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Wales TUC passes motion for no-cuts council budgets
This afternoon, a composited motion (copy below) calling on Welsh councils to set legal no-cuts budgets was passed unanimously at Wales TUC.
Moving the motion on behalf of Llanelli Trades Council, Socialist Party member Mark Evans pointed out that thousands of jobs have already been lost in Welsh councils but that austerity is projected to go on in Wales until at least 2025.
"I'll let you into a secret", Mark confided, "there won't be any council services left in 2025". That is, if Welsh councils continue to pass on Tory cuts as they have done. Speaker after speaker drew attention to the fact that the majority of those jobs have been lost in councils that are led by parties - Labour and Plaid Cymru - which claim to be anti-austerity.
It's time for those councils and councillors who claim to be anti-austerity to act on their fine words.
In passing this motion, the Wales TUC gives its backing to the only strategy that can save council jobs and services in Wales - refusing to make Tory cuts. Wales TUC now calls for councils to use legal measures such as prudent borrowing, use of reserves and capitalisation to stop the council cuts in Wales and set no-cuts budgets.
Wales TUC Conference / Cynhadledd TUC Cymru 2016
Composite E - Local Government Finance
The TUC 'Economic Quarterly' in February reported that 30,000 public sector jobs have been lost in Wales since 2010.
Many of these public sector job losses have taken place in Welsh councils. Thousands more local government workers will lose their jobs or see them outsourced if Welsh councils continue to vote for cuts on the current scale.
The Tories wish on behalf of their rich friends to dismantle, destroy or outsource local government services.
It is not inconceivable that shortly the only services that LA's will be able to run from their budgets are statutory services.
We are systematically losing our leisure, sports, arts and community provision. Services such as Citizens Advice and other charities who relied on core funding from local authorities to draw down match funding from other sources will disappear, leaving the most vulnerable, poor and disabled with no services.
Wales is already a poor country in comparison to other areas within the UK and has more areas qualifying for European funding in West Wales and the Valleys than any other part of Britain.
We cannot allow the Tories to turn Wales into a public sector desert. But many of these job losses and much of the outsourcing in Wales takes place in councils led by parties that claim to be 'anti-austerity'.
Unfortunately the Labour Welsh Assembly Government has meekly passed on these devastating cuts and to date local authorities have passively implemented cuts that will seriously impact on the well-being of communities across Wales.
The new administration in Cardiff Bay must now stand up to Westminster and demand a better deal for its citizens.
It must revisit its provisional settlements to local authorities and fund them properly because if action is not taken now straight after the election, Westminster will see them as weak and treat Wales with further contempt over coming years.
Recently the way to fight back was shown by both Unite Local Government Committee and Unison Local Government Service Group Executive who have voted to call on such councils, including those led by Labour or Plaid Cymru, to set legal no-cuts budgets.
A no cuts budget is a legal and prudent budget that uses reserves, borrowing, capitalisation, etc to prevent cuts.
While this is not a permanent solution, it buys time for councils to build a campaign of mass resistance with other councils, the Wales TUC, anti-cuts campaigners and local communities.
1. Calls upon the Wales TUC General Council to enter into negotiations with the newly-elected Welsh Government immediately on behalf of employees of local authorities to revisit the funding of local authorities and to impress upon them the need to enter into negotiations immediately with the Westminster Government to find a fairer way to fund Wales than the Barnett Formula which is woefully in adequate;
2. Instructs the Wales TUC General Council to publicly state our conviction that council cuts and outsourcing in Wales can be halted if councils take measures including using reserves, capitalising eligible general fund expenditure and prudential borrowing to generate resources;
3. Calls on councils of all parties in Wales that claim to be against austerity to set legal no-cuts budgets, utilising the measures outlines in point 2 above;
4. Pledges support for councillors prepared to vote for this position;
5. Recognises that this can only buy time to build a mass campaign, uniting trade unionists and service users in defence of council jobs and services and therefore instructs the Wales TUC General Council to take steps to build that campaign, including calling an all-Wales demonstration against council cuts and outsourcing.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 25 May 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.