Sunday, 18 September 2011

Weston Anti-Cuts Alliance meeting update

About 60 people attended a meeting of the Weston Anti-Cuts Alliance at the Blakehay Theatre on 14th September. Those attending the meeting included a number of North Somerset councillors and Tony Munden, who runs the Community cafĂ© in Clarence Park, which has recently been burnt down. Mr Munden is angry at the council for stopping local people who volunteered to help him clean up. One of the councillors present agreed to take Mr Munden’s concerns back to the council.

The attendees heard a variety of speakers talking about the impact of the cuts in North Somerset. The speakers included:

Donald Davies, Independent councillor for Pill, and Julie Boston from the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, which campaigns for the reinstatement of the passenger rail service on the Portishead line - both talked about cuts to rural transport.

Michael Derbyshire from the PCS union spoke about the privatisation of the collection of criminal fines and other aspects of law enforcement.

Andy Prior from the NUT talked about the privatisation of schools through the academies programme.

John McLorinan and Helen Thornton from North Somerset UNISON spoke about the £50 million cuts being made by North Somerset Council and the massive impact on services for the elderly, disabled, children, young people and libraries.

Glenn Burrows from the National Pensioners Convention talked about the impact of cuts on pensioners, telling the audience that the current state pension is well below the poverty line.

The Weston Anti-Cuts Allliance will be lobbying North Somerset Council meetings in the run up to the budget being set in February next year, and they will also be planning events on Weston High Street and other areas of North Somerset. A spokesperson for the Alliance said: “The people of Britain, including those living in North Somerset, have not yet woken up to the dangers posed by the Tory led government’s plans for Britain, which amount to a complete dismantling of the welfare state, which was created to provide support and protection to our most vulnerable citizens and look after every one of us from cradle to grave. Already, many of our schools have been privatised and bills have gone or will be going through parliament to privatise our NHS and other public services. The government’s so-called “Big Society” vision for Britain is a return to the Victorian age, where ordinary people will again have to rely on the philanthropy of the wealthy, and church and charitable organisations for their services. Quite simply if government plans are not stopped then by 2015 there will be no safety net if you or a member of your family becomes sick or disabled, or loses their job. Your children’s education will suffer. If they want to go to university they will face huge debts, and there will be no decent jobs for them anyway. When you and your family get older you will find yourselves being forced to work longer than you’re physically able, when you do get to collect your pension you will be living well below the poverty line, and there will be no one to care for you in your old age.”

“We believe that the cuts are unfair because they hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest and unnecessary because there is an alternative to cutting the deficit and that is taxing the banks and other financial institutions that caused the economic crisis. Many of the members of the Weston Anti-Cuts Alliance are also public sector trade union members. If the result of the ballot for industrial action over the government’s plans to make changes to our pension scheme is a Yes, then there will be millions of public sector workers on strike on 30th November. This dispute is about the changes to public sector pensions, but our campaign is actually about decent pensions for everyone whether they work in the public or private sector. In fact our campaign is even wider than that – it’s about protecting jobs and public services, and in doing so protecting our welfare state, which in turns protects the most vulnerable people in Britain. If the people of North Somerset and Britain do not stand up to defend public services then the outlook for every single one of us is bleak. We have to act now before it’s too late.”

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