Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour conference speech was greeted with predictable hostility by big business representatives like the CBI. But also by many councillors from Labour’s still powerful Blairite wing.
Councillors in Haringey, north London, for example, pushing through a ‘social cleansing’ redevelopment plan, immediately opposed the newly announced policy for tenants’ and leaseholders’ ballots before such schemes can go ahead.
So how many Labour councillors will back Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies? The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has launched a survey to find out.
During the autumn councils start drawing up next year’s spending plans, which are finally agreed at budget-setting meetings in February or March. This includes public consultation events and discussions with the council workers’ trade unions.
This is certainly a time to bring into the debate the TUSC policy of ‘no-cuts people’s budgets’ – of councils using their reserves and borrowing powers to set budgets that don’t pass on Tory cuts and using the breathing space provided to demand that central government makes up future shortfalls.
There are 124 Labour-led councils and their combined spending power is greater than the state budgets of 16 EU countries! If they declared that they will set no-cuts budgets next year – in the expectation that they would be reimbursed by a future Labour government – what could the Tories do? Councillors could play their part in forcing May’s government out of office – but will they?
The TUSC questionnaire asks local groups to find out the main outlines of their council Labour group’s initial proposals for the 2018-19 budget and, if there are elections next year, when will the local party’s council election manifesto be agreed? And where candidates have been selected, have right-wing Blairites been replaced?
Gathering this information will help TUSC decide how best it can act to build support for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies into the new year.