Tuesday 3 March 2015

Cardiff Cuts Curtailed by Protests but New Anticuts Party Needed to Finish the Job

Council Leader Phil Bale, who is facing calls for his resignation.
It was chaos.

The group of Labour councillors ruling Cardiff Council showed us last Thursday that pantomime farce is alive and well in this city - and not confined to the New Theatre.

Pantomime dame from Cinderella, which showed at Cardiff's New Theatre earlier this year.
Committed to making the cuts, but terrified of how unpopular this would make them, the ruling group dithered through the budget meeting until almost midnight, through adjournment after adjournment after adjournment.

Under massive pressure from campaigners, who were gathered outside for the Cardiff Against The Cuts protest lobby (more brilliant photos here), Labour councillors were forced to submit THREE emergency budget amendments TO THEIR OWN BUDGET.

Just days before, councillors had insisted that there was no option but to slash this funding, but when campaigners refused to blink they cancelled cuts to almost all the facilities and services that had organised public protests.

Funding for branch libraries was guaranteed until the next council elections, extending library campaigners' victory after previous protests. Play centres, which have fought a gruelling guerrilla war against closures plans for over a year, including protests in Grangetown and Splott that blocked major roads, were given another year's reprieve. Day centres for the elderly have been saved and youth clubs and Cardiff Alcohol and Drug Team have had their cuts reduced.

Austerity isn't over in Cardiff, though. The budget that all Labour councillors eventually supported agreed tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts to services and hundreds more job losses in a city that can't afford more unemployment. Much-loved facilities, such as Canton Community Centre and others, are facing demolition.

But the cat's out of the bag now: if you fight back, it is possible to win. We've got to shout that from the rooftops, and also broadcast the best way to fight in order to score a victory against cuts.

First off, never give in. No matter who tells you the cause is lost and there's no alternative but to accept cuts, closures and privatisation.

Second, don't be fobbed off by assurances that the money will appear from somewhere else - whether it's charities, companies or the community. Private companies aren't interested in public services unless they can milk them for profits, and there just isn't enough money in the pockets of ordinary people to be able to fund  all the facilities and services under threat. Focus on fighting to keep guaranteed funds from the council or other public body.

Third, give councillors, Assembly Members and Members of Parliament HELL unless they're doing absolutely everything they can to stop cuts to public services. They all claim to be on your side (especially in an election year!) but councillors, for example, can come out and publicly oppose cuts in the press, vote against their party's budget, resign from the cabinet to show their opposition to a plan, call in decisions to force the cabinet to look at them again, resign from their party and go to the press, and most crucially, call for a no-cuts budget that uses emergency cash in the reserves and careful borrowing to save all jobs and services while a campaign to demand more funding from the government is built.

Fourth, publicly promise to stand in elections as an anti-cuts candidate if your representative isn't doing all of the above. The growing support for this strategy amongst campaigners was a crucial factor in Labour backing off from these cuts, as they feared the development of a force that could take rob them of their positions - including (God forbid!) - the cash allowances that come with them!

Ross Saunders, the secretary of Cardiff Against The Cuts, is likely to stand for anti-cuts election alliance, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, in Cardiff South and Penarth, with widespread support from campaigners. At TUSC's Cardiff launch last Thursday, Ross said "Austerity is our fault. They've got away with it because we've let them - because we weren't organised enough to stop them. It's time we corrected that mistake: anticuts campaigners should stand in elections against the main parties, linking up through TUSC Against Cuts to start the process of organising a new, democratic party run by of ordinary working-class people to fight for our own interests. If I'm elected I'll take an ordinary working-class wage, donating two-thirds of my MP's salary back to the movement like the best socialist MPs did in the past."

Cardiff Council Leader Phil Bale could be booted out of office on Thursday, but we've had a change of leader before. LibDem Rodney Berman, Plaid's Neil McEvoy and both Goodway-puppet Heather Joyce and current Labour leader Phil Bale have changed the colour of the flag and changed the face in the papers, but the policies have been the same - cuts when big business demand we pay for the recession. We'll have to build a new party to change course away from austerity as well.

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