Derby City Council

Interview – Chris Fernandez : Derby City Council TUSC Candidate; Darley

The 5th in a series of 6 interviews with a candidate from each Party who has not served, previously, on the Council. The Derby Labour Party were contacted to be involved but chose not to respond.

Rob CooperUKIP – Mackworth
Marten KatsGreen Party – Darley
Alex DannIndependent – Oakwood
Jonathan SmaleConservative – Chaddesden
Chris Fernandez – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – Darley
Robert Mason – Liberal Democrat – Alvaston

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What’s your background?

I was born in the West End of Derby in 1957, and I’m a Support Worker at  Thera Trust.  I’ve always been political, my father was Spanish, he fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. When he came to the UK he met my Mum who was from Ireland. My wife’s Polish – so I’m a bit of an internationalist. I’ve always had a gut reaction against injustice. Many years ago ( in the 90s) I was a member of the Labour Party and left of my own accord as they were moving too much to the right. I got involved in TUSC as it’s putting forward an alternative to cuts.

I left school when I was 15 without any qualifications and started with shop floor jobs – centre lathe turning. In one small company , I complained about the water coming through the roof onto the machine and 2 weeks later they got rid of me. In my early 30s, I went to University, and did German Law and Psychology, and then later studied Spanish.

In 2013/14 we decided to set up TUSC in Derby in discussion with colleagues who were involved in the campaign against the incinerator. TUSC was originally set up in 2010 by Bob Crowe.

Why do you want to be a Councillor?

I’ve seen Councillors who, when elected, then forget about the people. Councillors are voting for cuts, whether it’s Moorways, Citizens Advice etc – everytime it’s the Governments fault, we have no alternative – is what they say. I disagree with that, it is partly true, the Government is starving the Council of funds but Labour councils shouldn’t become semi-conductors for cuts. You’ve got 58 Labour led Councils going into the new financial year with £4.5billion in reserves. If they were to pool those resources and use their borrowing powers then there would be no cuts and a future Labour government could bail the Council’s out.

What I’d do as a Councillor – I wouldn’t just be in the Chamber, I’d be outside speaking at public meetings, in the wards, and in the community, in the Trades Union branches, trying to build a movement  to force the government to give the money to the Councils. We often give examples from Clay Cross and Liverpool – where they had 50,000 people march in support of the Council in the 80s.

I’ve been canvassing in Allenton, and the West End, recently, and the message that comes out time and time again is “Why is this happening? Why is a Labour Council closing Moorways  etc” – even if you’re not political. Pensioners are asking questions about Citizens Advice and they don’t know what’s going on.

I understand your points about cuts, but the work of a Councillor is not just on this one issue.How would you deal with the more routine issues that arise within a ward?

I’d have surgeries in the ward and listen and learn from people. The sign of a good Socialist is to listen first and speak second. I’d organise public meetings on different issues. The Council’s there to fight for resources for the people.

But isn’t that what Cllr Banwait is trying to do with his “Fair Deal for Derby”?

That’s fine, and many Councils do this type of thing, but the Government won’t listen to that.  I’ve seen this with Trades Unions but the only thing that this Government understands is a mass movement and force. And there are examples in history when the Government did back down. We at TUSC are trying to give an alternative, and the money’s in the economy. Research has shown that there is £120bn in tax avoidance – so we know the money’s there. There is no need in this country for cuts to take place which affect the whole community. We would oppose the selling off of any public assets for private ownership.

At TUSC we oppose the closure of any senior citizen’s homes, and those for people with learning disabilities and putting them out to the private sector. What usually happens is that they change the terms and conditions of the workers, and then close it down and asset strip it.

What qualities and qualifications are you bringing to the role?

I’m a UNISON shop steward, and I led a strike at my workplace against cuts in terms and conditions. I’m somebody who will fight the cuts – that’s a red line for me. If I’m elected  I will speak but there is no way I will vote for cuts. I’ll use the chamber as a platform to put across a socialist perspective on everything that happens there.  The buzzword at the moment is value efficiency…Tory buzzwords from the centre.

Also, I was secretary of the anti-Poll tax Union and I organised to build unions in the City and I’m very proud that I organised a march and rally from the Arboretum Park to Derby Market Square – involving 3500 people according to the police figures.  I spoke to Mosques and Temples, and we had “Sikhs against the Poll Tax”, “Muslims against the Poll Tax” and so on, and Dave Nellist spoke at the rally.  I will be bringing that to the role….I see myself as a fighter. I won’t compromise and sell out.

Do you think that there is a risk that the general voter might be put off by your approach?

No – I think you’ve got to be honest with people. If you’re honest, and it is a litmus test, and we might only get a few hundred votes – but there is a low registration in the local election. At the moment our support is similar to Labour when it first started.

On the main TUSC website , the list of policies are all basically “against” Cuts. What it doesn’t say is what you are “For”?

We’re saying that no cuts should take place, whatsoever, and the Council should use their reserves, and then have a year to campaign, and link up with other Councils and force the Government to give the Councils the money. It’s been done before by Liverpool.

With that money, the services that benefit the community, would be kept open.

Nationally we are FOR a £10 per hour minimum wage, against zero hour contracts and we’re for the public ownership of the utilities that were sold off.

That’s fine – but that’s “having your cake and eating it”. And nobody would necessarily argue with this, but there are practical issues. Does someone have a costed plan for Derby?

An independent economic think tank concluded that the economy can afford £9 per hour. The money is there to pay people a decent wage. There is a lot of big businesses that don’t pay corporation tax.

If hypothetically, on May 6th you were the Leader of the Council what would you do?

We would follow the programme I mentioned earlier about forcing the Government to pay us more money – there is no need to close down Moorways, no need to close the Citizen’s Advice Bureau – you can use some of the reserves to keep them going. You don’t need cuts.

Would you say that you are ideologically against any cuts, of any description of any amount?

There is no such thing as a humane cut. Cuts kill – a cut is a cut.

That’s scaremongering – you can’t say that on a universal basis, it’s not fundamentally the case that a cut will cause harm?

If cuts are made to the voluntary sector then it will have an effect on the community.

Yes, I understand that and agree – but you wouldn’t cut the Chief Exec’s salary?

No – that should be cut because you’ve got Teaching Assistants who are having their wages cut.

Yes, they are ..but you are then being selective on what you would or wouldn’t cut.?

If the cuts impacted on the workers who work there…

….but they’re all workers, including the Chief Exec.

I’d be opposed to that, yes. I’d have to look into that.

A vulnerable person getting fewer hours of care  is “bad cuts” – but surely a large organisation can save money by being smarter in the way they do things?

What we say is that we are against cuts that affect jobs and services especially when people lose their livelihood and services finish. I must admit that your question has made me think about the Chief Exec and all the others, but my approach is to protect services, or even expand them.

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