Anti-cuts campaigners march from Batley to Dewsbury

Marching from Batley to Dewsbury to Stop the Closures – photo Iain Dalton

To chants of “Cutback, fightback” and “Kirklees Council, shame on you” campaigners marched from Batley to Dewsbury to highlight the savage cuts being carried through by the council.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party Yorkshire Secretary

With a £47m hole in their finances for next year, the last few months have seen more and more announcements of cuts to local services. In the last few weeks, increased charges for allotments and parking, as well as the sell off of a number of buildings used by sports clubs, charities and community groups.

The march featured speakers from many of the campaign groups fighting cuts announced still n September which have come together under the banner of ‘Stop the Closures’, including from Dewsbury & Colne Valley Leisure Centres, Claremont House Care Home, Deighton Sports Arena, Batley Library and others.

Marchers rally by Dewsbury Town Hall – photo Iain Dalton

As the march passed through the streets, then drivers who had stopped for the march to pass have us thumbs up and tooted in support. At the rally in Dewsbury, the Socialist Party stall was constantly busy with passers-by signing our petition against the closures.

There was huge anger amongst marchers at the Labour council, towards whom the campaigns have adopted a simple slogan “find another way” where services remain open. At the demonstration it was reported that the Labour group on the council is now split at 7 councillors have indicated they won’t vote for the closures.

But demonstrators were also angry at the Tories, with particular anger at Rishi Sunak after responding at prime minister’s questions saying ‘Kirklees Council isn’t fit for purpose’. As one speaker at the rally put it, if that’s the case then “why doesn’t he ensure the council is funded properly then?”

Socialist Party members collected petition signatures against the closures at the rally in Dewsbury – photo Iain Dalton

I was invited to speak at the rally and pointed out that in the run up to the autumn statement the Tories are taking off having tens of billions of pounds of “fiscal headroom”. So why couldn’t that be used to protect services in councils up and down the country, rather than cutting inheritance tax which will benefit just 4% of the population.

I raised that councillors should be out on the spot that they should vote to stop these cuts, and MPs should be challenged on whether they will reverse the cuts to local government funding over the last decade or so. Those who don’t should face a challenge at the next election from anti-cuts campaigners.

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