Leeds Labour ‘anti-austerity’ meeting: jam tomorrow

Tanis Belsham-Wray, Leeds Socialist Party

Leeds Labour Party’s “Fighting Austerity, Investment Not Cuts” meeting on 18 February seemed quite positive. Until the question of ‘people’s budgets’ came out.

Over 50 residents and Labour activists attended the Chapel Allerton ward public event. Fabian Hamilton, the local MP, condemned what are apparently 60% cuts to Leeds City Council’s funding.

He spoke about building 250,000 council homes as well as investment in transport and education. It was also a breath of fresh air to hear an MP speak against Trident and call for a clampdown on pro-nuke MPs such as Hilary Benn.

We questioned if Labour councillors could explore setting a no-cuts budget, or even look at starting to build council housing before 2020. The answer was a straight no. Hamilton repeated the falsehood that to do so is against the law, and that we can do nothing at all about it.

I thought I was going to a meeting on fighting austerity now. But just as it was before the last general election, we heard the same old argument of waiting until 2020.

Labour needs a real fighting strategy, not just “wait for the elections”. It needs to stand up against the Tories, build up local anti-cuts groups, start refusing to implement the cuts and mobilise people behind a campaign to win the money back. This would exert real pressure on the Tories to concede extra funding.

I have been stuck with austerity, low wages and poor job prospects since I was 17. I don’t want to wait until I’m 27 just to be let down yet again.