Newcastle cuts: the fight is on

Over the next three years Newcastle City Council will slash £100m from its budget, devastating working-class communities with service cuts and job losses. The proposed closure of 11 out of 18 libraries and the abolition of the arts budget have drawn huge opposition. Youth services across the city are to be destroyed: the entire play service is to be cut and only two youth workers are to be retained. Four out of seven leisure centres in the city are to go. Bin collections will become fortnightly. It is a ruthless onslaught on the working class. James Bell reports.

The city’s Labour council refuses to challenge the government’s cuts programme. Council leader Nick Forbes has repeatedly complained that he is in an ‘impossible situation’ and that he intends to ‘continue lobbying central government’. However, without a single councillor in the city taking an anti-cuts position, this will be an empty promise. He is more concerned about preserving his position than about the impact these cuts will have on the city he claims to represent.

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Glasgow Against Atos campaign

On 14 January 2013, a small victory for all those who have been fighting Atos: the Co-op will terminate the contract it has with the company to provide occupational health services to its 82,000 employees. With the current contract set to expire in March, pickets took place outside the Co-op’s flagship stores across Britain demanding that Atos be ruled out of the bidding process. The Co-op has now confirmed that the Atos contract will not be renewed. Glasgow Against Atos has been picketing other stores and companies with Atos contracts as well the company itself. The Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau has received 24,000 complaints against Atos’s decisions in work capability assessments for disabled benefit claimants. 80% of people who challenge their initial fit-for-work verdict win their cases against the company.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

 

 

In all your decadence, people die...

‘I never thought when my daughters grew up and moved away from home that I might face eviction and homelessness. I didn’t expect the unemployed would be resented by the working/’striving’ members of their community for having their curtains closed after 8am. When I became angry about the treatment of the poorest, most vulnerable people in society and decided to protest I never dreamed I would be arrested for dressing in a costume and having a toy gun from the pound shop. Yet this has all happened.

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Hunt announces closure of services at Lewisham A&E. The fight goes on! - Jan 2013

Despite the mass opposition of local people who use and need the hospital, despite a recent 25,000 strong march and rally, despite months of vibrant campaigning and strong statements from leading health care workers within the hospital, on Thursday 31 January, Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, revealed the fate of Lewisham Hospital in south east London - announcing the closure of significant services in the A&E department, intensive care, maternity and children service.

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Fighting the Cuts in Newcastle - Arthur's Hill Day of Action 2 February 2013

On 2 February more than 200 people took part in a day of action against cuts to community services in the Arthur’s Hill area of Newcastle. The protests were in response to the Labour Council budget proposals which, if voted through, would see the closure of the community library, the local swimming pool and the axing of the entire play service, which currently provides open access provision for hundreds of children in the area. The event was organised by Save Our Services, a campaign focused on young people’s services, Save Moorside Library group, and local working class children with support from youth and play workers.

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Can’t pay Won’t pay

The ConDem assault on the working class is accelerating as the government senses there is no widespread resistance. An all-out offensive on welfare benefits is accompanying the third round of cuts to local services. Not a single Labour council has stood up to the government. The trade unions have colluded with the Labour Party to prevent any struggle from taking place. Deepening poverty is evident in the explosion of food banks across the country and the demand that they attempt to meet. Resistance has to start now across local communities, and has to be organised and led by those who are in the frontline facing the relentless attacks of the ruling class. Robert Clough reports.

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The Counihan-Sanchez Housing Campaign starts 2013 in fighting mood

The Counihan-Sanchez Housing Campaign (CSHC) plans to broaden our campaign for housing for the Counihan family and against cuts and evictions in Brent in 2013. In November 2012 we won our first victory in our battle with Brent Labour council, who have been forced to reinstate the Housing Benefit which Brent withdrew from the family when they declared them ‘intentionally homeless’ in April 2012.

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Save Newcastle Libraries occupy the council chamber – 5 December 2012

On the evening of 5 December over 150 anti-cuts activists from Save Newcastle Libraries marched on Newcastle's Civic Centre and occupied the council chamber where the full council was due to meet to discuss the proposed 2013-2016 budget, that would see the closure of 11 libraries, 100% cuts to cultural organisations and devastating cuts to play, youth and elderly services. Assembling outside the Laing Art Gallery and City Library, both of which will be impacted by the proposed cuts, the activists ensured their voice was heard loud and clear by marching through the Civic Centre's front doors and demanding that councillors refuse to pass a cuts budget. People decided to hold their own meeting inside the Council chambers, discussing the impact of the cuts in our communities and calling for motions against the budget. Though we invited the councillors to meet with us, they decided to move their meeting to another room behind closed doors, whilst some remained outside and attempted to justify implementing the cuts, arguing that their hands are tied, quibbling over numbers whilst supporting a death sentence for Newcastle's most vulnerable. We demand that the Labour Council refuse to be the executioners for the ConDem government. The vibrant protest tonight put the Council on notice that if they implement this budget, the ensuing devastation and resistance will make Newcastle upon Tyne ungovernable.

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Deepening poverty for the working class

The recent publication of the final report from the Commission on Living Standards, Gaining from growth, presents a detailed analysis of how the mass of the working class has suffered under the current crisis. It also shows, however, that downward pressure on working class living standards has existed for years, and has only been offset by a large increase in the number of women working in two-parent households, and by the system of working tax credits. With more women now facing unemployment, particularly if they work in the public sector, and eligibility for working tax credits being reduced, the outlook for many working class households is a rapid decline in real income. Jack Edwards reports.

The report looks at those who are on low to middle incomes, defining this group as working-age people living in households with incomes below the median but above the bottom 10%. However, it sets their situation within a context of growing inequality. From 1955 to 2001, incomes rose on average by 2.7% each year. From 2001 to 2011, however, this had collapsed to 0.6%. The ruling class has, meanwhile, grown richer: between 1997 and 2010 real income for the top 5% of earners increased by 29%, while for the top 1%, it rose by 56%. In 1979 the top 1% of earners had an income three times the average; by 2010 it had risen to 5.6 times. Share in total income for the top 20% of earners had reached 44% by 2011, more than the combined share of the bottom 60%.

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Defend Newcastle libraries – fight all cuts!

Newcastle Labour council has just announced savage cuts of £90m to the city’s budget with the loss of over 1,300 jobs. Ten out of 18 public libraries are to be shut; the council arts team will disappear along with all but two workers in the Youth Service; the city swimming pool is to be shut and the council will divest itself of responsibility for four out of seven leisure centres. Bin collections will become fortnightly. In the expectation of resistance, Labour will set up a ‘new unit to tackle anti-social behaviour and environmental crime with greater emphasis on prevention’. City council leader Nick Forbes says that he ‘will not let up on lobbying government’ – despite previous admissions that ‘residents [...] will have to do more for themselves and expect less from the council’.

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Save Friern Barnet library!

Friern Barnet library is a small, community library in north London. In April 2012 Barnet Council closed it. The community tried everything to keep it open with demonstrations outside the library, cycle rallies and more, but sadly in vain. Once the library shut in April, Barnet Council removed all the books and left the building closed. In September, activists from the Occupy London movement went into Friern Barnet library and re-opened it to the community. The library has had over 8,000 books donated and is currently run by local volunteers.

Friern Barnet library was opened in 1934 by the Carnegie Trust. Friern Barnet residents have been using it ever since; for a sense of community, for books, CDs, DVDs, to use the computers and more. Friern Barnet library today is the only communal building in the district.

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Glasgow Against Atos campaign established

Since June 2012 FRFI has worked alongside other campaigns in Glasgow to oppose the vicious Work Capability Assessments Atos carries out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. As well as organising public meetings against the cuts we have held a picket of the Atos testing centre on Cadogan Street in Glasgow city centre at the end of every month.

To unite the opposition to Atos and the cuts in Glasgow, FRFI, the Black Triangle disability rights campaign, the Save the Accord Centre and supporters of the Irish Republican group the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, as well as independent anti cuts activists, have formed Glasgow Against Atos (GAA). The campaign’s launch meeting on 10 October was addressed by FRFI, the Save the Accord Centre campaign, Black Triangle campaign activist John McArdle and a campaigner whose husband is suffering the disability cutbacks. We held a rolling picket on 26 October in Glasgow City Centre, targeting the Co-operative bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland for their complicity with the cuts, as well as the offices of the Atos-sponsored 2014 Commonwealth Games. After distributing hundreds of leaflets we returned to the Atos testing centre and distributed assessment advice sheets to claimants.

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No to One Barnet!

One Barnet is a scheme Barnet Council is trying to introduce which involves gambling with £1bn of taxpayers’ money. The Tory council wants to hand 70% of our services over to private outsourcing companies. These services will include planning, highways, cemeteries and crematoria, trading standards, environmental health, council tax collection, the council’s IT, human resources, finance departments and more. Although it is claimed One Barnet will save the council money if it proceeds, it will cost Barnet residents more for public services such as cremations and burials. It is an experiment, one which other councils are seeking to follow, but one which people are worried will end up as catastrophic failure.

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Class War On All Fronts

The government’s autumn statement on 5 December 2012 will mark a vicious extension to its assault on the working class. Having announced in March 2012 that it would seek to cut a further £10bn from state welfare on top of the £18bn already planned, the measures it is now considering include:

  • Stopping Housing Benefit for under-25s, affecting 385,000 people;
  • Limiting child-related benefits for unemployed people to their first two children, affecting 310,000 families;
  • Freezing benefits for two years from April 2013.

This is a savage attack, coming as it does on top of the third round of council cuts, cuts in housing benefit for those in social housing, and the introduction of the Welfare Benefits Act, all effective from April 2013. Robert Clough reports.

Council cuts

Throughout the country councils are now finalising plans for a third year of cuts in jobs and services. The average cut for the three years is £160 per head in the 50 worst-hit councils where the average child poverty rate is around a third. 43 of these are run by Labour. The 50 least-affected councils will suffer a total cut of £16 per head. 42 of them are Tory and on average have a 10% child poverty rate. It is the poorest councils which are being hit worst by the 28% cut in central government support over the three-year period. As each year passes the impact of the cuts grows more severe: Sure Start services reduced to nothing, libraries and day centres closed, charges for meals on wheels going up and up, respite care facilities slashed. However rich or poor the council, it is the working class, and working class women in particular, who bear the brunt both in terms of service cuts and job losses.

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Stand with DPAC!

As the deadly attack on disability benefits continues, with several thousand sick and/or disabled people a year dying within six weeks of having their entitlement to benefits stopped, the need for unity in action of all against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Atos is vital. No one would disagree with this, but it begs the question, on what basis and in whose interests? This has become a burning political question given that a clear division has emerged between sections of Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC), which has been organising militant direct actions, and the union primarily organising within DWP and Atos, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS). The issue is, should the fight against Work Capability Assessments, against Atos and the DWP, be led by those who suffer the consequences, or by the union organising those who are implementing the cuts?

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Hands off George Square!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) has set up a new campaign in opposition to Glasgow City Council’s latest efforts to cleanse the city of anything resembling active opposition to its corrupt rule. Announcing a £15m redevelopment of George Square, Labour council leader Gordon Matheson trumpeted: ‘I want to give the people of Glasgow the square they deserve.’ The suited gangsters of the local Labour party have shown repeatedly what they think the people of Glasgow deserve – corruption, the selling-off of public services and deepening inequality.

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