Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/774/17124
Councils have a choice: Don't do the Con-Dems' dirty work!
On 27 June, the Camden New Journal published a letter from Labour councillor Theo Blackwell, the north London borough's cabinet member for finance, which claimed that demanding "no evictions" due to the bedroom was "irresponsible".
John Reid, a Camden Socialist Party member, Camden RMT union activist, and a candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, sent the following reply to the paper.
Theo Blackwell calls anti-bedroom tax campaigners "irresponsible" for our "no evictions" call. He accuses protesters of "being more interested in attacking Labour-led councils trying to help people rather than the government for measures that we, too, think are wrong".
The Tory-Lib Dem government is carrying out horrific austerity measures, on that we are agreed. The question here is, what do Labour councils do about it?
Policies such as Camden's are falling into the Con-Dems' trap to pursue "divide and rule" policies. The government is attempting to use the dire and worsening housing crisis as a means to play off one group against another.
In my view, Labour-led councils have a choice. They can pass on the government's attacks, no doubt feeling bad about it, and no doubt endeavouring to ameliorate the cuts where they think they can. Or they can make a stand, and refuse to implement the cuts.
Blackwell says that it would be wrong to "protect people from one group over another". Of course the bedroom tax is only one of a whole range of attacks, albeit a particularly vicious one.
However, the argument of the Socialist Party all along has been that councils should refuse to implement all the cuts, precisely so that they do not have to choose one group over another.
It is not good enough to assert that no one will be made homeless when Camden council is moving hundreds of families out of London.
In a society in which the rich are getting richer while the poor are being penalised, in my view it is the job of Labour councillors to stand up against austerity.
Refuse to make the cuts, use the council's reserves and borrowing powers to plug the gap, while you work with the community and trade unions in our borough to build up a campaign to win the necessary funding from central government.
If Ed Miliband instructed his councillors to do this, and pledged that an incoming Labour government would underwrite council funding, the cuts would be finished in an instant.
Unfortunately, I suspect Blackwell's reticence is in part because he knows the next Labour government intends to carry on the cuts.
If Labour councillors make a stand, we will back them all the way. But if they are not prepared to stand up for the people who elected them, they should step aside for others who are prepared to do the job.
In 2014 trade unionists and campaigners across London will be standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, to not just say 'no cuts', but to actually vote 'no cuts'.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation.
It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA,and socialist groups including the Socialist Party.
In The Socialist 17 July 2013:
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