Northern Ireland

People Before Profit manifesto pledges to reinstate lost and privatised council services while reducing rates bills

(l-r) People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett with the party's Belfast councillor Fiona Ferguson and Gerry Carroll MLA
(l-r) People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett with the party's Belfast councillor Fiona Ferguson and Gerry Carroll MLA

PEOPLE Before Profit has pledged to reinstate lost and privatised council services while simultaneously reducing the burden on ratepayers.

The all-Ireland socialist party, which on Tuesday launched its local government election manifesto, is running 15 candidates in three council areas – Belfast, Derry & Strabane and Causeway Coast & Glens.

Under the heading 'A Socialist Vision for Local Councils', the party proposes ending the outsourcing and privatisation of services, while challenging what the manifesto terms "the communal carve-up in council chambers".

According to the manifesto, Belfast City Council's "big parties" outsourced leisure services against the wishes of trade unions.

People Before Profit say the move has resulted in "price hikes year after year, job losses, complaints about health and safety, and deteriorating conditions in some centres".

It also claims outsourced recycling services in Belfast have resulted in a "litany of complaints and problems".

"In other areas of cleansing, jobs are not replaced when workers retire or leave, with councils instead favouring the use of a private alternative for maintenance, for example," the manifesto states. 

Pledges elsewhere for local government include better terms and conditions for "overworked, underpaid" council staff, a reduction in the number of agency workers used by local authorities, and addressing the concerns of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff about a "lack of diversity and disparity of treatment".

Belfast councillor Fiona Ferguson, one of People Before Profit's five local government representatives, said the party had "consistently fought for working class communities". 

"We have refused to compromise with backward DUP politics or stand by while the other big parties implemented rates hikes," she said.

“We are fighting for a radically different kind of politics than dead-end dysfunction and division."

When asked by The Irish News how the party planned to expand services while cutting rates, Ms Ferguson said it was an "unfortunate myth" to think the two were incompatible.

She said the issue was "how those rates are spent".

"In the past couple of months, I have pulled teeth from Belfast City Council, as an example, to find out that £3 million has been spent since I was elected on private consultants, while staff in our council are hired to do the jobs of private consultants are being paid to do – and that's just to scratch the surface," she said

"You may also know that there are millions of pounds in reserves in different councils across the north, yet when we attempt to tap into those to stave off rates hikes in years when people really can't afford it, we're told they're there for emergency situations – I can't figure an emergency that people are facing greater than the the cost of living crisis."

She said that if elected the party's representatives would use their council platform "to raise the demands of striking nurses, teachers, council workers and more". 

Derry & Strabane councillor Shaun Harkin criticised the DUP’s "disgraceful obstructionism" against a backdrop of rising poverty.

"We are inspired by the movement of workers who refuse to wait on Stormont, who know that working people deserve better, and are taking the fight to the pickets," he said. 

"We want to be the political embodiment of those strikes in council chambers, tackling communal carve-ups and inequality."