Manchester: where next in the fight against cuts?
We need to turn outwards to prepare for vicious new cuts in spring, argues John Bowman
After the big TUC demonstration on October 20th, it’s time for reflection on how we can keep the momentum up, building and preparing for a movement that can effectively challenge the severe and devastating round of new cuts that are just around the corner.
The words “severe” and “devastating” have been used a lot since May 2010, but they should take on a new meaning now.
The Universal Credit system, which will start being introduced from April next year is not simply the rolling of existing welfare payments into one, but is being coupled with benefit caps, payment reductions and new taxes that will hit huge numbers of the poorest people hardest – forcing thousands below the breadline. We are now dealing with the very real danger of a mass poverty crisis taking place in the spring.
The first areas in the country to be affected will be Warrington, Oldham, Tameside, and Wigan, which have been chosen as guinea-pig towns for the new policies.
This puts the Greater Manchester area first in the firing line. And it means the resistance that we put up will have national implications – if we give a good fight against the new wave of welfare cuts, other cities and towns will follow suit.
The first thing we need to do is to make sure as many people in the city as possible know the about the changes due to take place.
To kick-start this, South Manchester Unite Community branch are launching a campaign against the planned 15% council tax benefit cuts, and it is likely the Greater Manchester branch will follow suite.
The campaign will start with mass guerrilla advertising to combat Manchester City Council’s deliberately inadequate attempts to properly consult residents about the potential changes, as well as contacting councillors themselves at a ward level.
It’s hoped that the initiative taken by Manchester students in setting up a student branch of Unite Community Branch will add and strengthen this work.
We need to keep those hundreds of trade unionists, community activists and students who marched on 20th October from the region involved in a vibrant and active local campaign against the cuts.
A North West anticuts conference has been called for 10th November in Liverpool, and a call has been made for protests against the Autumn statement.
In Manchester, the 5th and 8th December will see a stunt, then a Saturday demonstration against George Osborne’s Autumn Statement of more cuts. As awareness rises of what universal credit will really mean, it’s important to show that the existing movement has life to it, and is taking action.
We need to reach as many corners of the city and surrounding areas as we can, working with everyone who is concerned about what lies ahead, and broadening out the anti-cuts movement into a mass coalition against poverty – including Trade Unions, Community Activists, Students, and crucially, NGOs and community centres that are facing severe cuts themselves.
We should aim for a huge conference against poverty at least by February or early March – and start the planning for that event right now – with a view to joint action after the event has taken place.
If we can take these steps together, we have a good chance of preparing for a huge display of resistance come next years’ spring of discontent.