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Unite the Union local government committee votes for no-cuts budgets
Council cuts can be fought
Paul Kershaw, Chair of Unite branch LE1111
The national committee for local government (Nisc) of Unite the Union has called on Labour councils to set 'no-cuts' budgets. This is an important development, building on Unite's long standing opposition to all cuts.
Responding to Osborne's spending plans last autumn, even the Tory chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, denounced Osborne's attack: "If councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children's centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light", he complained, they will still "not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020".
The motion passed by the Nisc says that its position will now be:
- To call on Labour councils to set legal no-cuts budgets, use reserves, capitalise eligible general fund expenditure and borrow prudentially to generate resources so that no Labour council need make cuts. These are short term measures to buy time to build a national campaign
- That the financial measures must be combined with a national campaign, linking councils, trade unions and communities in a fight against the Tories' austerity programme
- To call on the union's political officers/department to prepare a strategy to take the points in this motion forward
58 Labour councils face elections in May, they hold around £4.5 billion in general fund reserves and another £1.36 billion in housing revenue account and capital receipt reserves and this does not include the vast reserves held by Labour-controlled councils in London (not facing election this year).
There is no legal impediment to them pooling reserves to ensure they can all set no-cuts budgets. Many authorities planning to implement vicious cuts this year have sufficient reserves to avoid cuts individually - cutting is a political choice.
Such is the depth of planned cuts that even a Tory/Independent coalition administration in Stoke on Trent is using £15.5 million of reserves to stop further cuts in 2016-17. Although they are, of course, not likely to build a campaign against Tory cuts!
Ironically the previous Labour administration had claimed that this was not possible and instead forced through £150 million in cuts.
The enormous support for Jeremy Corbyn's election campaign and the growth in Labour's membership since then show the potential for a campaigning, anti-austerity Labour Party. We would encourage Labour councillors to protect services and build on the new support that the party has attracted.
- This article is an edited version of one from the Unite housing workers' branch website
In The Socialist 20 January 2016:
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