Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/753/16190

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 February 2013

Fighting for a real alternative to cuts

Southampton councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, photo by Southampton SP

Southampton councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, photo by Southampton SP   (Click to enlarge)

Working class people all over the country are facing vicious cuts in council services. Labour councils are generally responding by wringing their hands and making the cuts anyway.
But in Southampton two councillors, Don Thomas and Keith Morrell have refused to do this and have made an important stand against the cuts.
They have been expelled from the Labour Party as a result. On 13 February they put an alternative budget to the council, which the council tried to gag.
But as the reports below explain, a protest before and lively interventions in the council meeting made sure the cuts budget was exposed and an alternative posed. The fight against the cuts goes on!

Lessons of Southampton - councillors have a choice

Clive Heemskerk , national election agent, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

Is it true that councils really have 'no option' but to pass on the Con-Dems' cuts? That's the argument being made by Labour councillors as they meet to set their 2013-14 budgets.

A core policy of TUSC is that when faced with government cuts to their funding, councils should refuse to implement them.

It argues that the best way for councils to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to roll back Con-Dem austerity would be for them to set budgets that meet the needs of their local community and demand that the government makes up the shortfall, like Liverpool council successfully did in 1984.

But to save jobs and services now while building such a campaign, TUSC would support councils using their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing on the Con-Dem cuts.

But is even this 'buying time' strategy possible? What about local government legislation that commits councillors to setting a 'balanced budget'? Wouldn't council officers step in and set the budget themselves? All these questions have come up in the anti-cuts struggle in Southampton.

Winning support

When TUSC's policy was first raised by Socialist Party members in official consultation meetings late last year Labour councillors baldly dismissed it as 'not possible'.

But it began to win support from council workers and service users. And when the 'rebel two' councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas submitted a draft budget amendment to increase Southampton's 'unsupported borrowing' by 22 million, council officers were forced to respond.

The rebel councillors' proposals met the legal requirements of a balanced budget at least for the 2013-14 financial year - it was not a 'deficit budget'.

But the council's chief financial officer (CFO) would not endorse it as a 'prudent budget capable of implementation'.

He argued, for example, that Southampton was not in a sufficiently 'dire financial position' to successfully apply for a 'capitalisation direction' (government supported borrowing to fund day-to-day 'revenue spending'), one of the alternative budget proposals.

Consequently council officers advised the Mayor - an elected Labour councillor - to make a chair's ruling that the amendment would not be debated at the council's budget-making meeting and that's what he did.

But it could have been debated. The myth of the all-powerful officers was shown to be just that - it was councillors who closed off the debate.

Even the legal guidance all the Southampton councillors received - and this is standard everywhere - made it clear they had the power to "determine whether they agree with the CFO's statutory report issued under section 26 of the Local Government Act 2003".

That means, of course, that if there are genuinely different assessments that could be made, councillors can make them.

Before the meeting Keith and Don wrote to every Labour councillor asking them to use the legal power they had to at least allow their amendment to be debated.

The officers were, inevitably, making a political assessment of their proposals. So "it's worth asking", they wrote, how many CFOs in November 1990, just before the fall of Thatcher, "began drawing up budget proposals for 1991-92 confidently predicting that, just four months later, the Community Charges (General Reduction) Act would have gone through parliament, cutting the last poll tax bills by 140 and increasing government support for local authorities by 4.3 billion (nearly 7 billion in today's money)?"

"Isn't it for elected councillors to judge whether the crisis for public services in the city is 'sufficiently dire' for the steps we propose to be taken?", Keith and Don asked. Evidently not, as the Labour councillors backed the Labour Mayor's ruling.

Nothing can hide this lesson of Southampton. Councillors have a choice. There are alternatives to implementing the cuts. And Labour councillors chose not to take them.


The following article was part of this feature on Southampton in The Socialist:

Council budget commended to the dustbin by protesters


In the local press

Extracts from Southampton's Daily Echo, after the council meeting:

"[Keith Morrell said:] 'The trade unions were instrumental in getting Labour elected and I think there's a lot of disappointment among their members that Labour isn't delivering.

'Labour promised to protect jobs and to protect services and obviously they're not.

'There's a lot of union members who are angry, frustrated and probably unsure where to go - they put their faith in Labour.

'The trade unions should be doing more, if only to reflect what their members want from them.'

The pair are now working to form a local group so that they can field anti-cuts candidates across the city during the next election."


Eastleigh byelection: "Oh you're TUSC, a real socialist!"

Southampton Socialist Party

The campaign for TUSC candidate Daz Procter has kicked off in earnest. We are getting a great reception in our challenge to all the wannabie seat warmers.

Daz has explained that his candidacy is different - rather than being just another career politician he promises to be a workers' MP on a worker's wage.

Instead of pocketing the large MP's salary he would put the extra cash into funding the fight against cuts.

On Saturday 16 February we were out on the streets of Eastleigh mixing it with other parties.

The Lib Dems and Ukip were out in force or was that farce! The Tories were scuttling about looking busy and intent, but leaflet-lite.

Labour angst

As for Labour, well no sign, save for a bloke with a rosette (apparently an ex-councillor), who crossed the road to our stall and proceeded to unburden his angst.

He tried to clothe himself with some verbal radicalism but was questioned about the role of the Labour council in nearby Southampton.

His response to the expulsion of the two anti-cuts councillors in the city was to accuse Keith Morrell of being "a Tory" who "speaks with a forked tongue" and Don Thomas of "being ill!"

Daz has compared the byelection to a travelling circus, swooping in to town, but they'll all be gone by Friday, after the vote on Thursday 28 February.

But, he points out, the trade unionists and socialists who make up TUSC will still be there fighting the cuts.

A Lib Dem supporter approached one of our activists saying "Oh you're TUSC, a real socialist."

Another TUSC campaigner was asked: "Where is the money coming from, you can't take it off the bankers?" "Well they ****ing took it off us" was his reply!

The next day was something else entirely - a hustings.

TUSC was up against the heavyweight hopefuls of Ukip, whose candidate was stuck in a double default position of the EU and immigration, shoving it into as many answers as possible.

'Mogadon Mike' of the Lib Dems, is so named by an ex-Ford worker for his personality bypass.

Labour's John O'Farrell's is a joker - literally. Obviously Labour know their Con-Demlike policies won't bring a smile to anyone's face

As for the Tory candidate, she has an uncanny ability to put her foot in it at every turn.

In a three minute intro it's pretty tough to get your message across, especially to an audience primarily composed of coalition faithfuls from some of the more affluent parts of the constituency.

Nevertheless, we managed to get a smattering of applause after repudiating the lies of austerity and voicing the disgust and disenchantment that local people had towards the self-serving political elite.

A local activist conducted a small vox pop afterwards, reporting people saying "that TUSC bloke spoke a lot of sense."


The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation.

It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA, and socialist organisations including the Socialist Party.

The rebel councillors' alternative budget proposals and the letter to the Labour councillors can be read at http://www.tusc.org.uk/press180213.php
See also:
Eastleigh ex-Labour rebels back TUSC candidate

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 20 February 2013:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Toxic Tories - Time to fight their cuts and lies

Government on the back foot after workfare ruling

Stop social cleansing: Cap rents, not benefits

Food adulteration - government cutbacks and capitalist profits

Self-regulation: 'Like having the burglars install your locks'

Bosses take tax liberties

Action needed to end caste discrimination

Free trade agreement means NHS privatisation

Them & Us


Southampton feature

Fighting for a real alternative to cuts

Councillors' contempt exposed


International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Democratic Socialist Movement conference

Kazakhstan: Vadim Kuramshin faces 12-year jail sentence after appeal denied


Socialist Party workplace news

PCS branch supports 24-hour general strike call

Prison officers protest outside parliament

No pay cuts at Thera!

Tyne & Wear metro cleaners up the ante

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Mid Staffs hospital scandal: Cuts, PFI and big business to blame

Coventry: 'We need to fight now to save our services'

Getting organised can change things for low-paid workers

Caerphilly says 'bring back our A&E!'

Save our Services demo in Newcastle attracts 3,000

Carlisle: Demands to 'tax the rich' hit a nerve

London NHS

Socialist Students holds first North West conference

Nepal: The forgotten revolution

Socialist Party campaigning news


Socialist Party review

Review: "It's time to take over the banks"


 

Home   |   The Socialist 20 February 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Southampton:

triangleWe must fight all council cuts!

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: Is there a global nuclear threat?

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: How can we get Corbyn's policies into Southampton council?

triangleSocialist Party Southern regional conference

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: The new left parties in Europe

Cuts:

triangleCorbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangleNHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangleCardiff Socialist Party: Why Labour and Plaid councils must set no-cuts budgets

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Why we're lobbying the council for a no-cuts budget

TUSC:

triangleRed Mary - a Force of Nature

triangleTrade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference

triangleTUSC conference to debate 2018 elections

Labour:

triangleCarlisle debate: The way forward - Socialism or Social Democracy?

trianglePacked Newham meeting against academies

Council:

triangleOpinion: foster care is work - carers deserve workers' rights

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

17/1/18

Labour

Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

17/1/18

Trump

Victory! Trump's UK visit cancelled by fear of protests

17/1/18

NHS

NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

15/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis: demand action to save jobs and services

10/1/18

Tories

Cabinet chaos as shambolic reshuffle underlines Theresa May's impotence

10/1/18

NHS

Sustained mass movement needed to stop Tories wrecking our NHS

10/1/18

Education

Bigot Toby Young quits - now scrap the new uni regulator driving privatisation

10/1/18

Them & Us

Them & Us

10/1/18

Teachers

Teacher recruitment falls by a third - cut workload, not funding

3/1/18

Fire service

Fire service victory

3/1/18

Fares

Rail: fares up, bosses' pay up - delays and cancellations up

3/1/18

Higher Education

Mobilise against rip-off executive pay

3/1/18

Virgin

NHS in winter crisis as Branson creams off 1bn

3/1/18

Homes

Thousands live in tents and sheds - seize empty homes

3/1/18

Fat cats

Widening wealth gap, increase in poverty...make the fat cats pay

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle22 Jan Women rally defiantly

triangle22 Jan Red Mary - a Force of Nature

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2