You couldn’t make the story up: the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – scuttling their own offices for the benefit of city financiers. This is the Blairite horror-story currently unfolding in Leicester under the guidance of Labour City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
Rather than fight Tory austerity, Sir Peter Soulsby’s ‘solution’ to Tory cuts has been to oversee his (our) Council’s demise.
Leicester’s Labour Council therefore took the decision, in 2015, to demolish their own sizable headquarters and downsize into a smaller office down the road. But rather than sell this piece of prime real estate, worth an estimated £10 million, Sir Peter is as good as giving away the freehold for the land for a fire sale price of just £24,000.
As if this was not bad enough, the Council had already spent £6 million of public money getting the land ready for its controversial developers (the Sowden Group) – a construction company which had been previously found guilty (by the Council) of doing little to prevent a series of arson attacks from ravaging a listed property it owned (and subsequently developed) in the centre of town.
Like many Blairites up-and-down the country, Sir Peter Soulsby’s ‘answer’ to Tory austerity — which is real terms is evidenced by the 34,000 children growing up living in poverty in Leicester — is not to build a united fight-back against the Tories and to commit to building thousands of council houses, but instead to spend millions of taxpayers money to entice a local wealth management firm (Mattioli Woods) to move its headquarters from the city limits to the city centre.
It is this wealth management firm, along with the Sowden Group, who are obtaining the freehold to the 1.8 acre city-centre site for just £24,000. This demonstrates clearly how the political priorities of Blairite leaders are more focused on servicing the needs of the wealthy then responding to the urgent needs of the public.
In Leicester this dire situation need not continue for much longer, as a small group of Labour councillors are campaigning to place the working-class back at the heart of local decision making. One way in which they are doing this is by calling for an open and democratic selection process within the Labour Party so that a socialist anti-austerity campaigner can stand against Sir Soulsby in the forthcoming City Mayor selection process.
The adoption of such a democratic selection process is necessary because in the face of the popular anti-austerity movement that brought Jeremy Corbyn to power, Blairites still remain firmly in control of Labour-run Councils across Britain, as they do in Leicester. This must change, as the future of the Labour movement is at stake; and working-class activists must do whatever they can to exert pressure upon the Labour Party (from within and from without) to ensure that in all forthcoming elections, the public can cast their votes for genuine socialists not for vapid Blairite poseurs.