Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11220
Sign the NSSN 'Save Our Services' petition online at http://www.stopcuts.net/sign.htm
This petition will be presented to Labour's local government conference on Saturday 5 March. Join the march and lobby: 11am, Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, Southwark, London, SE11.
Councillors must stand up to the Con-Dem axemen!
The Con-Dem millionaires' government has taken a massive axe to our jobs, pay, conditions and local services. Central government funding to local councils is being slashed by 27% over four years.
Already more than 150,000 job losses have been announced across 260 councils. Whole services are being destroyed.
Many of the severest cuts are in traditional Labour areas which already have very high unemployment - 1,500 jobs to go in Leeds, 1,500 in Liverpool, 2,000 in Manchester, 1,000 in Camden, and many more.
These cuts are the worst since the 1920s and will destroy the lives of millions.
The people who voted for Labour councils did not do so in order for them to do the ConDem's dirty work. Any Labour council that chose instead to defend local communities would be hugely popular.
And they can. There is a choice - the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) anti-cuts campaign demands that Labour councils choose to fight to defend public services:
* Make no cuts to council jobs, pay, conditions and services.
* Do not introduce above inflation increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts.
* Say no to privatisation of council services.
Every Labour council in Britain keeps telling us that it has 'no choice' but to implement the cuts - but that just isn't true. If any council was to stop acting as collaborators with the Tory axe wielders, and instead stand up and fight, they would discover there are a thousand ways to defy the cuts.
To name a few, councils could:
* Stop homelessness rocketing by refusing to evict council tenants who fall into arrears because of housing benefit cuts. They could also use their legal powers to threaten compulsory purchase order against big landlords who evict tenants suffering from housing benefit cuts.
* Halt the destruction of state education by using councils' 'schools monitoring powers' to build a campaign against academies and free schools organising, for example, parents' ballots on the issue.
* Stop 16 and 17 year olds being thrown out of education by continuing to pay EMA to local students, as the Welsh Assembly has done. Any council which continued to pay it would win the support of whole generation.
All of these measures, and many more, could be carried out by using councils' legal powers. However, alone, they would not be enough.
In order to stop cuts, councils need to set needs budgets - budgets that do not include any cuts in jobs and services. We are told that doing this - following the example of Poplar in the 1920s, or of Liverpool and Lambeth in the 1980s - is impossible and will inevitably lead to defeat.
But the real history is different.
Poplar council won a campaign to equalise the rates across London and was able to introduce a programme of financial assistance for the poor, equal pay for women and a minimum wage for council workers.
In the 1980s Liverpool City Council forced Thatcher - the Iron Lady - to hand over an extra £60 million to Liverpool - which was used to build 5,000 council houses (more than were built nationally the whole time New Labour was in office!), plus new leisure centres and nurseries and to create tens of thousands of jobs.
Liverpool's inspiring struggle was conducted in the teeth of massive opposition - not only from the Tories, but sadly from the right wing leadership of Labour.
If other Labour councils had followed the Liverpool and Lambeth road Thatcher would have been finished. Liverpool's councillors were only able to be removed and surcharged following a four year struggle, after the betrayal of Labour leader Neil Kinnock and Co.
Lessons of Liverpool, Lambeth and Poplar for today
Today councillors can no longer be surcharged unless they are found guilty of financial crime for personal gain. But it is still true that any council that refused to carry out cuts or introduce hikes in council tax would - at a certain stage - come into conflict with the legal system.
However, such a council would also be enormously popular. Trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners would be able to mobilise tens of thousands in support of such a stand.
In these circumstances - as in Liverpool - it would be very difficult for the law to be used against such councils.
However, most councils have time to prepare before taking this road. By using their reserves and borrowing powers to avoid making cuts, councils can gain time to build a mass movement in their support.
Labour leader Ed Miliband could give a lead by promising that an incoming Labour government would write off all local authority debts incurred from avoiding cuts.
Also, the Labour Party is 90% dependent for its income on affiliated trade unions.
Union members will not tolerate Labour's collaboration with the ConDem cuts to jobs, terms and conditions, and local services
The NSSN anti-cuts campaign is marching to demand that councils stand up against the onslaught raining down on working class communities. If any council does so we will do everything in our power to support it.
But if, as Labour councils have up until now, they continue to refuse to do so, then they will be lining up with the public service slashers. In the battle that is coming - with millions campaigning against the ConDem cuts - Labour councils will be on the wrong side.