Click image below for video of Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly speaking at the debate (more videos of the debate will be uploaded in the next few days):
Last night's Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition (BSTCC) debate was attended by over 120 people. Green cabinet member for Finance, Jason Kitcat, gave a brief introduction to the budget proposals of the Green party, which was followed by a reply from Andy Richards, UNISON Local Government chair (personal capacity), and Phil Clarke, NUT (personal capacity), BSTCC and Socialist Party.
Councillor Kitcat described the situation the council has been put in by the Tory-Liberal Democrat government, with a 33% reduction in funding from central government grants, amounting to £10.5 million for 2012, with an additional £17.7 million for 2013/14. He explained that in response to this, tough decisions had to be made by the Green councillors. Their proposals amount to £35 million of 'savings' over the next two years, which Councillor Kitcat pointed out will not only involve cuts to services.
Phil Clarke described 'the biggest con in history'; where a financial and economic crisis of the banks and big business is being presented as the fault of public sector workers and service users, who must now pay the price! While Cllr Kitcat agreed with this, it became very clear that words of protest are simply not enough.
Speaker after speaker agreed with Phil Clarke and Andy Richards who argued that a stronger fightback is needed from the Green council. They pointed to the Green election campaign in May last year which correctly called for opposition to the cuts and highlighted the sheer hypocrisy of this government, but where is the fightback they promised? Even as the Greens argue the main brunt of the cuts have been minimised these next two years, the 'savings' they are handing over to the Treasury will never again be seen by the city unless a fight is conducted to see funding returned.
The impact of this and next years cuts will see 120 posts cut at the council, as well as funding reductions in a number of vital services.
Members of Brighton and Hove Socialist Party, along with others, argued for the council to campaign for a 'needs' budget; a budget that reflects the needs of the people of Brighton and Hove instead of the cuts dictates of the government. If the Green Party was serious about resisting the cuts they would using the platform of Council leadership and Caroline Lucas's seat in Parliament to demand that the government return the money stolen from the people of Brighton and Hove. We explained that councillors' hands were not tied by the law, contrary to the Green Party arguments (click here for article explaining the prospect of a fightback).
We also made it clear that a political party of and for the working class is desperately needed, as an alternative not only to Labour, the Tories and Liberal Democrats, but also to the Greens if they fail to take a stand. A party that is built by and accountable to the working-class and poor is needed to genuinely oppose these government attacks. Building a new mass workers party is the aim of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and would be a huge step forward in the fightback against capitalist austerity.
The final budget meeting will take place on February 23rd at 4:30pm Brighton Town Hall. The Socialist Party fully supports BSTCC's call for a mass lobby to take place, making it clear that these cuts must be rejected.