real needs of the city. This would involve, in the first instance, dipping into the council’s £120 million reserves to plug the funding gaps. This could buy time to launch a real fightback against the Tories in Westminster, involving council workers and trade unions, service users, and communities, to win the funding we need for the jobs and services we need. 

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Welsh Labour Won't Give Us Rent Control


John Williams, Cardiff West Socialist Party and TUSC candidate for Plasnewydd ward in Cardiff

Rents are out of control. The average rent for a property in Britain has risen to £969 a month, according to Zoopla. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the average rent has increased by £62 a month. Wales has seen the third-highest increase – 9.8% in the last year. There are over 1,000 empty properties in Cardiff alone, and more than 4,000 homeless people.

Socialist Party Wales supports any genuine attempt to tackle homelessness, and guaranteed fair rents for all. In the Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru agreement last year, after the Welsh Senedd elections, both parties announced a commitment to the principle of rent control. They cautiously posed: “The role a system of fair rents could have in making the private rental market attractive for local people on local incomes”.

However, there are no firm or clear proposals. Landlord organisations are already applying pressure, and the Welsh government is giving landlords time to come up with a strategy to oppose them.

Legislation

Welsh Labour Senedd members had the chance to show that they were serious in fighting for rent control and to tackle homelessness, by voting in favour of a Plaid Cymru motion to develop legislation for fair rents. The majority abstained. Welsh Labour deputy climate minister Lee Water said: “Labour had abstained because [rent control] is already covered by the budget agreement with Plaid”.

But in the detailed draft budget narrative document sent out by the Welsh government, we’ve seen nothing of the sort. What we have seen though, is the £3.5 million private sector leasing scheme aimed at tackling homelessness.

The scheme offers landlords grants and interest-free loans of up to £10,000. It gives councils the power to run a property, including any repairs, and, in return, the landlord gets guaranteed rent, but only 90% of the local housing allowance rent.

Currently, a puny amount of 24 properties in the whole of Wales are signed up to the scheme. The scheme only works if property owners want to give up income, which clearly they don’t want to do!

During lockdown, for a period, the Welsh government wiped out street homelessness by putting people up in hotel rooms, proof it was always possible to do so. However, it has not been prepared to fight for the funding for this to continue. What’s missing is the political will.

Like local authorities, the Welsh government could pass a needs-based budget, defying Tory imposed austerity. The Senedd could back up Welsh local authorities, overwhelmingly Labour-led, to take the same approach. In doing so, a fighting Welsh government could mobilise the support of the Welsh working class and demand the required funding from Westminster.

This is the approach the Socialist Party in Wales will be campaigning for when our members stand as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in local council elections on 5 May.

Rent control

  • Cardiff City Council already licences landlords; all local authorities could do the same. Fair rent, secure tenancies, safety and decent conditions, as agreed by elected committees of tenants and trade union representatives, could be made a requirement of a licence.
  • Tenants should have the right to rent tribunals, overseen by these committees, to challenge rent levels and unsafe conditions.

Empty homes

  • Councils must use their powers to compulsorily purchase property left empty; to be brought back into council housing stock – to be rented at social rents on secure tenancies.

Council homes

  • A mass building programme of eco-friendly affordable council homes to tackle the housing crisis, under the democratic control of working-class communities, to prevent overcrowding and to ensure the provision of all necessary services including green spaces.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Why We Need Free Bus Travel


by Joe Fathallah, Socialist Party member and TUSC candidate for Grangetown

One of the hardest-hitting aspects of the cost-of-living crisis has been the increase in the price of fuel, making running a car an unaffordable luxury for many. In this context, a free, reliable, and effective public transport system is a necessity we must fight for. In addition, public transport is essential in the battle against climate catastrophe, with private transport one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Bus travel in Cardiff is owned and controlled by Cardiff Bus, an ‘arms-length’ company wholly owned by Cardiff Council, but with its own board of directors separate from any elected body. This means that the company is not subject to control of even the council, let alone the communities whose facilities it operates. The current Managing Director of Cardiff Bus, Paul Dyer, was formerly the CEO at DHL Supply Chain, and the whole operation effectively operates in the same way as a private company. 

The impacts of this lack of accountability have been clear. Since 2015, the capital city of Wales has been without a central bus station, when the facility was closed to make way for commercial development in the city centre. This has made it much harder to change buses, especially for disabled passengers and those unfamiliar with the layout of the city. Seven years later, building work on what is meant to be the new bus station is still ongoing. In 2015, plans to cut routes and push through unfavourable changes to working conditions were met by strike action by the bus drivers organised in Unite the Union. Multiple important routes have fallen victim to cuts over the last decade.  

In 2015, the Welsh government announced the launch of the South Wales Metro, which is supposed to be a plan to create an integrated public transport system. So far, it has delivered little more than the re-branding of existing services. In 2020, Transport for Wales took over the rail operations from former privatised operator Keolis-Amey. The covid-19 pandemic caused a crash in ticket sales, so Keolis-Amey simply walked away from their contract, despite having received £267 million of public subsidies in the previous two years! The losses were nationalised, and the Welsh government picked up the slack. 

To begin to tackle the cost of transport, the environmental crisis, and to make sure we can all get to where we need to be, we need so much more than this. We need a fully nationalised, integrated, socialist public transport system, under the democratic control of passengers, transport workers, and elected representatives. This would mean that fares could be abolished, by getting our hands on the profits stashed up by former private operators. It would also mean re-opening Cardiff central bus station, and democratically planning a route map to meet the requirements of the travelling public. 

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates in this election will fight for the establishment of such a system, putting passengers ahead of city-centre property developers, and creating public transport fit to meet the needs of working-class people in Cardiff.

Monday, 11 April 2022

Wales TUSC Core Policy Platform for the 2022 Council Elections

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 there 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 cuts 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 Welsh parliament elections (see below) which could make a real difference. Even one MS taking a stand, if they used their position in the Senedd chamber to appeal to those outside, could give confidence to local 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 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 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 privatisation. Bring all services back in-house.

· For the right of national self-determination for Wales

 

Welsh TUSC Core Policy Platform for the 2022 Local Government Elections

Tory governments have inflicted years of savage austerity, cuts and privatisation, while Welsh Labour – led governments have meekly passed on the cuts to working class people in Wales. The results have laid bare the dire situation we find ourselves in as the social, economic and health effects of the Covid 19 pandemic continue to hit our workplaces, schools, services and communities.

On 20th December 2021, the Welsh Government published its draft budget for the next three years. Despite an additional £0.75 billion for local authority services, the budget is still £3 billion lower than if it had increased in line with the economy since 2010/11.

Against this background it is necessary to ensure that politicians from whatever party not only use any increased funding to expand public services rather than make more cuts but go further and demand adequate funding to repair the damage inflicted over the past 12 years. Councillors who refuse to fight for public services should face a challenge at the ballot box and the council elections in May 2022 will be an opportunity to do this.

Covid has revealed both the drastic situation our local services are in – with councils massively underfunded by Welsh Government – but also some of the many things local authorities have the power to do to improve our lives. In the first lock-down for example, councils acted against homelessness in their local areas and many councils stepped in during autumn half term to continue free school meals.

But they could go so much further. The Welsh Government has announced free school meals for primary school children, but working with the Welsh Government, councils could ensure free school meals for all school students. They could also use their powers to begin a mass home-building programme to tackle the housing crisis.

Most current councillors however, including unfortunately Labour and Plaid Cymru representatives, would say they cannot use their legal authority to act without first getting funding from Welsh Government.

But that’s the wrong way round. Councils still account for over one fifth of public spending in the UK, with responsibilities for adult social care, housing, education support, transport, recycling and rubbish collection, libraries and many other services. That’s a powerful position from which to organise a fightback. Councils should first spend what’s needed – and then demand the money back from Welsh Government.

The Tory Government has made multiple U-turns, spending billions when the pressure was on them. If Labour and Plaid councils in Wales together with the Labour Welsh Government were to use their powers and refuse to implement any more cuts and spend what is necessary instead, the Tories could be made to pay up. This would involve the Welsh Government fighting for the restoration of the £3 billion lost since 2010/11 as a minimum.

The Welsh Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Welsh TUSC) has a policy platform for the local council elections (see below) which could make a difference. Even one councillor in a local authority taking a stand, if they used their position in the council chamber to appeal to those outside, could give confidence to local trade unionists and community campaigners to fight. A network of rebel councillors across Wales could have an even bigger impact in fighting for what is needed.

They 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. Welsh TUSC councillors 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 council candidate can stand under the Welsh TUSC name in the 2022 local council elections – but it is a minimum, not a limit to the issues that 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 Welsh TUSC candidate. But voters should know that any councillor elected under the Welsh TUSC banner will:

 

· Oppose all cuts and closures to council 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.

· Fight for united working class struggle against racism and all forms of oppression.

· Reject council tax, rent and service charge increases for working class people to make up for cuts in central funding and demand that Welsh Government restores the cuts in funding it has passed on from central government.

· Use council’s powers to begin a mass building programme of eco friendly affordable council homes to tackle the housing crisis.

· Vote against the privatisation of council jobs and services, or the transfer of existing council services to social enterprises or ‘arms-length’ management organisations which are the first steps to their privatisation.

· Use all the legal powers available to councils to oppose both the cuts and the transfer of public services to private bodies. Bring all services back in-house.

· Vote for councils to refuse to implement austerity. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid making cuts. But we argue that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defend and improve council services is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demand that Welsh Government funding makes up the shortfall.

· Restore council services that have been cut since 2010. Ensure any increases in funding are used to restore services, not be added to reserves.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Vote for a Socialist Alternative in Wales on 5th May! Back TUSC candidates!

Wales is suffering because we don't have people in power who will stand up and fight for working-class people. This week, ahead of Council elections, supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have been on the streets campaigning for an end to funding cuts to services, rent control to relieve the pressure on ordinary people, free public transport to tackle the climate crisis and more. Sign up as a TUSC supporter now. 











Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Nationalise Kautex Textron to save jobs!

Labour, Plaid and the other parties have no idea how to save these jobs.

Only TUSC candidates are calling for Kautex Textron and any other factories threatening job losses to be nationalised to save jobs.

The steel and automative industries will go the way of coal, with a similar devastating effect on our communities, unless Wales takes the socialist road.

https://caerphilly.observer/news/1000551/calls-to-save-220-jobs-at-kautex-textron-but-can-anything-actually-be-done/

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

End Racist Policing

Two young men have died at the hands of police in South Wales since 1st January. The killings of Mohamud Mohammed Hassan in Cardiff and Mouayed Bashir in Newport have brought out big crowds to demand justice.

Despite Covid restrictions, hundreds of brave, mainly young people have closed the streets in front of police stations, and led marches through the city centre determined to make their voices heard. They rightly say these terrible injustices deserve as much attention as deaths across the Atlantic. 

Fifteen Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have taken place in South East Wales so far this year. In Cardiff and Newport, the local community is demanding answers.

From the start, the Socialist Party has demanded the immediate suspension of all the officers involved in the deaths. We call for independent inquiries to include representatives of the families, the local community and the trade unions, whose only interest is to secure justice. But we also call for democratic community control of the police, to stop these terrible miscarriages of justice happening in the first place.

In April, the Young Socialists organised a protest in Cardiff to build support for Siyanda Mngaza, jailed for trying to defend herself from a brutal, racist attack. There is also the case of 13-year-old Christopher Kapessa whose death in the River Cynon in 2019 was never properly investigated.

The Socialist Party has played a prominent role speaking at BLM protests and in securing support for Siyanda, Mohamud, Mouayied, and the wider BLM movement from trades councils, trade unions and the Wales Trades Union Congress.

The trade unions are where millions of workers are organised. We call on the trade unions to make their opposition to institutional racism visible by bringing trade union banners out on BLM protests. But also to play their part in fighting to create a new party for workers that has a political programme to end racism and inequality. Socialist Party members are standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) as part of that process.

If you have been fighting for justice in the BLM protests, vote for TUSC on 6 May

Mariam Kamish

TUSC Candidate in the Senedd elections

Promoted by Dave Warren, TUSC Wales secretary, on behalf of TUSC Wales, 29 Tir Y Farchnad, Gowerton SA4 3GS