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How much reserves have councils got?
New TUSC report shows potential for councils to end cuts
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has launched a new report on the level of reserves held by Labour-led councils. It argues that "the substantial resources of the local state under the control of the Labour Party" could be used to fight austerity now, "without waiting for a change of government."
The statistical profile of all 124 Labour-led councils in Britain is entitled 'How much reserves have they got?' It shows what a counter-power to Theresa May's 'weak and wobbly' government they could be - if they were prepared to turn Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message into action.
The report's introduction points out that Labour councils' combined spending power is greater than the total state budgets of 16 EU member states!
If they declared they will use their borrowing powers and reserves to immediately stop all cuts - in the expectation they would be reimbursed by a future Corbyn-led government - what could the Tories do?
The TUSC report will be important source material for anti-cuts campaigners.
Labour-led Birmingham council is attempting to impose job losses and wage cuts on its refuse workers to 'save' £5 million, provoking a bitter strike. But £5 million is around 1% of its usable general reserves of over £400 million!
Jeremy Corbyn should instruct the councillors to withdraw their attacks on the workers now or face not being able to stand as Labour candidates in next year's elections.
Meanwhile Bristol's Labour mayor, Marvin Rees, has written an open letter to council leaders calling on them to "harness the energy" of anti-austerity campaigns. He wants to use them against "the weakened position of the government," proposing a September lobby of parliament.
This hasn't stopped Rees planning new cuts for next year's council budget. But his call is significant because of his warning to the other Labour council leaders that "if we don't lead this energy, someone else will."
Who could he mean? Is it just a coincidence that in the last local elections in Bristol, May 2016, TUSC candidates polled over 4,700 votes across the city, including in the mayoral contest, on a 'no-cuts budget' programme?
In launching the report, TUSC national chairperson and Socialist Party member Dave Nellist said: "There is a chance to show in the months ahead what Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity policies could mean in practice if Labour councillors refused to vote for cuts in the council chambers.
"This TUSC report will be a powerful tool in the fight to make that happen."
- 'How much reserves have they got?' is available at tusc.org.uk/txt/402.pdf
- A TUSC briefing pack showing the powers councils have to resist austerity, 'Preparing a no-cuts people's budget', published in early 2016, is also available at tusc.org.uk/txt/355.pdf