The Socialist 7 February 2018 |
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Haringey: now's our chance for a no-cuts council
Marching against the HDV (Click to enlarge)
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
Right-wing pro-mega-privatisation Labour councillors deselected. Arch-Blairite council leader resigned. Major privatisation and gentrification project derailed.
Haringey is in the eye of the storm for all the right reasons. Now is our chance - let's fight for a no-cuts council!
An extremely unpopular privatisation project that would have involved socially cleansing thousands out of their council homes has been the catalyst for change inside Haringey Labour Party.
The 'Haringey Development Vehicle' (HDV) is opposed by all local Labour Party branches, both MPs and 21 Labour councillors. Yet the ideologically driven Blairites ploughed on regardless.
Rather than follow the national Momentum line of preaching unity with opposing class interests, Corbyn supporters in Haringey got organised to deselect pro-HDV Labour councillors.
In May, Haringey will be seen as the first Corbyn council. It will be under scrutiny from the press, the Tories, the Blairites - and, most importantly, the working class in Haringey.
It is vital that under this Corbyn council, residents of Haringey stop paying the price for Tory austerity. The cuts must stop.
As well as stopping the HDV, the council should set a no-cuts budget, plan to build council houses and bring in rent control.
They should use their considerable reserves and borrowing powers to balance the books and build up a mass campaign to demand the funding necessary from the government.
Their fight should base itself on the anti-HDV campaign and expand to include the wider working class of the borough, trade unions and other community campaigns.
Any other road means not only inflicting further misery on the working class of Haringey, but also risks undermining the huge support for Jeremy Corbyn.
If Haringey council acted in this way and appealed to other councils around the country - especially to those councillors who say they are Corbyn supporters - it could spearhead a national campaign.
It could link up with members of the big national trade unions that already have a position of support for no-cuts budgets: the GMB, and the local government committees of Unison and Unite.
This would hasten the fall of the weak Tories and help bring about a Corbyn government. If Jeremy Corbyn made that call now, local government austerity would be over.
The crucial question of what a Corbyn council should do was debated at Haringey Labour Party's manifesto conference on 4 February.
Motions passed committing the council to stopping the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). The conference agreed the council should use its borrowing powers to build 1,000 council houses on secure tenancies - and hold residents' ballots before any regeneration.
Conference agreed to reinstate 100% council tax support for poorer residents and commit to the public provision of social care. Motions passed to reintroduce an Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18-year-olds and free school meals.
These policies, if they make it into the manifesto and are boldly shouted from the roof tops, will be very popular. However, the process is overshadowed by undemocratic rules that state the outgoing councillors have to agree the manifesto - leaving control in the hands of the deselected, discredited right wing.
Already election material has been produced in that vein, with no mention of Corbyn or of fighting the cuts and privatisation. It is vital this undemocratic approach is rejected.
However, the conference also sidestepped the key issue: cuts or no cuts? There was a general commitment to campaign for the government to reverse cuts. But what about the meantime?
One ward had agreed a no-cuts motion, and while it wasn't one of the main conference motions, it was added in to the delegates' pack for consideration. The argument to use reserves and borrowing powers to balance the books, while building a mass campaign, was made on the conference floor, and argued for in a Socialist Party leaflet distributed outside.
Some of the anti-HDV candidates have argued that there is limited money available and that the council just needs to be creative. Others argue for a council tax increase, with lower earners rebated.
We say no. There is money in the bank, and there is a mass campaign in the community - use it, to defend the jobs and services in the borough and to fight for the funding necessary. There should be no more cuts, and working class people should not be asked to pay more council tax to compensate for cuts.
No fudge on this question with the right wing is possible. They should not be allowed to hold the rest of the party to ransom.
If the few remaining right-wing Labour candidates insist on standing on a cuts platform, then anti-cuts, anti-HDV campaigners from the community could stand against them, in support of the majority of the anti-austerity, pro-Corbyn Labour candidates.
Haringey is already under the microscope, but this is nothing compared to what the council is likely to face after May. They have to take a stand - no other choice will satisfy the anger and suffering of working class communities.