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Leeds North West Socialist Party a public meeting at Headingley HEART centre on Tuesday 10th April to hear Iain Dalton, the TUSC candidate for the ward in the upcoming council elections, speak about the campaign.

Nick Parker, Leeds North West Socialist Party Branch Secretary

In a far reaching speech, Iain mentioned the many attacks that ordinary working people are facing and the campaigns that Socialist Party members have been involved in to defend our jobs and services. The battle against the NHS health and social care bill saw us going from door to door in our local area collecting signatures for a lobby of Greg Mulholland’s surgery last September, and then collecting them on the street shortly beforehand. Mulholland was one of just four Lib Dem MP’s who voted against the bill.

As an active member of the shop workers union USDAW, Iain was well placed to explain how the recent changes in working tax credit, which means that a couple now have to work 24 hours instead of 16 to be eligible for this benefit. Many retail workers are employed on part time contracts and over half will not be able to get extra hours because they simply aren’t available. USDAW have estimated that up to 210000 families could lose their entire WTC as a result of this change, which will in some cases leave them £3870 worse off.

The party’s recent campaign for affordable public transport was also mentioned. With rail fares increasing by an average of 8% and bus fares 7%, many people are understandably fed up with seeing more and more of their income being eaten up by essential transport costs. There are proposals by Metro to introduce quality contracts on buses, which would give them the authority to regulate prices etc. This would at least take a bit of power out of the hands of the private bus companies and give Metro the power to set fares at an affordable rate. However, Iain explained that only on the basis of bringing the whole public transport network into public ownership under democratic control could we develop an integrated system organised to meet people’s travel needs rather than corporate profits.

In terms of the elections and the alternative that TUSC puts forward, Iain was empathic in pointing out the huge tax gap in the UK, estimated to be £120 billion per year by the PCS union, and the fact that large corporations are sitting on cash reserves of £730 billion, past profits that they have accumulated but now refuse to invest because they see no profitable outlet. He pointed out that a capital tax of 50% on this ocean of cash could be used to clear the deficit and launch massive public works projects, such as a mass housing building programme, to provide good quality, affordable housing for the five million people currently on the council house waiting list.

Some people might ask the question: what difference could TUSC councillors make? Iain, drawing on the example of Huddersfield, where the Socialist Party had a councillor (Jackie Grunsell) from 2006-2010, explained that even one councillor can make a difference in leading campaigns against cuts, job losses and closures. Just a few successes can also inspire people to believe that an alternative is possible.

No one would have predicted George Galloway’s recent victory in the Bradford West parliamentary by election, but it showed just how fed up people were with Labour (who prior to the defeat had held the seat since 1974). It is revealing that the Labour candidate in that election was also the deputy leader of Bradford council, which has presided over two years of cuts in jobs and services.

During the discussion, Michael Johnson, a local mental health support worker who has been very involved in Keep Our NHS public, spoke of how the cuts Leeds City Council have made have so far led to 3400 job losses, a 100% increase in the cost of meals on wheels, and have had a devastating effect on home help services. He also talked about how when he had discussed the cuts with a Labour councillor during a pretty ineffective NHS vigil that Labour had arranged, the councillor had said that they had had to make the cuts and that they were ‘preserving people’s dignity!’

It is not ‘preserving people’s dignity’ to refuse to put up any real fight against massive budget cuts that have been passed down to councils from central government. It is not good enough to pretend those making the cuts locally have no choice but to do so.

Overall, it was a very successful meeting which clearly outlined the challenges that we face and the alternative that TUSC and the Socialist Party put forward.