Councils have a choice: no cuts to jobs or services

Councillor Kevin Bennett, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Warrington Borough Council

Councillors in local government do have the power to resist the government cuts. The notion that ‘there is nothing else we can do’ is wrong.

Labour councils around the country are passing their budgets for 2015-16. But they seem to have forgotten their supposed core values: to protect jobs, services, housing and other amenities for workers and residents.

Councils have the legal and financial powers to delay cuts by drawing on reserves, using borrowing powers, and working with tenants and trade unions to avoid evictions and privatisation. This can all be done within the law and cannot be overruled by central government.

None of these policies mean setting a deficit budget, though that in itself is not necessarily illegal.


It’s true that some smaller councils don’t have large reserves, but the bigger ones do. The combined reserves Labour councils are holding are enough to set no-cuts budgets in them all.

Funding for local councils will have dropped this year by 37% in real terms compared to 2010. But English councils still control budgets totalling £114 billion pounds, over one fifth of all public spending. They have responsibility for adult social care, housing, education support, transport, recycling and rubbish collection, libraries and other services.

That’s a powerful position from which to organise a fightback.

What is to stop Labour councils coming together, pooling reserves and using prudential borrowing powers? Collectively they could refuse to implement a single further cut, creating space to organise a mass campaign to win the necessary funding back from central government.