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18 August 2014
On Friday 15 August a small but determined contingent attended Labour mayor Anderson's cabinet to express their opposition to the latest butchery of services in Liverpool.
The main agenda item was the closure of eleven of the city's libraries.
Ignoring the demand to retain the libraries Anderson and his clones approved plans to close them. To give a veneer of democratic involvement there will be four weeks of public consultation and a special select committee hearing to examine the issue. Then they will be closed.
Mayor Anderson regurgitated the usual mantra that the level of cuts forced on the council by central government meant there was no alternative but to make 'difficult decisions'.
He also rejected the call from whom the Liverpool Echo described as 'former 80s militant figurehead Tony Mulhearn' to set what he described as 'an illegal budget'.
He said: 'You think Liverpool alone can change the world. It did not work in the 1980s and it isn't going to work now.'
Tony Mulhearn responded by reminding the meeting of the £60 million which the Thatcher government conceded in 1985 as a result of the magnificent campaign spearheaded by the 47 socialist councillors.
The Green Party's councillor Tom Crone said the outcry about the plans showed 'how much people value these libraries'. Reflecting the confused position of the Greens on how to oppose cuts, Crone suggested that cash be taken from the mayoral and members' fund and the leader's discretionary fund to save libraries at risk, while accepting that other causes this money would have gone towards would then miss out.
Anderson said the Green Party had wanted to use this kitty for multiple projects and accused them of 'opportunistic grandstanding'.
He said that using this money to protect library services would be 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' and added that he had nothing but contempt for their opportunistic position.
Significantly Anderson went on to profess respect for TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), that, unlike the Greens, had made it clear that it stood for total opposition to all cuts, and for a massive campaign to mobilise support for a socialist alternative. However whilst 'respecting TUSC's integrity' he argued that its policy was 'impractical'.
He said: 'The bottom line is doing nothing is not an option. We've got to make those savings.'
Children's author Alan Gibbons, who supported Tony Mulhearn in the 2012 mayoral election, presented a 10,000-signature petition against the closures. Commenting that he didn't want 'the City of Culture to become the City of Philistinism,' he said the council needed to go back to the drawing board, and added, to applause: 'Why on earth do we have a Labour Party if we don't fight for our people?'
This sentiment was shared by campaigner Ruth Knox, and Tony Mulhearn, who argued that the council needed to stand up to the coalition government and said: 'For the Labour council to proceed in this fashion without any organised opposition at all is frankly unacceptable.' This was greeted with loud applause.
Mayor Anderson said that he was elected ahead of Mr Mulhearn and had won the election based on a manifesto of running the city 'responsibly'. Tony Mulhearn responded by saying that when Labour supporters voted in 2012 they expected Labour to protect them, not to carry out cuts.
'Whether you like it or you don't... I will not set an illegal budget,' was Anderson's retort, regardless of the fact that a no-cuts budget would not have to be 'illegal'.
Speaking after the meeting, mayor Anderson dismissively said: 'Around 24 protesters attended this meeting, which I think shows the vast majority of people accept the fact that we've got difficult choices to make.' His hubris is fuelled by the lack of opposition from trade union leaders, both locally and nationally. In fact most local authority trade union 'leaders' have not given a shred of leadership to those members whose jobs are under threat and when they do call meetings have advised members to accept the cuts and take the money. They have even advanced the argument at meetings that their job is to assist the council in carrying out the cuts. The council's Unite convenor Dave Walsh is the exception to this posture of right wing collaboration.
But there is no question that the rumblings of opposition to Anderson's butchery are growing deeper and louder. Like a smouldering volcano, at some stage the growing resentment will erupt and move in the direction of TUSC and its socialist alternative.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 19 August 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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Article dated 18 August 2014
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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