400 people marched from Woodhouse Moor into Leeds City Centre to demonstrate outside the Tory Local Government conference on Saturday 25th February. The keynote speaker at the conference was Tory Local Government and Community minister, Eric Pickles.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Pickles is the minister responsible for the savage cutbacks in local government funding, and several protestors carried placards directing their anger about cuts at him as well as contingents joining the march from local government unions. But given these cuts are part of a wider austerity agenda including attacks on welfare, the NHS and other public services there were also contingents from campaigns such as Keep Our NHS Public and Youth Fight for Jobs.
Speakers at the rally included activists from PCS, UNISON, UCU, BFAWU and GMB, as well as Nial Vivian, one of the Jarrow marchers and an activist with Youth Fight for Jobs. The Youth Fight for Jobs contingent was amongst the liveliest on the demo, chanting “[company] bosses hear us say, we won’t work if you don’t pay” as we passed various companies still involved the scheme, such as McDonalds, Primark and Greggs, with all those on the march around them joining in.
But as well as protesting against the Tories (and their Lib-Dem coalition partners), the Socialist Party argues that Labour councillors should not be left off the hook and we had joined activists from Leeds Against the Cuts and Leeds UNISON three days prior to lobby our local council. Even if these councillors do not agree with the strategy outlined by the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, of outlining a budget that provides services that meet the needs of the local population not the Con-Dem austerity hawks, their speeches about being sorry for pushing through such cuts are merely hollow words unless they do all they can to put pressure on the Tories to give the city the funding its public services need.
Today was such an opportunity, but their was no sign of these so-called defenders of our public services. Instead the campaign to fight these cuts is being led by the trade unions and anti-cuts groups, with todays demonstration being organised by Leeds Against the Cuts. Such campaigns and trade unions must urgently discuss the question of the need for councillors determined to oppose every cut to our vital public services. Leeds Socialist Party and Leeds Alliance for Green Socialism will be standing anti-cuts candidates in the upcoming council elections in May and will seek to discuss with others in the anti-cuts movement to stand alongside us in fighting all who aim to make working people suffer for the crises of capitalism
See also – Protestors Demonstrate Over Leeds City Council cuts – BBC News (includes quotes from Leeds City Socialist Party member Kevin Pattison)