Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/736/15346
Councillors must resist all Tory cuts
Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party, wrote the following letter to the Independent in reply to an article by Owen Jones
Owen Jones is right that Labour councillors must refuse to implement Tory cuts but he is wrong when he uncritically echoes Labour councillors' timid response that they would be replaced by Eric Pickles and his cronies if they did so.
Firstly Labour councillors would be heroes for taking such a stand and gain huge support. Secondly they would face no financial or legal penalties for doing so.
The maximum penalty, if the government dared go so far, would be to remove councillors from office for five years. New elections would hardly return Tory councillors to carry out cuts.
If shadow secretary for Local Government, Hilary Benn, made a clear commitment that an incoming Labour government would restore council reserves and any borrowing made to protect services, the Tories' plans would be sunk.
Facing mass opposition, Eric Pickles would not be able to march in triumph to take over council chambers countrywide. The road is clear.
That Labour councillors almost to a man or woman do the Tories' dirty work suggests anyone relying on being rescued by Red Ed's cavalry will likely end up surrounded by the wreckage of the austerity agenda.
In Southampton, two Labour councillors bravely refused to betray their election commitments and opposed voting for Labour cuts and the closure of their local swimming pool.
Their reward has been huge support from their community, council workers and their unions Unite and Unison.
Have Southampton Labour group seized the moment to fight back? Sadly no. The rebel councillors were suspended for three months, gagged while the Labour group prepares a budget to implement £28 million cuts next year. Some protection from the cuts!
Over the last two years anti-cuts candidates under the banner of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have stood across the city putting the case for an alternative to cuts, building support for a community based budget to meet the needs of the city fully funded by central government. Developing mass support for such a stand offers the only way to halt the cuts.
Mick Whale, secretary Hull NUT teachers' union
The battle lines to fight the next round of cuts are still being prepared in Hull. As we reported in last week's Socialist, Hull council trade unions have sent out an open letter calling on Labour councillors to join with the unions in a joint campaign against the cuts.
The letter has been well received by some Labour councillors and council workers alike. Before any follow-up lobbying, some of the councillors have agreed with the need for a campaign.
While this has been going on, however, the authority's officers have been preparing a cuts package. Scandalously, one cut to bin services appeared in the local media before being discussed with either the workforce or the trade unions.
The Labour cabinet has put this proposal on hold after a strong response from the unions.
In the council cabinet meeting on 1 October, veteran Labour councillor Terry Geraghty pointed to the cuts in the NHS and local authority and stated that unless Labour did something to fight the cuts, "we might as well pack up and go home because there will be nothing left locally for Labour to run".
Unfortunately, the cabinet focussed on the disproportionate weight of the cuts on poorer northern cities.
While this point is correct, it would be a disaster if Hull were to be arguing for its cuts to be borne by cities in the south! This would play into the hands of the Tories who would try to divide workers in the south from those in the north.
Anyway, this argument misses the fundamental point that, even equally apportioned, cuts would devastate Hull.
Socialists have pointed to the £800 billion lying idle in the bank accounts of big business - money they refuse to invest believing there is not enough profit in it. This shows that no cuts are necessary,
The trade unions and those Labour councillors prepared to fight the cuts will meet in the next week or so to determine exactly how the campaign should be organised. Watch this space!
In The Socialist 3 October 2012:
Education news & analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaigning
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party news and analysis