Davey Ivens published a great letter in today’s Leicester Mercury (February 20) which explained in full:
“I’m 100% behind Unison defending their members’ conditions and seeking to protect the services they deliver; the Tory cuts to Leicester’s revenue budget will reach £155,000,000 by 2020 – services and communities will suffer. If a ‘no cuts’ budget is a realistic possibility then the council should consider it – not dismiss it out of hand.
“What’s absolutely certain is that without a united front between our Labour council, the trades unions and the citizens that rely on services, the government will get away with their damaging and unfair funding of cities like Leicester. I’m looking to our City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, and trade union officers to lead us in a campaign against the cuts – speaking on the same platforms, working on joint solutions where possible, getting the MPs involved and mobilising the people of Leicester. The support is there if they show the way.
“This so crucial to our city – we don’t have time for public spats.”
But so far, the only public response from the city’s Labour Group has errupted forth from Peter Soulsby, who incorrectly stated to the Leicester Mercury (February 15): “They say this every year and it’s pure fantasy.”
So let’s help Peter get his facts straight for a start. This is the first and only time that Unison city branch has ever called upon the Council to set a no cuts budget. Other socialist groups have previously called upon the Labour Council to set such a fighting budget, but not Unison.
Moreover, setting a no cuts budget is not “pure fantasy” as Peter would have us believe. In fact, it is an idea that has wide support within the British trade union movement. For example, the idea that Labour Councils should work to set legal no cuts budgets is backed by GMB (nationally) and the Welsh TUC, and by the local government services groups of Unison and Unite. These are not organisations whose stock in trade is fantasy.
Next Peter Soulsby said Unison “is saying we should spend, spend, spend and blow every penny in the bank over the next 12 to 18 months.”
But again it is Peter himself who is living in fantasy-land. The worked-out twelve page proposal that Unison submitted to the Council never asked the Council to spend all their money within 12 months. In fact the proposal was clear that there was easily enough money in the Council’s bank accounts to prevent cuts being made for at least three years, and that was without taking into account the not insignificant matter of the Council borrowing extra money.
Peter then made the Orwellian statement that Unison’s demand for a no cuts budget “will lead to his members getting the compulsory redundancy notices we have so far worked very hard to avoid.”
This latter point is utter nonsense, and demonstrates vividly how little respect Peter has for trade unions. Even if we just focused on compulsory redundancies that are in the process of taking place, we know that 48 carers are being laid off because of cuts; cuts which Unison says are unnecessary and should be fought! This is not to mention the 128 staff in Sure Start who are potentially facing the prospect of compulsory redundancies if the Council’s proposed cuts budget is agreed at Wednesday’s forthcoming full Council meeting.
Now is the time to bring an end to public spats; Leicester deserves better. Now it is up to our city’s 52 Labour councillors to think long and hard about why they became councillors. Are they there to do whatever City Mayor Peter Soulsby tells them to do come rain or shine, or are they there to represent the people of Leicester, and are they willing to help launch a public fightback against Tory austerity?
Join the lobby of the City Council this Wednesday that is being called by Unison and by the Rushey Mead Action Group. Town Hall Square from 4pm.