Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/644/10514
Disaster for local government
THE CON-Dem government's public sector spending review is disastrous for local government, with 28% spending cuts in local authority budgets, (real terms), over four years - more than double the 3% annual cuts previously demanded by the New Labour government.
By a Unison local government worker
The government claims that the schools' budget is protected, this is not the case. Increases of 0.1% are claimed. But this only makes sense if the Pupil Premium, a Lib Dem policy supposedly aimed at directing resources to schools in areas of social deprivation, is included. The Lib Dems originally claimed that this premium would be in addition to normal budgeted amounts. Schools will be worse off, and even schools in deprived areas will be worse off.
A major share of these cuts will be 'front loaded', and take effect early in the four year cycle, in 2011/12. This is a blatant attempt to diminish the effect of cuts towards the next general election, (assuming the coalition holds together for that long!)
Politicians of all main parties like to justify public expenditure cuts by saying that they will not affect frontline services. This is a false distinction, so-called backroom staff are essential, just as in the private sector.
But now even the Tory-dominated Local Government Association is admitting that these cuts will result in cuts to frontline services, and specifically refer in their statement on the cuts to services from "keeping children safe to ensuring that the streets are clean".
For local government workers these cuts will lead to redundancies, pay cuts and attacks on overtime rates, sick pay and other conditions of service. Unfortunately none of the main local government unions have a national strategy to oppose the cuts, relying on a branch by branch approach, as opposed to a strategy of national industrial action.
This means that militant, left-led branches will take action, and win or lose depending on circumstances. On the other hand weak, right-led branches will do nothing, and thousands of members will lose their jobs, or have their pay cut.
This is why initiatives like the National Shop Stewards Network are important, mapping out a viable fighting strategy for ordinary workers and encouraging union activists to keep up the pressure in their unions for fighting policies.
Local government will be a major battleground but ordinary workers will also suffer from cuts in public services, as schools, libraries and swimming pools close, and vital caring services are wound down. The opportunity will be presented to link public opposition to cuts with industrial action from local government workers. And in the municipal elections in May next year, anti-cuts candidates will oppose both Con-Dem and Labour candidates, who shed crocodile tears about cuts but vote for them anyway.
Despite weak national leadership from the unions, as the anti-poll tax campaign demonstrates, workers can act together and can defeat reactionary policies.
In The Socialist 27 October 2010:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news