Tonight, Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet approved recommendations to go to next week’s Full Council meeting confirming a further £40 million of cuts for 2015/16.
Those cuts come on top of around £100 million of cuts that have already been made since 2010. Staff numbers have already been cut by a third, and are due to fall even further.
A further £85m of savings was already planned from 2015/16 to 2017/18. However, as tonight’s papers spelt out “Following the Chancellors announcement in the Autumn Statement of a further £10 billion [sic] of cuts to public sector expenditure these estimates are likely to worsen”.
What the Lewisham Council report fails to point out is that it wasn’t just the Coalition parties that backed the Chancellor’s austerity plans. Osborne’s plans for billions of pounds of further cuts passed through Parliament by a massive 515 votes to 18. Just five Labour MP’s were prepared to defy the whip and vote against them!
The fact is that, whichever combination of the main parties forms the Government after May’s general election it will really just be a 'change of management' only. They will all continue to inflict cuts on local government that will bring councils down to the bare legal minimum of service provision and in some cases below even that. At the same time, as the HSBC scandals are showing, the super-rich continue to squirrel away their billions. What kind of society is it that sees the 1% continue to profit at the expense of the 99%?
This continuing austerity, and the failure of the Labour Party to challenge it, shows the desperate need to building a new mass party for working people. Events in Greece have already led to the election of anti-austerity party Syriza, and in Spain there is a surge in popularity for Podemos too.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is planning to stand 1,000 council candidates and 100 parliamentary candidates in May's elections, in order to start building that alternative to the pro-austerity status-quo.
The lesson from these cuts is not to vote for the austerity parties on 7 May. Instead trade unions and communities need to prepare for the battles to come whoever wins. That’s why I am calling on voters in Lewisham West and Penge to support my TUSC challenge this May.
Join the Anti-Cuts Lobbies: No Tory cuts, no Labour cuts!
Monday 23 February, 6.00 pm, Bromley Civic Centre
Wed. 25 February, 6.00 pm, Catford Town Hall -
followed by Stop Academies in Lewisham Public Meeting,
7.30 pm, St.Mary's Centre, Ladywell.