On Thursday 24th April, Armley Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate & Socialist Party member Iain Dalton and Hands off our Homes activist Carole O’Keefe spoke at first of a series of public meetings and rallies that supporters of TUSC are holding across the city during the local election campaign.
Amy Cousens, Leeds Socialist Party
Carole started the meeting and spoke very emotionally about how the bedroom tax has hit residents of Armley hard as well as the all too frequent distressing stories of how many face losing their home. She discussed how this Tory policy has damaged resident’s physical and mental health, and how it has driven too many to degrading food banks seemed to resonate strongly with the members of the meeting, and further highlighted the urgent need of an alternative which she believes is TUSC.
Iain began his comments by further reiterating the hammering the working class have taken from this recession, and contrasted this with the luxuries such as tax breaks and money bonuses the wealthy one per cent have received. From here Iain proposed the TUSC’s alternative, particularly the steps that can be taken within local councils to change the housing options for residents.
One such suggestions which was discussed is the proposal of the council setting up a letting agency, where democratically elected boards of tenants and housing workers can work together on deciding affordable and reasonable rent prices. Another TUSC policy Iain raised was the urgent need for a mass programme of council house building and renovation of empty properties, a policy that is vitally necessary in Leeds given the 27,000 people on the council house waiting list and the councils current plans revolve mostly around building properties for home ownership that many people simply can’t afford.
Iain not only stressed the need for building council housing, but also how with the council controlling the building of such homes could plan to make them energy efficient which would not only save tenants money but would be incredibly environmentally friendly.
Whilst Iain pointed out some measures, such as hiring long-term agency staff on permanent contracts at the council would actually save the council money, he also commented that whilst many people would immediately agree with these ideas, they’d always question how they could be afforded. Iain pointed to the tens of £millions in the council’s reserves that could be used whilst a campaign was built to demand the funding necessary from the government to fund the services the city needs. Iain pointed to the £120bn a year in uncollected and evaded taxes, but argued we should go further than that citing the hge public support for renationalising the railways and utilities and argued for taking the key sectors of the economy into public ownership under democratic workers control.
Whilst Iain called upon all at the meeting to vote TUSC in local elections, he also discussed how TUSC supporters are active in and supporting campaigns fighting on all these issues. Iain singled out the efforts of Hands off our Homes, in supporting those who the Labour-run council is dragging through the courts, where the council so far have only managed to evict one person for bedroom tax arrears and the council seem to have suspended court cases for the time being.
After both Iain and Carole had spoken several positive contributions from members of the meeting were made, raising such points like how the Tory’s also are waging an ideological war against working class people in this country and several questions were asked including about what can be done about other issues such as funding for apprenticeships and how to approach disillusioned people favourability to right-wing parties such as UKIP whose media profile allows them to pose as the only alternative to the mainstream parties but also, importantly, how they could get involved in the election campaign.
In all the tone of the meeting was extremely positive and all those attending the meeting left supportive of TUSC and the absolute need for an alternative to the main parties which continue to ignore and worsen the already dreadful conditions the working class are facing in all aspects of life. Everyone attending took plenty of leaflets and posters to distribute around their local area.