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Carmarthenshire county Unison branch challenges Labour with a no-cuts budget
What's the point of New Labour? That's the question being asked by many working class people in Wales particularly after all eleven Labour-led councils have voted for or are in the process of voting through vicious cuts to local authority jobs and services.
Labour councillors claim 'there's nothing we can do'? But these cuts, if implemented will transform local authorities from providers to purchasers of privatised and reduced services in a few years.
The lie that there is nothing Labour councillors can do was put to rest when the Carmarthenshire county Unison branch produced and submitted a no-cuts budget. Our branch called on Labour councillors to implement it and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Unison members, council workers, trade unions, anti-cuts groups and the wider community and to build resistance to the cuts (Unison policy).
We called on councillors to build a mass campaign of resistance linking up with the other ten Labour councils in Wales to fight the cuts.
We received no formal, or even informal, response from the Labour leadership of the council to our budget but then we had been used to the sound of silence from them when it came to even criticising Con-Dem cuts - so no change there!
The full council meeting on 19 February exposed the degeneracy of the Labour Party and how far it has come from being a party that in the past, at times, fought in the interests of working class people. Labour councillors were conspicuous by their absence from the debate. The reality is, in voting through Con-Dem cuts, they put their own self-interest and their political careers before council services they were elected to provide.
Councillors prefer to hide behind council officers. But in the case of Carmarthenshire the audit office in Wales have already ruled that their advice was unlawful on two occasions recently!
Attack on unions
Carmarthenshire Labour-led council in coalition with Independents (Tories in all but name) also voted to end trade union secondments. It was claimed by council officers that this would save money but this is clearly a political decision as Labour and Independent councillors attempt to stifle our branch fighting their cuts and representing our members' interests. They have made this decision as our branch has been resolute in opposing all cuts, something unfortunately we cannot say for many Unison and other local government unions in Wales to date.
In the recent past some Labour councillors proudly told us they were ex-NUM members. It seems that it was right then to fight to keep the pits open but it's not okay to fight to keep local government services now!
It seems that in terms of its political evolution the Labour Party has taken an evolutionary dead end. It no longer represents working class people. While we cannot 100% rule out that it can be changed it would need a massive influx of working class people, trade unionists, and youth, etc. That is as likely as a jelly fish developing a backbone. Watching the budget debate in Carmarthenshire county council - the passivity of the Labour councillors and the lack of fight when they all voted for cuts along with the Tory, sorry independent, coalition partners - you could only draw one conclusion. We need a new mass workers' party.
A Unison member, Carmarthenshire, Wales
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 26 February 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.