Wales votes against austerity

Anti-cuts tide washes away Con Dems, but will Labour oppose cuts?

Welsh Labour leaders are cock-a-hoop at achieving their best results in council elections since 1991. The Tories and Liberals lost control of all their councils and nearly half their councillors.

Welsh Labour regained control of the city councils in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, became the largest party in Wrexham and swept back to power in the south Wales valleys. Even in Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) and Neath Port Talbot Labour made big gains despite the previous Labour council using 188 notices to slash the pay of its workforce.

Labour has bounced back from previously getting its worst results in Wales since 1918. Clearly working class people have punished the Con-Dem Westminster government for the cuts to public services in Wales, while the Welsh Labour government has so far been able to avoid the blame.

But this was not a vote in favour of Welsh Labour’s strategy against the cuts. Labour’s RCT council leader, Russell ‘Five-Jobs’ Roberts, lost his seat because, after cutting the pay of RCT council workers by as much as 40%, it was revealed he was receiving over £100,000 pay from five jobs on public sector bodies and quangos. Roberts, rather than the Labour Party, paid the price for the attacks on council workers.

In Barry ex-Labour councillor Richard Bertin, standing against cuts, won an impressive victory by retaining his seat as an independent.

If the Welsh Labour government and Welsh Labour councils continue on their course of passing the cuts on to working people then there will be a backlash against them. Labour’s health cuts are the most serious attack on the NHS in Wales since its formation. All the main parties, the media and health ‘experts’ support Labour’s strategy of centralising services in a few big hospitals, hiding that the plans are in fact cuts. Another £290 million of cuts this year are referred to as “savings targets”. In Wales NHS cuts are cuts that dare not speak their name!

But as hospital facilities are lost then working people will realise that Welsh Labour offers no protection against the cuts.

Plaid Cymru also lost out in the pro-Labour tide, losing nearly a quarter of its seats and its coalition places in local councils. But with a new left leadership it is positioning itself to oppose Welsh Labour in the Assembly and in local councils, if the trade union movement does not take the lead in resisting Labour’s cuts.

Socialist Party Wales stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition which fielded 14 candidates in 13 wards over four councils gaining 1,376 votes. Among the TUSC candidates were elected representatives and activists from the GMB, Unison, Unite and PCS unions, including the national Remploy trade union convenor, an organiser of the 'sparks' rank and file movement that defeated attacks on wages and conditions, and the Swansea trades council secretary. Two RMT branches in Wales voted to officially back TUSC in this election.

Labour now has dominant majorities in councils across Wales. With Labour implementing cuts it will be TUSC supporters that will be organising the fight back at workplace, union branch and community level.

Dave Reid and Ronnie Job

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