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Monday, 24 November 2014

Once again on Parking Tax (Published readers letter)

The Labour/Lib-Dem Cumbria County Council has been forced into a humiliating defeat on what we dubbed the "Parking Tax", a stealth tax as part of their austerity budget. The front page headline in theNews & Star read "Parking charges victory - climbdown in face of opposition"  and their editorial announced "Victory for people power." 
While they naturally focussed on their own campaign and the interests of city centre businesses, there can be no doubt that the highpoint of the opposition to the council was the 150-strong public meeting of "Denton Holme Stop the Parking Tax" organised by Socialist Party members. 
This was a broad movement of opposition,  with residents in different areas spontaneously collecting signatures from neighbours on their own petitions. Its the sort of protest against particular aspects of public spending cuts which we have been preparing for.
Local SP members systematically leafleted the working class area of Denton Holme, organising the public meeting where they explained the issues and coordinated the wider collection of signatures with other residents, organising the street protest outside the council offices and successfully spreading the message further afield through the local press and regional TV.   

The N&S editorial made some pertinent points for future battles against the cuts: "People power today claims its victory...councillors have surrendered to intense public pressure and completed a U-turn...for a long time the fight was deemed futile by a council determined to see through its plans to claw back cash when faced with massive central government funding cuts...But overwhelming public opinion is never futile." 
This shows that the council can be forced to retreat if enough pressure is mobilised. Labour Carlisle city councillors had pointed out that it was illegal to use a Traffic Regulation Order to raise money to cover a budget deficit rather than for traffic management, but then went silent. But it became clear that a movement of residents outside their control and with a political alternative wouldn't be so compliant.

This is just one small victory, and of course Labour will now either look for other ways to take money off the working class(eg increasing Council Tax or other charges, which we will also oppose) or coming back to the Parking Tax better prepared, but it does set a positive precedent for other anti-cuts campaigns.

In particular it raises the question about what the local government unions, with far bigger resources than us, could and should now be doing to stop the 1,800 jobs slaughter which Labour have announced. 

Brent Kennedy,
Carlisle SP

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