Manchester: where next in the fight against cuts?

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We need to turn outwards to prepare for vicious new cuts in spring, argues John Bowman

 

Draft Unite Community poster against council tax benefit cuts

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.

Awareness

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.

Momentum

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.

Outreach

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.

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4 Comments

  1. John Bowman
    October 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm · Reply

    From Hermann, Manchester Coalition Against Cuts and Unite Community Branch:

    Really good summation of the situation, still think that the public will need a resource for advice and I would recommend we considered an ” advise fair” with Ryan Bradshaw, Steph Pike and South Manchester Law centre, CAB and any other groups or individuals that could help. That could be a practical means of meeting the need for advice for the public, it could do this in north, central and South Manchester and in the Universities, including Salford. Otherwise its just us with the info and not using it to build the opposition to the coalition.

  2. Stephen Hall
    October 30, 2012 at 1:02 am · Reply

    Good article John and sober in its assessment of what’s possible in the next period.

    You forgot to mention the lunchtime rally in Manchester city centre and possible other activities on Wednesday 14th November in support of the planned one day general strikes in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and now Italy.

    A Greater Manchester campaign against the ‘Healthier Tougher’ Review of how NHS healthcare services are delivered across GM would also appear to be developing which nationally threatens Beeching-style’ closures of major casualty units and leave millions with huge journeys for emergency care, including hundred of thousands in the Greater Manchester area. One or more of Greater Manchester’s current A&E units is under threat with Wigan, Bolton & Tameside’s A&E all in the potential firing line!

    This campaign is bound to grow in strength up to the so-called ‘consultation period’ planned for the Spring. A big Conference on the issue of poverty, cuts in the NHS, benefits, etc would certainly look to be order early in the new year.

  3. December 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm · Reply

    I have been found fit for work I am putting in appeal I went to CAB I have been told the only benefit I could get is jobseekers allowance I had a ATOS test in November I dont really want jobseekers allowance I would like some support to help and advice with people who can give support face to face by last income support payment is the December last one
    thank you

    James Meehan

  4. John Bowman
    December 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm · Reply

    Hi James, from what I’ve heard there is a quite a high success rate for people who believe their ATOS test was unfair and appeal the judgement.

    Other than that, there tend to be quite alot of options in many areas for welfare and benefits advice:
    Law Centres
    Housing Associations
    Numerous charities

    For specific help with ATOS appeals, it may well be worth contact Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and see if they can point you in the right direction.

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