Austerity is not working! That was the message delivered to Portsmouth city council on Tuesday when 100 anti-cuts activists lobbied the annual budget setting meeting, before presenting a Needs Budget as an alternative to a second wave of cuts.
The lobby was organised by Portsmouth Against Cuts Together (PACT), a community group supported by the city’s trades council. PACT brings socialists, trade unionists and community campaigners together to oppose all cuts to jobs and public services.
PACT first presented a Needs Budget in 2011 when the council voted for the first wave of cuts. This year the Lb Dem run council proposed a further £20 million worth of austerity with an intention to cut up to £45 million over three years.
Speaking at the deputation on behalf of PACT, Socialist Party member Ben Norman said: “It is clear austerity is not working. It is a failed strategy, born of a failed ideology and by continuing with it you are failing your communities.”
Deputations were also made by UNISON, to oppose the planned 250 redundancies to local council workers and by the Portsmouth Pensioner’s Association who argued that the cuts are having a disproportionate impact on those who most need support.
PACT called on the council to oppose all cuts, to reverse decades of privatisation and to reject the council tax grant from central government which will result in even more cuts in 2013.
As an alternative to austerity PACT called for a budget to meet the needs of the city, not the ideology of central government. This included investment in homes, creating climate jobs and reinstating the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Through its ownership of a commercial port the council is asset rich and has one of the largest reserve funds in the country. PACT called for these funds to be used to delay cuts while the council worked with unions, community groups and neighbouring councils to campaign for funding from central government.
As neither Labour nor the Tories, considered the official opposition, proposed an alternative budget it is clear that the unions and community groups are now the real opposition to austerity.
To continue to build this opposition PACT will be hosting it’s AGM on March 5th, 7.30pm and Southsea Community Centre.