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. 

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