As the Tories ramp up their attacks on ordinary people, workers’ rights are more important than ever before, writes JEREMY CORBYN
ON Thursday May 5 you have a chance to send a message to the Conservative government that we reject the wrong choices it is making for our communities. This May Day is the time to make sure that message is heard in every workplace and every community.
Up and down the country, we are witnessing the systematic dismantling of local government and the vital services it provides. The cuts facing councils could spell the end of local government as we know it.
Right now, the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is trying to remove local schools from any local accountability.
The Tories are proposing to spend £1.3 billion on a top-down reorganisation of education that parents don’t want, that teachers don’t want, that school governors don’t want and that many Conservative councillors and MPs don’t want.
At a time when schoolchildren are in ever-increasing class sizes, when there is a crisis in the recruitment and retention of teachers and when parents are struggling to get school places for their children, this Tory government prioritises spending a fortune on forcing its ideological academisation agenda.
That agenda is the removal of local accountability. It removes any obligation for schools to have parent governors, and for schools to be accountable to communities through the local council.
The move to academisation is clearly also about the diminution of national pay and standards for teachers. Already this Tory government has vastly increased the number of unqualified teachers in our classrooms.
And most shockingly of all, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the schools budget is facing its biggest cut since the 1970s.
It is a similar story across all of our local services. The closure of fire stations and cuts in the number of firefighters have devastated the fire service. The budget for this vital service will have been cut in half by 2020.
Last year I met firefighters in York and in other areas affected by the severe flooding. Despite cuts to flood defence spending, and still no statutory duty for the fire and rescue service to respond to floods, the dedication of these public service professionals was admired and appreciated by local people.
Just last week, chief fire officers warned that further budget cuts pose a risk to community safety, following figures this week that show a 20 per cent increase in fire deaths last year.
More than 18,000 police officers have been cut and 5,000 police community support officers have been cut since 2010. With violent crime on the rise, people feel more vulnerable when there is less of a visible police presence.
One of the most dehumanising cuts to council services has been the £4.5 billion cut to adult social care — the service that provides care to our elderly and disabled people.
That has meant that the people most in need in our communities are increasingly neglected. It has meant an increasing and often unbearable burden on family carers. This is a brutal illustration of all that is wrong with the priorities of this Conservative government.
The housing crisis is affecting many communities across Britain — yet councils are having their hands tied by the government.
We have the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s and homelessness has risen every year under the Tories. Last year over 100,000 children spent Christmas in temporary accommodation.
Councils are unable to borrow sufficiently to build the homes their communities need, are forced into selling off homes through right to buy, and forced to sell off high-value council homes to fund discounts.
At a time of acute and rising need, Shelter estimates that by 2020 we will have 180,000 fewer social homes.
Cuts to council budgets from this Tory government are forcing them to close libraries and other local services like swimming pools. Over 700 Sure Start centres have closed too.
At the same time as slashing budgets for the services on which people rely, the Tories have given millionaires an income tax cut, given away billions of pounds in corporation tax cuts for big business, and, in the latest Budget, cut capital gains tax for the few.
While attacking public services and dedicated public service professionals, the Tories’ pernicious Trade Union Bill seeks to weaken trade unions’ ability to organise and campaign democratically.
And rather than address their failures in the NHS, with rising hospital waiting times in A&E, the government has picked an unnecessary fight with junior doctors and the BMA. The Labour Party is very clear — we support the junior doctors.
On May Day I give this pledge: when Labour is elected in 2020 we will repeal this legislation, and go further by extending workers’ and trade union rights so we ensure that work is secure and workers share in the wealth they create.
Labour is standing up against the Tory cuts because we know that austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. This Thursday we need to unite in sending a very clear message to this callous government.
• Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party and MP for Islington North.