I was a Lewisham Socialist Party councillor for Telegraph Hill for 7.5 years up until May 2010. During this time I fought consistently with the other Socialist Councillor Ian Page to oppose cuts in services and job losses. We always voted against cuts in the council chamber unlike all the other political parties.
We successfully campaigned from spring 2008, against the South East London proposals to ‘reorganise’ hospital services in the borough, allegedly driven only by ‘clinical needs’. In reality the plans were about cutting public spending and getting the NHS ready for private companies to profit from our health services. Socialist Party councillors launched a petition opposing the ‘options’, with the aim to build public pressure to push the council to use its legal powers to ensure that the hospitals had sufficient funds.
I presented a motion to the council’s Healthier Communities Select Committee to ‘refer back’ the plans to the government, which councils are allowed to do. Although New Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors opposed this call, in the end, public pressure won.
In 2009, the proposal to reduce Lewisham Hospital’s A&E opening hours or cut emergency surgery services was overturned. This shows the power of public campaigning – and the benefit of having Socialist politicians to put the case for public services. As a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition MP I would continue to campaign in this way with other Trade Unions and the community to defend public services against cuts and privatisation, whether those services are local authority run housing, education and care services or services in the NHS