Cuts Leave Schools Unable To Meet Basic Needs

By Akila Kumar, Birmingham teacher

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proposed to fund free school meals for all primary school children by adding VAT tax on private education fees.

At a time when schools are facing severe cuts to their budgets, Corbyn’s proposal is a welcome measure. It is an absolute disgrace that, due to cuts to benefits and the rise of in-work poverty, some parents go hungry so that their children can have a decent meal.

But to solve the crisis in education, Corbyn needs to go even further. His proposal should be just one of many measures to increase the funding available to schools. The government’s brutal cuts to education mean that primary schools will lose on average £403 per pupil and secondary schools will lose £554 per pupil by 2020.

Campaigning against school cuts in Erdington

It is no wonder that schools are struggling to fund basic resources for pupils: the school I work at cannot afford to replace basic classroom equipment.

Even more shocking, one primary school in Sussex has had to ask pupils to donate toilet roll and stationery, as it cannot afford to finance these items due to cuts. One in six state schools have sent letters to families asking for contributions of £20 a month or more for around 1.4 million students.

Elsewhere, schools are considering closing early two days a week as they cannot afford enough teachers.

Government cuts have left schools unable to meet the basic needs of pupils. Meanwhile, the government continues to promote inequality through academies, free schools and grammar schools.

These should be abolished and replaced by a properly resourced state education system for all. No school should have to ask for handouts from parents because they cannot afford resources.

No parent should have to go hungry so that their child can eat. There is enough money in the hands of the super-rich to finance a decent state education for every pupil.

Tories Win West Midlands Mayor Election – The Complete Failure Of The Labour Right

Reposted from http://www.coventrysocialists.com

The Tories have won the inaugural election for the position of Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority. In a tight race, the Conservative candidate Andy Street received 238,628 (50.4 per cent after the second round) to 234,862 (49.6 per cent)  for Sion Simon of the Labour Party.

No doubt this will be a boost for the Tories in the run up to the general election. However it is important to understand what happened and the lessons that can be learnt in order to ensure this victory for the Tories is not built upon in June.

https://i0.wp.com/brightcove04.o.brightcove.com/4221396001/4221396001_5079795757001_5079788162001-vs.jpg

The loss for Labour is fuelling the narrative from both the capitalist establishment and the Labour Right that Jeremy Corbyn is a problem. The ‘blame Corbyn’ script in reality had already been written.  Sion Simon, although refusing to explicitly blame Corbyn, made the following comment which many are seeing as an attack on the leader

“I am talking about values – the issues that came back on the doorstep were about values and our regional campaign [being] overshadowed by national political issues all the time.” He went on to say “… Labour voters in Labour areas were saying to us ‘we don’t feel confident that you are strong enough in our traditional Labour values’, which we always have been hear in the West Midlands and that’s the lesson we need to learn as a party and learn it soon.”

The Labour campaign

These claims however do not stand up to scrutiny. The campaign was wholly a creature of the right wing of the Labour Party. The candidate Sion Simon, is a careerist politician par excellence. A former minister in the Gordon Brown government and current Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands, he is the personification of everything ordinary people mistrust in politicians.

As an MP for Birmingham Erdington he was caught in the MP’s expenses scandal, breaching parliamentary rules by renting his “second home” in London from his sister, and was forced to repay about £20,000. Soon after he stepped down as an MP he attempted to position himself as a candidate for the position of a Birmingham City Mayor, that was rejected in a city wide referendum in 2012.

His election leaflets patronised working class voters with talk of building Spitfire aircraft and pictures of the cross of St George. There was little or no talk of Tory austerity and importantly how to fight it. There was little or no mention of the sorts of policies that won Jeremy the leadership of the Labour Party and have begun to win wider support – £10 per hour minimum wage and an end to zero hour contracts for example. Indeed, there was not even a mention of Jeremy Corbyn on the election material from the Labour Party.

Simon prefered to pose with numerous local councillors throughout his leaflets, most of who have carried out massive cuts to local jobs, services and facilities. No wonder the turnout was so low.

Many ordinary Labour Party members would have worked hard in this campaign – unfortunately the direction of the campaign was dictated by the right wing, with disastrous results.

Sion Simon is part of the same section of the Labour Party as Gerard Coyne the West Midlands regional secretary of UNITE the union,  who unsuccessfully challenged Len McCluskey in the recent general secretary elections. Indeed during the election campaign UNITE said it would suspend its donation to Simon’s campaign due to issues around the sharing of members data between the Coyne and Simon camps. The right wing say Corbyn is a turn off for voters, but they say nothing about the effects of their Councils in places like Coventry and Birmingham implementing Tory cuts!

The West Midlands Combined Authority and election turnout

The turnout for this election was 26.3 per cent  and it is fair to say that there was a great deal of cynicism towards the question of the Combined Authority and the position of mayor. Indeed, both the populations of Coventry and Birmingham had voted against having their own city mayor in referendums in 2012 . It also needs to be remembered how the WMCA was created, which was promoted by then Tory Chancellor George Osborne and then willingly supported by right wing Labour Councils in the West Midlands.

The WMCA was never about genuine devolution, more it is about devolving austerity and is a key part of Conservative public sector reform (i.e austerity) agenda.

Unfortunately Labour in the West Midlands, rather than pointing this out for what it is, have gone along with the whole sham. Linked to this, Labour Councils in the West Midlands have obediently implemented every single cut handed down from central government. This does not help Labour set itself out as an alternative to the Tories.

What next? Step up the fight – elect Corbyn on socialist policies!

It is clear from this election, that the Labour Right have nothing to offer in terms of winning elections. The West Midlands is the fiefdom of arch Corbyn enemies such as Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader. Will he take his responsibility for this result?

Though a setback, it would be wrong for supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and all of those people who wish to see the end of the Tories, disheartened.

Working class people can be won over to a bold socialist programme! Jeremy’s policies as already mentioned ,around issues such as scrapping the Trade Union Act, restoring free education, ending the pay cap in the public sector, rights for people in rented accommodation are popular. They chime with the day to day experience of millions of people.  What is needed is a massive campaign across the country – rallies, street corner meetings, demonstrations in every town and city. Let’s bring the methods of Bernie Sanders and Jean-Luc Melenchon in to this election! The right wing can’t be allowed to airbrush Corbyn from election material. No more sabotage from Blair, Mandelson, Tom Watson and their ilk.

A campaign based around Corbyn’s key policies linked with the need for socialism can push the Tories back. The Socialist Party looks forward to helping take the fight to the Tories over the coming weeks.

March Against Homophobia

On Saturday 22nd, over 150 people marched through Birmingham City Centre against the current repression against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in Chechnya (an autonomous region of the Russian Federation).

Reports says that gay men and women have been arrested due to their sexuality, with beatings and extra judicial killings carried out. Chillingly, the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has pledged to “eliminate” the gay community “by the start of Ramadan”.

Chechnya 220417.jpeg

Socialist Party members joined in to show our disgust at the persecution suffered by LGBT people in Chechnya and throughout the world. We also took the chance to point out that the fight isn’t over in this country. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May, has voted in parliament against LGBT rights on multiple occasions. On 8th June we have the chance to kick her out – let’s take it!

A young LGBT Socialist Party member addressed the rally, mentioning the fact that while today LGBT people face repression in Chechnya and throughout Russia, 100 years ago the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia following the October revolution, and become one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex relationships. You can watch his speech here, and read more about the advances for LGBT people, women and the working class as a whole in Russia prior to the rise of Stalin here

BMW Workers Fight Back Against Pension Robbery

On 19th April, workers at BMW’s engine plant in Coleshill held the first of 5 separate 24 hour strikes against changes to the pension scheme. Part of the first national strike by workers for BMW in the UK, the stoppage was called by Unite the Union after a massive 93% vote on a 72% turnout was delivered.

 

Displaying IMG_20170419_080500.jpg

 

The company is trying to force through a change from a final salary pension scheme (based on workers’ contributions) to a defined benefit scheme (leaving retirement income at the mercy of stock market fluctuations). This could see the 5000 workers in the scheme losing up to £160,000 over the course of retirement. The move comes in spite of BMW Group making profits of €6.9bn in the year to March 2017, with orders constantly increasing for the UK made Mini and Rolls Royce brands.

 

There was a determined mood among those on the picket line to fight back, with one striker saying “you plan out what you think you’ll need for your retirement, and keep putting towards your pension pot, and then suddenly the company turn round and say you might not be getting what you thought you would. It’s a disgrace”.

 

Displaying IMG_20170419_075404.jpg

Reports from inside suggest that some sections were closed entirely, with managers desperately looking for qualified staff to keep production going on others.

 

The strike continues with further action planned on the 3rd, 16th, 18th and 24th May.

Defeat the millionaires’ Tory government

corbyn-crowd

Response from the Socialist Party on the snap general election:

Jeremy Corbyn must fight the election with socialist policies

Theresa May has called a general election for one reason – not the reason she gave – but because of the government’s weakness in face of a rising tide of anger in British society.

Workers are suffering the most prolonged squeeze on wages since the start of the nineteenth century. Benefits cuts are leaving millions without enough money to feed themselves and their families. Last year a record 200,000 people were admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition. Education and the NHS are facing life-threatening cuts. The housing crisis is acute. The new ultra-draconian anti-trade union laws are creating bitterness and frustration among trade unionists.

Far from being a strong government, May fears that, given the Tories’ wafer-thin majority in parliament, she could be overwhelmed by forced u-turns. In the first year of the government alone there were eleven, now – in order to try to prevent more – May has made the biggest u-turn yet. Having pledged not to call a snap election she has gone ahead and done so. This shows how capitalist politicians change the rules whenever it suits them.

Cameron and Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act in order to try to shore up the Coalition government for five years, now May is over-riding it to try to strengthen a weak Tory government. She is gambling, based on current opinion polls, that she will win the general election with an increased majority and will then be more able to carry out her real programme – not the warm words about helping the ‘just managing’, but vicious austerity.

High risk for Tories

Her gamble is high-risk. The real poll will take place on 8 June, and a lot can happen between now and then. She is partly posing the election as a referendum on Brexit, hoping that the third of Tory voters who supported ‘remain’ will reluctantly continue to support her government. This is not guaranteed however – some may well switch to the pro-remain Liberal Democrats.

Moreover, the hated Tories are very unlikely to make significant inroads in Scotland. The Scottish National Party is not yet fully exposed and is likely to largely maintain its electoral base. Winning the Copeland byelection has probably given May hope that theTories can improve their position in the North of England. However, in both the Copeland and Stoke byelections the Tory vote actually fell in absolute terms. The Tories only scraped victory in Copeland because the Tory vote held up better than the Labour vote.

Globally the lesson of recent elections – from the US, to France, to the Netherlands – is that voters want to punish the capitalist establishment; and those parties and candidates that claim to be anti-establishment can have a mass appeal. Look at Melenchon in France, who by standing on a left programme, has soared to 19% in the opinion polls with a possibility that he will even go through to the second round. Jeremy Corbyn has already stated that Labour will not oppose the general election going ahead. Now he needs to launch an election campaign based on socialist policies that are relevant to working class people’s lives.

Policies for socialist change

It is clear that much of the pro-capitalist cabal at the top of the Labour Party will be secretly welcoming this election because they think Corbyn will be defeated and they can then replace him with some pro-capitalist pro-austerity leader. However, they could rue the day this election was called. If Corbyn fights on a clear socialist programme – for a Brexit in the interests of the working and middle-class – he could win the general election.

The policies that first thrust him into the leadership of the Labour Party would be a good beginning – an immediate introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage, free education for all, mass council house building and nationalisation of the rail and energy companies. These should be combined with policies such as an immediate end to all cuts in public services and a pledge to immediately renationalise Royal Mail.

Jeremy should make clear that he would kick the privateers out of public services and education. He should pledge to introduce a real socialist NHS – a well-funded, comprehensive, high quality NHS, under democratic control, with care free at the point of use. These demands should be linked to the need for fundamental socialist change – for a society run in the interests of the majority instead of for the profits of a few.

Such an election campaign should not be limited to speeches and election broadcasts. The campaign to defend the NHS should be linked to the mass movement which began with the national demonstration on 4 March. Jeremy Corbyn spoke at that demonstration. Now he, together with the trade union movement and health campaigners, should call a second demonstration, during the election campaign, mobilising millions onto the streets against the Tories and in defence of the NHS.

A Socialist Party statement

Want to join the socialists and help fight for a better world? Contact us and we will be in touch about local meetings and campaign activity near you!

Jobstown Not Guilty – Public Meeting

TUESDAY 25TH APRIL, 7PM,

THE VICTORIA, JOHN BRIGHT STREET, BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE


The Irish state plans to try 18 peaceful protesters for ‘false imprisonment’ of Labour former deputy premier Joan Burton. They were part of a sit-down protest and slow march around Burton’s car during the successful campaign against water charges in Ireland.

Not only is the claim of ‘false imprisonment’ completely bogus, this will be a direct attack on people’s rights to hold protests.

Jobstown.jpeg
Demonstration against Water Charges in Dublin

Our Public meeting will have Shane Finnon, an Anti-Water Charges Activist from Dublin, talking about the campaign to support the Jobstown defendants and what we can do to help.

For more information on the campaign and water charges check out this article on the Socialist Party national website


TUESDAY 25TH APRIL, 7PM,

THE VICTORIA, JOHN BRIGHT STREET, BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE

Benefits Slashed to 50p, Another Hit to Housing

Once again the government have found a way to reduce benefits in the United Kingdom and hitting Birmingham the hardest.
This time they have targeted housing benefits, reducing 578 out of 2,968 people that are benefit-capped to receiving only 50p housing benefit a week in Birmingham alone, a Panorama survey has found.
Compared to the average rent price in the Birmingham area of £145 a week this amount pays for a measly 0.3% of the money people need towards their rent.
This isn’t even taking into account the bills people need to pay like gas and electricity etc.

The situation of housing in Birmingham gets worse year by year, we are now seeing that 1 in every 14 people don’t have a home and only 59.3% of households actually own their home.
With this new scheme the government are putting out more people are going to be put at risk of homelessness, A rising issue in the area with the number of people sleeping rough on the streets becoming an increasing issue.
Capitalism again doesn’t care if it puts people on the streets, people unable to work are instantly victimised in this cruel system. 80% of people affected by these changes are either sick or have very young children in need of care so do not have the choice to go to work.

To tackle these changes we need to fight for increased affordable council housing to meet demand. Having a system of democratic rent control will prevent people from being victimised by private landlords who are making a profit at the expense of people’s livelihoods. In addition, we need to stop cutting housing benefits and reverse the cuts so people are able to afford to pay, as the actual cost of living keeps rising. Homeless is something which can only be eradicated under socialism – socialism will ensure people’s needs are met, while capitalism’s purpose is to bank money away made from the ever growing housing crisis!

If you would like to join the socialists or get more info please contact at birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com