Leeds Anti-Cuts Convention

Held at Leeds Metropolitan University, Broadcasting Place on 9th April 2011
Organised by Leeds Against the Cuts

The Coalition Government are imposing austerity on us – cutting our jobs and services and privatising anything the rich like the look of. Leeds City Council is planning to impose £91million of cuts, slashing essential services like mental health day centres and cutting up to 3,000 jobs.

Banners on the march

The March 26th March for the Alternative was big, but it is not the end of our movement, and the convention brought together around 120 trade-union and community activists to discuss how we can take the various campaigns forwards in Leeds.

The opening plenary session heard from a number of campaigns. Jo Pinto from the NUS, spoke about the movement against student cuts, and Michael Tippett of Unison told us of the threat being posed to the NHS. He was followed by Michael Hall, of Leeds Tenants’ Federation, who told us of their campaign which focuses on the importance of rent regulation in the private sector, security of tenure for all tenants, and on fighting the attacks on Housing Benefit.

Rosie Watson from the CWU then told us about the successful pay campaign for front-line staff in Post Office Counters. However she warned that, while they have won a great battle on the basis of the fact that Royal Mail did not want a “row”, the row is still out there. This is the attack on the universal mail service provided by Royal Mail Group, as well as the threat of closure to more than 4,000 Post Offices, with 2,000 of those remaining forced to be self-funding and run entirely for profit.

In the Council Cuts session, which I attended, we heard about the genuine crisis in Leeds City Council. The government is intending to slash one sixth of the Council’s budget over the next four years, with more than half of the cut coming in the first year. If this is allowed to go ahead, it will mean up to 3,000 job losses. Even if compulsory redundancies could be avoided, these jobs will still be lost, denying opportunities for young people in the future. Due to years of pairing down front- and back-office roles under the “Gershon Efficiencies”, there is no longer any surplus capacity and each and every job loss will affect front-line services.  The cuts will also mean job losses in the private sector,  both in companies that rely on contracts with the council.and from businesses losing custom due to fewer council workers with money to spend.

We heard from the campaign to defend the mental health day centres. They have managed to stave off the closure on the basis of the Council’s failure to carry out an adequate consultation or equality impact assessment. However, it is quite possible that the Council will come back with the same decision after the consultation that is now running, so the campaign has not won yet. There is also a need to broaden out these individual campaigns into a fight against all the cuts, and for the trade unions to take a more pro-active role in this.

If you have a reports on the discussions in the sessions on Education, Housing and the Localism Bill, Cuts and the Environment, the NHS, Right to Protest or the National Anti-Cuts Movement that you would like to share, please get in touch.

The closing plenary received the reports of the various sessions, and discussed the following action points arising from them:

Education cuts

  • Work to create a Leeds anti-academies campaign
  • Try to draw more school students into the anti-cuts movement

Council cuts

  • Build solidarity with the strikes on 30th June
  • Focus on drawing private sector workers the anti-cuts movement

NHS cuts

  • To create a facebook page about resistance to NHS cuts
  • Write to the Local Medical Committee about the white paper and lobby them
  • Encourage people to write to their GPs about the consortia

Housing & Localism Bill

  • Hold a local anti-cuts demonstration on the last Saturday in May
  • Take steps to try and stop the council implementing the cuts, for example naming and shaming councillors and MPs who vote for cuts
  • Set up a local branch of the Housing Emergency Campaign, with a launch meeting on Thurs 21st April 5:30pm, Westminster Buildings, 31 New York Street (near CAB)

The Right to Protest

  • Produce a LAC leaflet on the right to protest and organise legal observers for protests

National Anti-Cuts Movement

  • We will publish a program of activity on the LAC website

General action points that were proposed in the final plenary

  • To arrange for Leeds Against the Cuts meetings to be held in a larger and more accessible venue
  • To send a delegation to the Coalition of Resistance 9th July resolution-based conference and submit a motion to unite the various national anti-cuts campaigns
  • Develop the Leeds Against Cuts website and update it more often
  • Hold regular Leeds Against Cuts stalls in the city centre on Saturdays
  • Create a portal that can link to all the Leeds anti-cuts websites

Amendments to the Leeds Against the Cuts statement were discussed, and the statement was passed: Final statement as agreed (pdf).

The convention was supported by: Leeds Trade Union Council, Leeds Education Assembly, Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work, Leeds Met Against Cuts, Leeds Uni Against Cuts, Northern Schools and Colleges Against Cuts and other organisations.