This morning, I was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of trade unions to Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet meeting to explain the damage that will be caused by cuts and privatisation to Early Years services. A noisy protest had taken place outside - despite the security barriers and the 10am start for what is normally an evening meeting.
The Labour councillors listened politely and even expressed their support for the arguments that I had made. But then they went on to vote through the cuts – arguing that they just ‘had to make the best of it’ and that people needed to understand the Government was to blame.
As discussions at the recent London NUT Regional Council made clear, Lewisham NUT are far from alone in facing this hand-wringing from Labour Councils who are simply voting to carry out the Government’s dirty work.
I am sure that I am also far from alone in thinking that, instead of making these cuts, Labour councils should be sitting down with trade unions and local communities to work out the services we and our families need, and then jointly campaigning to force the Government to fund them.
That’s why Lewisham NUT agreed at our General Meeting this week to back the National Shop Stewards Network Anti-Cuts Campaign’s demonstration to lobby the Labour Party’s Local Government Conference on Saturday March 5. The march will be assembling at 11am, Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, Southwark London, SE11 (see www.stopcuts.net).
For those of you not facing Labour Councils, or wondering why the NSSN isn’t also attacking the Tories and Liberals, I should also make clear that the NSSN Anti-Cuts Campaign is also helping to organise a march on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat’s Conferences in Cardiff on the same date. However, in London, this event gives trade unionists the opportunity to put pressure on Labour Councils to stand with us and fight, rather than just meekly carrying out Con-Dem cuts.