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Why Hull council should defy the government's cuts to services
Mick Whale, Hull NUT teachers' union secretary
'Because you have all done so well, we are going to give you some more cuts to carry out'. This was the message from Local Government Minister Eric Pickles to a recent meeting of the Local Government Association.
In effect, Pickles was saying that the complete absence of any organised opposition from Labour local authorities has encouraged the Tories to impose more suffering on the poor and vulnerable.
Steve Brady, Labour council leader in Hull has called for a campaign against cuts but has also repeatedly stated: "Hull city council is not going to do a Liverpool".
Brady, probably aware that if he "does a Liverpool" the Labour Party leadership will attack him, blamed the Liverpool councillors' stand for the witch-hunt and destruction of the Labour Party in Liverpool in the 80s.
Hull trade unionists have called Steve Brady to account for this. They explain that a key task for Labour in Hull should be to draw up a 'no cuts' budget based on need and go to the people of Hull for support.
Petitioning and lobbying for the no cuts budget, as used in the campaign that defeated a job threatening caravan tax, would help.
Worryingly, a recent Labour group meeting in Hull seemed to be preparing a plan that could mean widespread cuts in terms and conditions and probably job losses as well. Steve Brady himself refused to rule out compulsory redundancies.
Labour has to make its mind up. Either it is going to fight the cuts or implement them. Four Labour councillors voted against the cuts proposals in the group meeting and the unions have written an open letter to all the labour councillors demanding that they stand strong against the cuts.
Liverpool in 1980s
In Liverpool, in 1983, Labour councillors put themselves at the head of such a campaign with a clear commitment that they would not implement Tory cuts.
That built the campaign that forced the Tories to climb down. In 2012, if Labour in Hull put themselves at the head of a similar campaign, the fight against the cuts would be enormously strengthened.
Last year council trade unions provided the foot soldiers that won Labour office in Hull to stop the cuts.
They will not sit back and let a Labour council implement cuts. One way or another there will be a fight against the cuts!
'Doing a Liverpool' refers to the struggle by Liverpool city Council in the 1980s against the Thatcher government's cuts.
Significantly the Labour party in Liverpool at that time had a fighting socialist leadership, provided in large part by Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party).
The Liverpool councillors made a clear stand against the Tory cuts and got mass support from the people of Liverpool.
The campaign waged by the councillors, local authority trade unionists and the wider community in Liverpool was successful in reversing most of the cuts in 1984.
Unfortunately, the council was left isolated in 1985 and was defeated, bloody but unbowed. Significantly, it was the intervention of Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader at the time, which gave the green light to the Tories to bring the full force of the law against the Liverpool councillors.
Eventually, having defied the government for four years and won lasting gains for the city, the councillors were dismissed from office in March 1987 and surcharged (for losses caused by delaying the setting of the rates).
This last point is not something that the labour movement in Hull is asking the Labour councillors to do at this stage.
In The Socialist 26 September 2012:
Fightback against austerity
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International socialist news and analysis
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