Forest of Dean & Wye Valley


In A.Graham, C.Spiby on February 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Report by CARL SPIBY (with additional notes by Alistair Graham)

A meeting of the Monmouth and Forest of Dean SOS (“Save Our Services”) anti-cuts campaign has won the endorsement of comedian, broadcaster and Independent columnist, Mark Steel.

The campaign seeks to confront the myths promoted by the coalition Government to justify raising VAT whilst cutting public services and jobs. Mark Steel will be sending tickets to his show in Hereford to help with the campaign’s fund-raising.

The meeting, at Monmouth’s Queen’s Hotel, saw the former Labour Party candidate, Hamish Sanderson, raising his own concerns over the deep public sector cuts. Also present were local activists, members of the Forest & Wye Clarion editorial committee, pensioners’ groups and the public.

Unison‘s Peter Short presented a compelling picture of how the scale of the UK’s debt was actually lower now than it was at the end of the war, when the NHS was created. The scale of our deficit had been deliberately distorted by the right-wing press and politicians.


He was followed by Jeremy Gass (from Abergavenny SOS), who gave a description of what the cuts really meant for those at the poorest end of the income scale. As well as job losses in the public sector, there are forecasts of increasing child poverty, cuts in housing benefits, welfare benefits, local government services, and legal aid (in other words, access to justice). And the cuts will fall disproportionately on women.


Finally, Dominic McAskill, a co-ordinator for UNISON in Wales, presented the case for an alternative policy to that of the Tory-led coalition Government. Two years ago, he reminded us, we had faced a crisis in capitalism, resulting in the debt crisis, and the bailing out of the banks.

The cry had gone out that we had to ensure that it did not happen again. Banks had to be regulated and dodgy practices curtailed. But today such calls have largely disappeared. Under the present Government, it’s not the bankers who are being threatened – it’s the very structure of the welfare state.

Amongst alternative policies put forward by Dominic McAskill was for a new tax on the rich and super-rich (a so-called “Robin Hood Tax“). After all, it had been their crisis that had led to the bail-out in the first place. Now we face a new round of super-bonuses for bankers (£7 billion this year alone). All this Government has done is “nationalise” the debt, placing the burden on ordinary people.

“If we do nothing, we’re not only selling out ourselves but selling out generations to come. Our whole welfare state is under threat,” he concluded.


The campaign in Monmouth and the Forest of Dean is aiming to build support for those campaigning against the cuts, including those who who are working to save the library service in the Forest. Hopefully this will include coaches for those who want to attend the “Anti-Cuts” march and rally in London on March 26.


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