On Saturday 12th November twenty-four people attended The Bradford People’s Coalition Against the Cuts 3rd conference at Manningham Mills Community Centre. It was a good turn-out for a time of year when most people’s thoughts have turned to Christmas shopping on a Saturday morning.
Matthew Leek, Bradford Socialist Party
The conference was opened up by chairperson Neal Heard who went over the impressive list of activity that the coalition had successfully intervened in since its formation in the closing months of 2010 including various lobbies, demonstrations and their recent role in the Bradford Occupation at Centenary Square that was cut short due to an eviction order served by the city’s Labour council. Our council, for some reason, don’t want attention drawn to the ConDem cuts agenda which poses the question why? Probably because if they were in power the front bench of the Labour Party would be implementing the very same cuts agenda, albeit maybe a little slower.
Next up there was a speaker – Paul Tillyer from the civil servants union PCS. Paul gave a very interesting account of the background of attacks on civil service pensions dating back to the initial attack by Gordon Brown in 2005 right up to the current conflict facing civil servants in 2011. The government is currently trying to reduce the deficit caused by the greed of bankers by attacking the pensions of rank and file public sector workers. Paul very rightly brought up the biggest challenge ahead leading to the proposed public sector general strike on 30th November was convincing the public that the public sector is right to take strike action. Despite public sector pensions being relatively good compared to those working in the private sector it should be a case of private sector workers demanding the same package that is currently enjoyed by those in the public sector, not making everyone’s standard of living worse.
In response to the idea that such a demand might dub us as ‘deficit deniers’ Paul made it clear that there are ways of raising the cash to pay for decent pensions for all without widening the deficit or the cost coming down on the heads of the ordinary taxpayer. Despite the cover up by the politicians and bankers there is money out there it is just a case of trying to get it to filter back down to the people who work hard and create the wealth in society. Paul pointed to the £120 billion that is avoided every year in the UK by companies such as Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group and Boots filtering money through tax havens. Another suggestion is the implementation of a Robin Hood Tax which would impose a small tax on big financial transactions, this wouldn’t hurt big business but would generate a generous amount of revenue to invest in public services, educating our children (etc) but the ruling classes refuse to throw us even this small crumb from their table of plenty. His final idea was to scrap the plan to spend £100 billion on Trident and use it for something constructive. There was also a great desire to point out the willingness of the PCS to work with other community and political groups who are challenging the government’s austerity measures.
Michael Young from The Socialist Health Association then turned our attention to the government’s sinister attack on our NHS. Michael talked of the success of campaigns so far in getting the government to revise the Health and Social Care Bill but of the need to carry on the fight in the hope we can get the bill thrown out completely in the House of Lords. The most destructive element of the bill is still in place, namely the privatisation or ‘marketisation’ of the NHS which will create competition within the health service and could stop the service of certain procedures free at the point of treatment in areas where it isn’t considered profitable to do so; the dreaded and potential fatal ‘postcode lottery’ for those who might not be able to afford to pay for surgery. Michael urged everyone to write to members of the House of Lords who could potentially be a supporter of voting against the bill.
Two alternative workshops then took place, one focusing on the November 30th day of co-ordinated strike action and the other on the future direction of the Bradford Peoples Coalition followed by a round-up of the days events.
The will of this community action group to fight the ideologically loaded cuts of the ConDem cabinet of millionaires and their banker chums is as strong as ever. Ordinary people didn’t create this crisis, why should we pay by the further destruction of our community?