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The Anti-Cuts movement in Birmingham
Speaker: Godfrey Webster, Secretary, Birmingham Against the Cuts
1. Godfrey Webster writes
Birmingham against the Cuts was set up in Autumn 2010 by the Birmingham Trades Union Council to coordinate the struggle against the austerity plans contained in the coalition’s emergency budget and autumn statement.
It has been supported by the public sector unions, some of the Labour Left, the Green Party and left groups including the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party of Britain as well as many independent activists.
Local groups were formed in many areas of the City and achieved notable successes in rolling back closures planned by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition governing Birmingham. These campaigns ran alongside the struggle of the trade unions over pensions and the new council contract, and helped to undermine any confidence in the fairness of the city administration. The victory in the High Court to ban Birmingham’s planned reductions in adult care was followed by consultation meetings where BATC motions to reject the 2012-2013 budget were passed unanimously.
The elections in May 2012 brought a huge anti-coalition vote and a landslide victory for Labour. BATC had recognised the danger that Labour had not committed itself to an an anti-cuts policy and asked candidates to sign a pledge to oppose all cuts. But few Labour candidates signed and it soon became clear that Albert Bohr would commit the council to implement the planned cuts for 2012 and make a budget of more cuts for 2013-2014.
A long struggle to persuade Labour councillors to set a deficit budget took place. This has exposed the spinelessness of the Labour leadership locally and nationally -in the end only one Labour councillor dared to abstain on the Birmingham budget and only a handful voted against cuts nationally.
This raises the question of the need to provide anti-cuts candidates for people to express their opposition to austerity. This has raised very lively debates in Birmingham and nationally about the way forward. On the one hand we want maximum unity of all, whatever party they belong to. On the other we need a credible alternative to Labour.
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Stuart Richardson 0777 156 7496 firstname.lastname@example.org