Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/604/8448
Politics 'illegal' in Lewisham council
THE GLOVES are off for next year's Lewisham council elections. The Socialist Party, the only party prepared to fight against cuts, faces all the other parties including the Greens prepared to implement cuts.
Lewisham's Labour councillors are running scared of a real debate about how they could prevent cuts to jobs and services. At the 25 November council meeting, the Labour Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, moved an interim budget of over £4 million of cuts rising to £8 million. Incredibly he called these cuts 'uncontroversial'.
Will it be uncontroversial to those workers who would lose their jobs or those people whose services will be cut? This will mean the loss of the equivalent of over 50 fulltime posts and the privatisation of the systems and support service in the Revenues and benefits service.
This will no doubt be on top of further central government attacks to local government funding, which nationally will mean hundreds of thousands of public sector workers losing their jobs.
Opposing these cuts, Socialist Party councillor Ian Page said that billions of pounds have been used to bail out the banks. These cuts will mean real hardship to people in Lewisham so why couldn't extra funding be found from central government to prevent these cuts? The debate on this budget made it clear that the Socialist Party is the only party opposed to cuts. All the other parties, including the Green Party argued that savings (i.e. cuts) have to be made.
Replying to the debate, Steve Bullock said he was thinking of applying to English Heritage to have the Socialist Party arguments listed as 'historical arguments'. But for the millions of people across Britain, already suffering as a result of this economic crisis and set to suffer further as a result of government cutbacks whichever party is in power, these arguments are not historical.
The Socialist Party is the only one offering a coherent alternative to the strategy of cuts proposed by all the other parties. The Socialist Party was the only party to vote against these cuts with the Liberal Democrats and Greens abstaining.
A follow up motion moved by the Labour Party called for cross-party support for the Mayor's budget cuts and his plan to freeze council tax. Incredibly an amendment from the Socialist Party calling "on the mayor and council to launch a campaign to demand the necessary extra funding from the government to prevent any cuts to the council's budget" was ruled out of order by the council's Head of Law.
She claimed that the council cannot support motions which call for a political campaign and that calling for extra government funds is a political campaign.
It was her ruling, however, that was 'political'. The meeting, for example, also had tabled two Labour motions, one condemning Boris Johnson's recent London Transport fare rises and another sponsoring the Mayors for Peace movement promoting 'the total abolition of nuclear weapons'.
Aren't these 'political campaigns'? Yet it was only the Socialist Party motion that was ruled out of order! The Socialist Party will not be silenced by these bureaucratic manoeuvres and will do all it can to build a campaign against cuts in the borough.
Motion to Lewisham council from Labour councillors:
"This council recognises the importance of helping residents through these difficult economic times. It therefore welcomes the Mayor's statement of intent to pursue a freeze in council tax and set a balanced budget next year and calls upon all parties in this chamber to make the same commitment."
Amendment from Socialist party councillors:
"Delete everything after 'set a balanced budget' and add 'calls on the mayor and council to launch a campaign to demand the necessary extra funding from the government to prevent any cuts to the council's budget.'"
The South London Press asked for quotes about next year's elections. Lewisham's Socialist Party councillors said: "After the election, whoever wins, we will face an onslaught of cuts. Socialist Party councillors will fight to defend every job and every service - we do not accept that ordinary working people should have to pay the price of an economic crisis which was not of our making."
In The Socialist 2 December 2009:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth fight for jobs
War and occupation
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Marxist analysis: history