Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/550/6456
Lincoln - fight council cuts plan
STAFF AT City of Lincoln council face uncertain times. As if a real-terms pay cut was not enough, workers now face £6.5 million of service cuts over the next five years. With the council's leadership declaring that nothing is sacred, workers are increasingly anxious about what the future holds.
Marc Glasscoe, Socialist Party Lincoln
The government's grant settlement for the council was a mere 1% increase for this year, being reduced even further for the next two years. This, combined with increased pressures on local councils to deliver more for less, left Lincoln city council with a gaping hole in its finances. The council leadership decided not to shave any more off budgets but to completely axe certain services.
Wringing their hands, they tell us they have a duty to make these difficult decisions, while doing their best to fend off the government's attacks. Of course, this is nothing on the difficult decisions that will face those whose jobs are on the line.
From the outset trade unionists in Unison were determined to oppose these cuts. While management sneer that we have no choice and 'falling on our sword just isn't an option', the local union branch have been developing a strategy to take up the fight. "We intend to fight these cuts all the way" said assistant branch secretary Naomi Davison. "Our members are losing out through pay freezes and cuts in services. Our union branch is not prepared to accept this."
While the Unison rank and file prepare to fight these cuts, they are doing so in the face of apathy and cynicism from some union officers. Citing the need to 'be practical' and 'face the realities of the situation', these bureaucrats have given up before the fight has begun.
These cuts are not simply the product of the policies of a newly elected Tory council. They are part of a wider Labour government agenda to drive down local authorities' role, force the privatisation of services and break up the public sector unions' power. For all their protestations, elected councillors have decided that they have no power to oppose this.
Contrast that with the role of the Liverpool 47 councillors in the 1980s. Faced with the prospect of implementing savage cuts in services, they took the fight to the Thatcher government, forcing millions of pounds out of the so-called Iron Lady.
The message to Lincoln's councillors is simple: are you prepared to fight like Liverpool once did, or will you simply lie down and accept what's handed to you? To quote one Unison activist, "we are ready to fight the government for more resources. If the councillors want to join us, then they know where to find us."
In The Socialist 2 October 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party review