A line in the sand

Hull councillor Gill Kennett explains why she is refusing to vote for cuts.

I was elected on a ‘fight the cuts’ platform in 2012 to the Holderness ward in East Hull.

Hull has 80 people going for every job vacancy, one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the country, 17,000 children in poverty and over 5,000 homes affected by the bedroom tax.

£80 million in benefits will be taken from Hull by 2015. Much of this currently supports families in work who are struggling to make ends meet.

Massive job losses are occurring. Over 1,600 jobs will go in the council over the next two years, based on the current budget settlement.

The message from Pickles is clear — we can expect more cuts to local government as a prelude to outsourcing and privatisation of the public sector.

The Tory mantra of choice continues to be used as a stick to beat local government. They blame local authorities for the closure of children’s centres and libraries, while conveniently forgetting it’s they who have slashed budgets by hundreds of millions.

KennetGillHull has seen the disintegration of a number of its longstanding industries such as Seven Seas and Comet, which have hit the local economy. As people lose their jobs, there will be no support services or early intervention and few youth workers or customer service centres. I have witnessed the plight of many people affected by the cuts in my ward and across the city.

Colleagues I have worked with now face losing their jobs or cuts to terms and conditions, which were hard won by brave workers over the years. For me, a line has been drawn in the sand. I will not vote to do the work of this government, which is stealing £360 per head from the population of Hull.

Hull’s Labour Group do not want to cut services and jobs. They believe they can ‘manage the misery’ and that cuts made by them will be more acceptable than those make by Pickles. But will they?

To quote the philosopher Bakunin: “The people will feel no better if the stick with which they are beaten is labelled the people’s stick”.

I have been approached by residents who have offered me their support. One said: “We are not used to people doing what they said, once they are voted in.”

I have been contacted by excolleagues and Labour councillors across the country who say they want their councils to take a stand against the government.

The Labour Representation Committee promotes the socialist principles that people expect from the Labour Party. The public is looking for us to speak up for them as these inhuman cuts and taxes destroy lives.

It’s scary. I have never before felt alienated from colleagues I respect and whom I know are horrified at the decisions they feel they must make. In making this stand, I have been hauled up in front of the whip and my colleagues. It’s been an ordeal, but it would be more of an ordeal if I carry out this government’s work and do not make a stand.

The benefits our class has struggled and died for are not ours to give away. We have a duty to fight these cuts and not be complicit in the wilful dismantling of a caring society. The path of least resistance is not a path I am prepared to take.

• Councillors Against the Cuts National Meeting on March 16, Birmingham

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