Thursday 30th November was a momentous day for the working-class across the East Midlands: it was the day that we found out that our collective grassroots organising had forced NHS England into reversing their mistaken attempt to close the Glenfield Children’s Heart Unit.
Everyone involved in this campaign recognised that the decision to close the Unit was driven by so-called “efficiency savings” that were being demanded by our Tory government. Therefore, it was clear that if the final decision (following the “consultation” process) had recommended the Heart Unit’s closure then the campaign would have to step-up yet another gear to force the reversal of such an unjust decision.
At this point it is interesting to observe what was being said by local Leicester councillors in the Council meeting that was taking place at exactly the same time that Glenfield campaigners were celebrating their hard-won victory in the city centre. This is because local campaigners from Rushey Mead were busy holding the Labour leadership of Leicester City Council to account by asking them to rethink their backward plans to relocate a local library into a tiny community centre.
In spite of constant community protests, the Council say they are standing by their decision to reduce service provision in Rushey Mead; but the campaigners, in the best tradition of socialist grassroots organising, paid a visit to Thursday’s Council meeting to renew their demand that their Labour Council refuse to pass on Tory funding cuts in their community. After all the Rushey Mead campaigners were only doing what the Glenfield campaigners would have done had the decision to close the Heart Unit gone the wrong way.
Amazingly the Blairite Labour leaders of our Council did not see things in the same way. Thus in response to a series of questions about the effects of cuts in Rushey Mead, Cllr Kirk Master, the Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhood Services, actually chided the campaigners for opposing his Council’s imposition of cuts upon their local community. Patronizingly he said:
“It’s important for the campaign group and other residents to focus on the reconfiguration of the library and the recreation offer going forwards to make sure we get the best possible offer, rather than going backwards and keep campaigning to keep both buildings open where a decision was made earlier at the beginning of this year.”
Like a broken Tory record Cllr Master’s reiterated his belief that the campaigners were wrong in demanding an end to service cuts, by repeating:
“In fairness the offer that Rushey Mead is getting on the return of merging both services is a good offer. I think it is about time that the community groups, with elected [Council] members, with the users – and most have to be fair to them as well – started to talk about how we make this offer better for the community rather than going backwards all the time.”
What? Backwards? If anyone is going backwards it is the leadership team of Leicester’s Labour Council who insist upon carrying through Tory cuts instead of taking the fight directly to the Tories by refusing to do their bidding. To heap nonsense on nonsense, a member of the Rushey Mead campaign then responded to Cllr Master’s previous statement by explaining:
“As we saw today the Glenfield Heart Unit decision was reversed so it can be possible [to alter decisions]”.
To which Cllr Master’s, like the cowardly Blairite that he is, said:
“Unfortunately this decision [to make service cuts in Rushey Mead], as I highlighted previously, was made in January of this year, so we were waiting on the Glenfield decision. We’ve had this decision over ten months ago.”
Here Cllr Master was effectively implying that had the decision been made to close Glenfield Heart Unit then the responsible thing for all the campaigners involved would be to just give in to the closure! Really?
In reality, the campaign to Save Glenfield had explicitly stated their determination to fight on if the decision went the wrong way.
Thankfully there is a small minority of rebel Labour councillors who do not support such Tory-talk, and so later during the meeting Cllr Ross Willmott (Labour councillor for Rushey Mead ward) asked:
“The City Mayor will have heard of Cllr Master’s advice to the people here this evening from Rushey Mead that they should give-up their campaign and move on. In the light of the tremendously successful campaign waged for over a year by people of the city to keep the Glenfield Heart Unit open does he not think that the people of Rushey Mead should continue with their campaign and that Cllr Master’s advice is not very helpful in these circumstances?”
Blairite City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby then showed his true colours (again) by siding with Cllr Master, replying:
“It is not for me to advise Cllr Willmott’s constituents, but I would advise him that he might suggest to them that positive engagement with Cllr Master and with the Council in general about the future of the facility might produce the same dramatically improved service and use that has been produced in other parts of the city. And I would encourage him to encourage them to engage positively and to ensure that the capital investment that we are prepared to make in the community centre is used, and is used soon, and produces the same results that it has in other parts of the city.”
Repetition of nonsense is the common denominator of both Master’s and Soulsby’s defeatist lecturing. The community campaign must engage positively with the proposed cuts, which will somehow improve service delivery in Rushey Mead: repeat — the community must engage positively with the cuts so they can benefit from the cuts?!
The community campaigners in Rushey Mead however, should and must continue to resist proposed cuts to the delivery of community services in their ward. In the same way our Labour-led Council must wake up and unite with such campaigners in building a united fight-back against all Tory cuts… they know how to do this, but at the moment it seems that they would prefer not to follow this socialist path to the future.