All Circus and No Bread: Plymouth City Council Cuts Budget and Democracy

Councillors sat today (Monday 27th February) to move the annual budget and yet again it’s the people of Plymouth that are being made to suffer.

With Labour having lost control of the council after the 2016 elections ending four years of Blairite Labour branded austerity the Conservatives and their allies in UKIP are now wielding the axe and they are certainly wasting no time.

It’s difficult to fathom how UKIP can in any way claim to be an “alternative” when they are lining up with the Tories to dish out more misery for ordinary Plymothians. Moreover, we hear once again about the need to be prudent and fiscally responsible from the Conservatives, yet they are continuing to slash services whilst having the gall to increase council tax for every household in Plymouth by 4.49%. This effectively means that the people of Plymouth will have to pay out even more despite the fact that the Tories and their friends in UKIP are further reducing the services which Plymouth City Council is offering. In short people will have to pay more for less.

The Tories have pinned the council tax rise on the need to raise funds to ensure the council is able to meet its requirements for providing adult social care. Rather than lumping the bill on the poorest and most vulnerable in Plymouth why hasn’t Ian Bowyer (Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council) demanded more funding from central government? If they can find extra money for Surrey, why not Plymouth? The people of Plymouth are being expected to pay out more in taxes whilst simultaneously having to put up with reduced bin collections as well as the potential closure of over half of Plymouth’s libraries to name but some of the cuts.

The Labour Councillors were ridiculing the Tories for¬†making cuts and raising council tax but this is exactly what they themselves did over the four years that they had control of the council. However, their remarks were cut short when the Conservatives and UKIP decided to use their majority to end the debate early and go straight to the vote. It seems that the Conservatives are taking a leaf out of Trump’s book by stifling debate which UKIP fully supported.

Despite being cut short the Labour group could have used what time they had to table an alternative no cuts budget as I have suggested to them year after year before budget setting meetings. Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party have been much more open to discuss such an alternative but so far not a single one of Plymouth’s Labour Councillors has been open to even discussing a legal no cuts budget.

Plymouth is in desperate need of an alternative to austerity. We need Councillors who are going to stand up for public services rather than wield the axe. Whether that fight comes from Corbyn supporting Labour candidates prepared to unseat Blairites and oppose the cuts or whether that fight has to continue to come from TUSC, what matters is that fight needs to be had.

TUSC are prepared to continue in that fight and we are always happy to have fraternal discussions with any and all individuals and parties that are also willing to take up that struggle. Let’s build the alternative.

Ryan Aldred

Socialist Party Secretary and TUSC Election Agent

Library Closures: If it’s not about money, what is it about?

Below is a letter I’ve sent into the Plymouth Herald:

“Conservative Councillor Glenn Jordan claimed at a library consultation meeting on Tuesday 21st February that the ridiculous plans to close 10 libraries across the city was not about saving money. If the money is there to keep the libraries open then why not keep those libraries open? How will culling jobs and destroying community spaces help to benefit the city?

The Conservatives are seriously suggesting that library services can reach the people of Plymouth better by closing ten of the city’s libraries, which, when coupled with the expensive public transport system is going to leave people isolated and less able to reach these services.

Likewise, we heard that North Prospect Library is planned for closure because it doesn’t have meeting space. When it was challenged that there are indeed meeting rooms in the library building the retort by Councillor Jordan was that the meeting space needed to be in the library space itself. Forgive me for my ignorance but I would have thought that a library is meant to be just that, a library and not a library/meeting space! The fact that there are meeting spaces available in the North Prospect library building which are being ruled out on the utterly spurious grounds that they are not “in the library” suggests to me that there is more than meets the eye going on here.

If it’s not about money, why don’t they try to increase engagement with these wonderful public spaces rather than simply trying to close their doors for good? Councillor Jordan has put forward these plans “so we are not constrained by bricks and mortar”. I have to wonder aloud, is there a more lucrative business venture that these shameless Conservatives are eyeing up which they are happy to turf out community groups and public sector workers for?

Don’t get me wrong, I do support more being invested to offer a digital service but that shouldn’t be at the expense of jobs and excellent public spaces. If the Conservatives want to see more engagement with libraries why don’t they invest more into ensuring that libraries are well-maintained and remain accessible by keeping them open? Or is it as I suspect that this is indeed not about money but about the continued destruction of our public services?

If these Conservatives and their chums in UKIP can’t look after our public services I’ll be more than willing to show them how it’s done.

Ryan Aldred

Plymouth TUSC Campaign Organiser”

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Building the Revolutionary Party – CWI Speech

CWI

For those of my readers who don’t already know, I’m a member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales. This is part of an International known as the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made up different sections of the Socialist Party from around the world. Recently I attended the CWI school in Leuven, Belgium and had one of the most intense but enjoyable experiences of my political life so far. Here is the speech I gave during a commission on building the revolutionary party:

“Comrades,

In the England and Wales section we are growing slowly at the moment but in Plymouth where I am based we have grown very quickly from about 8 to around 30 in less than 6 months and I have identified four things which I would posit help to build our respective revolutionary parties

Firstly, a healthy perspective is needed. Lenin once said that Capitalism will always reform itself over the bones of the working classes and I personally think this can be interpreted in two ways. Looking at the poverty, austerity, repression and wars going on around the world today the truth of that statement is revealing itself frighteningly quickly.

However, I also see this statement as a challenge; after seeing and hearing some of the grotesque horrors that Capitalism can bring I say that Capitalism can only be allowed to reform over my dead body! I see that same passion and determination driving the CWI forward particularly in sections with only a handful of comrades who stand defiant nonetheless.

It is this passion and determination that serves as our most powerful tool of recruitment. It is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we ourselves do not first believe that revolution is possible and it is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we do not believe that we can recruit. But when we do believe, others will see our conviction and will want to join us and that is simply changed by a change in perspective.

I would next say that organisation is key. We have a giant task ahead of us with the implementation of socialism across the globe. It requires us to be ambitious and dream of a better future for all. However, as a part of that we cannot allow ourselves to forget the small things which will make the big changes.

We should set realistic targets for recruitment, we should organise so that we never lose a contact that we’ve met by misplacing their contact details and make sure we follow them up, not just once but regularly until it is clear that they have lost interest or are ready to join. We should always prepare in advance to ensure that we have the relevant papers and flyers with us for each situation or action, overall we need to be efficient and organised.

Next ,I would say we can recruit through persistent action. By remaining at the heart of struggle and showing solidarity with workers as they take action they come to identify with us. They may not join us at first, but unlike bourgeois parties we are not out only for ourselves and we are not like sectarian left-wing parties or ultra-left elements.

We do not arrogantly believe we are the leaders of the revolution and expect to drag working-class people kicking and screaming through the revolution. When people see that we stand in solidarity with workers time and time again and do this not just for ourselves but for all sections of working class people across the world, which they will see for themselves through our cooperation and discussions with them, and we should always try to engage in discussions with people by the way, they will join us.

Finally, I would say that the endless opportunities Socialism has to offer will inspire and encourage people to join not just after the revolution, but even right now. I, like many people and particularly youth across the world have suffered from depression as austerity has killed any prospect of a prosperous future.

With youth unemployment rates in some countries reaching up to 60% many people have, in their despair turned to suicide as they feel constrained, worthless and without hope caused by the failing capitalist system. On the other hand, the party offers hope, productivity, worth and eventually liberty for all working-class people. In the short time I have been with the party I have been a leading organiser, a budding young journalist, a public speaker, even a tourist to Leuven! As well as many more things and that is just me, I’m by no means alone in experiencing these opportunities.

I have seen comrades use their creativity to both build the party and express themselves in original and inspiring ways. I have seen this creativity snuffed out far too often by the tyranny of Capitalism but by conveying the opportunities that people can seize through the party, people see their potential and their power. By learning about and building for socialism through struggle and solidarity they grow in themselves and transform, rejecting the worthlessness and failure felt by many and realising that it is in fact the system that has failed them.

By helping to change people’s perception from hopelessness, despair and no opportunity to a world full of hope, solidarity and limitless potential, people will be inspired and encouraged to make the revolution their own and by doing so comrades will want to contribute more, whether it be by helping to recruit, contributing to campaigns or increasing their subs when they can afford it.

To sum up, my contribution is to say that building the revolutionary party is all a matter of changing people’s perceptions from crushing despair to limitless, defiant hope and acting on that hope with:

Healthy perspective

Organisation

Persistent action

Endless opportunity

Now onwards to our collective proletarian revolution!”

If you would like to know more about the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) you can find us online at:

http://www.socialistworld.net/

or on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/5593681554/10151528030381555/