Swansea needs councillors who vote against cuts! No to austerity - vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Don’t waste the opportunity to send a clear ‘no more cuts’ message by voting for Ronnie Job, TUSC: the only no-cuts, socialist candidate in Swansea West in the 2015 General Election!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Response to Uplands resident on issues of student integration, environmental issues and multiple-occupancy housing

An Uplands resident asked a number of questions on issues of recycling, integrating students into the local community and multiple-occupancy housing, all issues relevant to large numbers of people in Uplands. They were good questions which forced me to think hard about how practically, a socialist councillor would serve their community. I spent some time composing a response and I've decided to publish it here. This is not a fully rounded socialist programme but an attempt to answer some specific issues from a concerned resident. Comments and even (constructive) criticism would be welcomed.
Ronnie Job

I think all the questions you have posed have to be considered against the background of the huge cuts to jobs and services that the Labour Council has been making. You can’t cut £26 million from services in a single year and not see a reduction in quality in local services. That £26 million taken away from providing services to our community this year is only the first part of a 3-year programme of cuts, which was estimated at £45 million when Labour’s cuts budget was passed in February, had risen to £70 million by the time Rob Stewart replaced David Phillips in Labour’s cabinet coup and is now estimated at £70-100 million by Rob Stewart, in the coming years.
On top of this, large numbers of council workers have been demoralised not only by the job loses but by the council’s attacks on their incomes. Workers in some of the services that deal with the issues you have raised were badly affected, with some refuse workers standing to lose £ thousands in the implementation of new contracts that the Council demanded they sign or face the sack. This was bound to have a detrimental effect on services.

When leafleting at night, a number of TUSC supporters have said how they have slipped on leaves; the combination of leaves lying around and poor street lighting makes walking after dark very hazardous. No one can convince me that this isn’t a direct result of cuts leading to a poorer service.

I'm not in position to give expert opinion on the detail of some of your questions but I am confident that the necessary expertise and experience does exist in the council workforce and the local community. I think a good place to start formulating plans to address some of these issues would be bringing the local community, trade unions representing the Council workforce and representatives of the students together. This is something that I would see as being key to the role of an Uplands councillor.

A large part of the issues you've raised are to do with integrating students into the local community. The Council and residents groups could use Freshers’ week and induction at the University to begin to build links with the students union.

There will be environmental student societies and together with the students' union, they can play an important role in educating students about procedures for recycling. Many trade unions have green/environmental reps these days so it may be worth encouraging the campus trade unions to get involved as well.

I lived in the Uplands/Brynmill for a good part of the time I was studying in Swansea University in the late 1980s. I know that not all students make for the best neighbours but they also contribute to the community financially and socially. Many students fall in love with Swansea and decide to make it their home as I did. Part of the reason Uplands is so vibrant is because of the large numbers of young people. What is important then is making students feel part of the community they’re living in, perhaps through community events which students are encouraged to take part in. Any events that bring together students with local residents should be welcomed. I think the students union could also help by opening up events to local youth to break down any resentment about students have access to better facilities and events.
There are also plenty of issues where the two groups have shared interests in fighting cuts and which I would like to see students and local residents campaigning together on, including:
Public transport which is infrequent, over-crowded and expensive.
  • Personal security. Leafleting in the evenings has brought home just how dark the streets are in parts of the ward. It must be equally intimidating for local residents and students returning from the university at the end of the day to walk these streets.
  • Housing.
I lived in several multiple occupancy houses in Uplands/Brynmill while a student at Swansea University and for a number of years afterwards. I was living in a flat in Bernard Street when I met my wife, Claire (she was leading a rent strike against a rogue landlord, in this case the university, which had just tripled the cost of student nurses’ accommodation in Parc Beck). Some of the HMOs I stayed in were well-maintained, safe and clean with fair and accessible landlords; others were poorly looked-after and probably hazardous to health.

Not all multiple occupancy houses are student accommodation of course; one effect of the bedroom tax has been to force people out of Council accommodation into private sector renting in multiple occupancy housing. The Labour Party have said, eventually, that they’ll scrap the bedroom tax. It’s about time then that this Labour Council stops harassing people who can’t afford to pay the bedroom tax; let’s not drive any more council tenants out of their homes and into the multiple occupancy private rented sector.
The Council could play an important role in regulating and helping to ensure the safety and quality of multiple occupancy housing. Improving the quality of MHOs is beneficial not only for those living in them but also for the better landlords as they are not undermined by those who don’t spend on upkeep and for the community generally. Ultimately what is needed is safe, clean, environmentally friendly, affordable housing; a programme of council house building could reduce the pressure in the market for private renting.

As a socialist, I believe there is a wealth of talent in our community; the challenge is to organise the different elements of the community together in a democratic manner for the good of all. It's a challenge I'd relish if elected next Thursday.

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