Plymouth City Council Sets Budget: Democracy Cut First

It is one thing to put forward a budget which diligently adheres to Con-Dem austerity measures; it is quite another entirely to even deny questions from the public about matters relating to the budget. However, that is exactly what the Labour led council are doing in Plymouth.

The amount of “democracy” that is permitted in the Council Chamber is scarce at the best of times, with members of the public only allowed to submit a single question per City Council meeting up to a maximum of 50 words. Yet, not even this luxury is being afforded at a meeting that will discuss the setting of a budget which will hugely affect the lives of everyone in Plymouth.

Meetings of the full City Council can be unwelcoming at the best of times, with Councillors quickly shouting down anybody that dares step outside of the exact wording of questions. It can be very frustrating with the amount of hoops that have to be jumped through to even get a question submitted. Questions have to be submitted 5 clear working days before a Council meeting takes place which gives ample opportunity for Councillors to write wordy replies that often dodge the nub of a question. Moreover, without the right of reply you have to then wait a full 4-8 weeks to raise points or get further clarification on an issue.

Nevertheless, Plymouth’s Labour led Council has denied even this opportunity to the very people who will be hit hardest with the latest round of cuts which are being issued. Council workers are already seeking to ballot for strike action as they are being forced to sign new contracts with worse terms and conditions. In addition, many of the public services are being put out to tender as part of the “transformation agenda” which is synonymous with privatisation; as services which can be run by co-operatives can be bid on by the private sector within 3 years.

Members of the Socialist Party as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) were planning to put questions to the Council to challenge them on their faithful implementation of Con-Dem cuts. However, the Council will not be allowing the opportunity which raises a myriad of questions for Plymouth voters to be thinking about.

If Labour really cannot provide an alternative to austerity why not at least be prepared to defend that position to members of the public? If Labour are going to faithfully continue to implement Tory austerity are they any different to the Tories? Who can people vote for if they want to see Councillors who will oppose all cuts, protect jobs and services and fight to see funding restored to pre-2010 levels?

There is only one electoral option which is making that commitment in Plymouth this May; TUSC. If you would like to get involved with the TUSC campaign and see an end to eye-watering cuts then help to build TUSC and be a part of the biggest electoral challenge TUSC has mounted yet:

http://www.tusc.org.uk/support.php

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