2 Jun 2015

Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire

anti austerity gloucestershireOn Saturday 30th May anti-austerity campaigners took to the steps of Shire Hall in Gloucester to demonstrate against further cuts proposed by the Government.

‘Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire’ is a grassroots group started by Gloucester mum Hannah Louise Lawrence. The group has already amassed over 238 members from all different walks of life in Gloucestershire.

Over a quick pre-dinner Facebook exchange with Hannah I got an overview of the demonstration;

It went really well I think, rather stressful and difficult to put together with a 3 year old jumping on you but once you are there I think it was a lot better! [ ] Lots of Socialist and Green Party members, some anarchists, a few Labour party members too. The speeches were excellent and particularly Sheena's speech as she hasn't done much public speaking before, so she did really well!   [ ]I think the way forward now is to keep people discussing ideas, having events and direct action for sure. It doesn't matter what party you are from or where you are from, what matters is working together now.”

You can watch videos of speeches from the protest on youtube courtesy of Kenny Gloster. In a passionate speech Sue Powell of the Socialist Party explained how public hard-fought-for public services are being dismantled by the austerity agenda. Sue Powell called for people to join the ‘End Austerity Now’ national demonstration on June 20th in London for which transport would be leaving from various locations in Gloucestershire.

However the passion and thirst for change that inspired this local movement has been played out peacefully by its members who even courteously moved aside for wedding guests attending Shire Hall during the protest.

Shire Hall is the home of Gloucestershire County Council in which the Tories are the largest party but have no majority and so no overall control.

end austerity now peoples assembly anti austerity gloucestershire

I am impressed at how quickly and positively Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire, as a local movement, has started and taken action. Instead of being phased at the daunting prospect of 5 years of painful and unnecessary cuts to public funding at the hands of a Conservative Government, they have taken decisive steps to stand up for us all and the most vulnerable in our county only 3 weeks after the election.

Hannah Louise Lawrence anti austerity gloucestershireAnti-Austerity Gloucestershire is just one of scores of anti-austerity movements starting all over the country since the election.

What has made so many people take action now?
On 16th May George Osborne announced that there would be an emergency budget in July in which he will make clear where £12bn of cuts will be made. We don’t currently know the detail but we know that Mr Osborne will be looking at child benefit, child tax credits and the disability allowance.

We are continually subject to rhetoric that austerity is necessary ‘to balance the books’. Whilst anyone who has had some basic business studies will tell you ‘you need to spend money to make money’.

As I have explained in a previous post Austerity is a failed economic model.

 But there is a greater injustice to these cuts:

In 2014 bankers in bonuses were at £40.5bn*
In 2014Tax avoided evaded, avoided and not collected was at £120bn*
In 2014 the cost of benefit fraud and overpayment was £1.2bn*
The Government are proposing to go ahead with Trident at a cost £100bn

The total cost of welfare in the year to April 2015 was £109.8bn. That means we could pay for our welfare system again, and then some, through the money lost to tax evasion. Yet our Government seem awfully shy about cracking down on tax evasion and are far happier to scrabble around after so-called ‘benefit cheats’. Whilst I am sure no one wants to see the welfare state exploited, the money lost through benefit fraud is peanuts compared to tax evasion.

For more info take a look at the People’s Assembly’s 10 Myths About Austerity

What next for Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire?

Group member Owen Adams explains what he hopes are the next steps for Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire:

I think is this needs to grow, it needs to be more visible to the mainstream public, and campaigners need to find a way to reach people out there facing the very worst effects of austerity, ie homelessness, starvation, mental illness - where they can be given practical help and solidarity.”

Hannah Louise Lawrence is clear about the purpose of the group going forward. I asked her what the main aim of the group is:

To unite various groups and individuals around Gloucestershire together to fight against the cuts. Rather than being [ ] a political party which may alienate another, I think it's super important to work together on this as humans because we are stronger together, and we are all being affected whatever group we belong to

If you feel strongly about seeing an end to the cuts you can contact the Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire via their facebook page where they will be updating about upcoming events and meetings.

Additional info (from Philip Booth) - see Natalie Bennett in Stroud talking about alternatives to austerity: http://stroudcommunity.tv/is-there-is-an-alternative-to-austerity/
And Stroud Parliamentary candidates words on austerity earlier this year: http://stroudcommunity.tv/stroud-hustings-austerity/  
And Cheltenham Green Party's Adam Van Coevorden who supported the demo writes in Feb re re austerity in the Echo: http://www.adamvancoevorden.org.uk/we-can-do-better-than-austerity/

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