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Hull Councillors Suspended for Voting against Cuts

30th March 2014

Hull Councillors Suspended for Voting against Cuts

Personal Statement by Hull City Councillor Gill Kennett (Holderness Ward)

Having voted against the Whip for the last two years, I have now been suspended indefinitely from the Labour Group.

I could not, in all conscience, vote for a budget that would continue to inflict more devastation upon the people of Hull. I could not, in all conscience, vote for a budget that was dictated to the people of Hull by the Cabinet of millionaires in London who have stolen £48 million from our Council to help pay for the wreckage inflicted by the bankers. There were no consequences for them. Instead, Hull has had a real terms spending reduction of £228 per resident, as opposed to an average of £61 per head nationally.

Having worked for Social Services Child Care/Children & Families, my professional life and career was in the service of the people of Hull, especially those with a lack of life chances and opportunities. When my service and also my position was ‘cut’ by the previous Lib Dem administration, I chose to leave the department and was one of the army of union members who worked tirelessly and campaigned passionately to help secure the huge Labour victory of 2011, later following on with my own election to the Council where I have the privilege of representing the residents of Holderness Ward in East Hull just a year later.
As I have stated on an on-going basis, the people who will be/have been affected by the cuts to services are not just names and numbers on a page to me.
I worked with them; I visited their homes; I supported them in my professional career. I have witnessed their plight and have ‘first hand’ knowledge of their suffering.

Also, the people who will be/have been affected by the change of their terms and conditions and who will lose their livelihood are also not just names and numbers on a page to me either. I have worked with them and am well aware of their hard work and commitment.

I will not be part of this governments planned destruction of the public sector, this planned dismantling of the terms and conditions fought for by our brave predecessors, to inflict more suffering on the already deprived citizens of our city.

In light of this, I have had real issues about voting for the last two extremely concerning budgets.

I am not a militant, revolutionary or the naive idealist, some of the descriptions that have been circulated about me. I am a lifelong Labour supporter (as far back as I can remember) and a Labour voter since my teens, someone who was brought up with its values at the core of our family.

I now have to ask myself why those values that I believed were central to the party, have not been acted upon and why they do not underpin a ‘fight back’ against this government by the Labour Party both nationally and locally?

These views are however still ‘at the heart’ of my political ideology and therefore have to be acted upon. So, as well as voting against the budget for the reasons described above, I also feel ‘duty bound’ to make a ‘stand’ however small against the injustice wreaked upon us.
I will never be a bailiff for this government. I will never bend to their will.

I fail to understand why in the Labour Party; a party that has its roots in needing to stand up against oppression and whose history resounds with giants of our movement who questioned the status quo and broke far bigger laws than I or my colleagues have ever done - will simply not put up a fight and lead our residents in a campaign to roll back these cuts.

Our predecessors made sacrifices and stood up to the vested interests. They did not worry about how their beliefs and values might play with the rich and powerful. They were not satisfied with what ever crumbs fell from the table of the Establishment. They did not beg and simper at the feet of the government and the ruling classes, or act like grateful sycophants every time a bone was thrown their way.

Instead they went out and built a party that we are proud to state stands up for the people. How can they in all sincerity remove me for having a conscience?
I am using my position as an elected representative of the people of my Ward, who voted Labour in on an anti cuts mandate, to challenge this government’s inhuman polices and I can only do this by being true to myself.

Surely there is room in a party and a movement of this stature, history and reputation for views, values and non-negotiables to cover a wide spectrum?
Surely we are allowed to work in and with the party despite our being on various points of that continuum?
It has been stated that I knew when I was selected to become a candidate that I had to follow the Whip. My proviso has always been that I would always do so, as long as it did not interfere with my conscience.

These so called difficult decisions do go against my conscience, but this budget and its future ramifications for many of the people of Hull also go against my conscience. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

It is far from business as usual, history is full of examples of people ‘following orders’.

As 18th century fighter for liberty and freedom Edmund Burke said, ‘For evil to flourish it is only necessary for good men to do nothing’.

Perhaps never in our recent history has this statement rung with more truth.

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