Leeds sets up people’s budget campaign

Iain Dalton, Youth Fight for Jobs Yorkshire

Anti-cuts activists have established the Leeds People’s Budget Campaign to present a no-cuts amendment to next year’s council budget.

Campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs and the local Community branch of general union Unite hosted the launch conference on 20 February. It brought together campaigners including those fighting fire service cuts, the bedroom tax, and cuts to English as a second or other language (Esol) classes.

In the council’s last statement of finances, Leeds’ usable reserves stood at over £390 million, an increase of £65 million in the last year. Why not use this to delay cuts and build a campaign?

An Esol campaigner pointed out their campaigning had stopped further funding cuts.

Several council workers commented on their efforts to discuss no-cuts budgets in their union branch. One remarked that although the figures for reserves are printed in black and white in the council’s own documents, they were referred to as “fanciful” in branch discussions!

Undoubtedly, five years of council unions nationally failing to take a lead in fighting austerity has ground down activists throughout the union. Not responding to redundancies or attacks on pay and conditions is to “negate the whole purpose of a trade union”.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has lobbied the council over establishing a not-for-profit letting agency to tackle rip-off landlords and estate agents. The council is now watering this down to what it calls an “ethical lettings agency” which would only cover some landlords. But it does show that, under pressure, councils can intervene on housing.