Mass struggle needed to defeat council cuts
North London Socialist Party
With only days to go before the setting of its first budget, Councillor Pat Berryman, the finance chief of Haringey’s so-called ‘Corbyn council’, has resigned from the cabinet. Coming after the sacking of two cabinet members at the start of the year, this resignation deepens the crisis in Haringey’s Momentum-led council.
In his resignation letter, Pat Berryman criticises the lack of democracy in the council’s Labour group, the watering down and ignoring of manifesto pledges, as well as decisions being made without proper consultation and process.
The Labour Party membership has no control or oversight of decisions made by the council Labour group. The group’s confidentiality rules mean that there is not even proper reporting of decisions to the rank and file, with rival Labour councillors accusing one another of advocating cuts.
Berryman had been a prominent opponent of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) ‘regeneration’ plan proposed by the council’s previous right-wing Claire Kober regime.
This social cleansing scheme was defeated by a movement both inside and outside of the Labour Party, which saw the deselection of most of the right-wing Labour councillors who supported the HDV.
In May, a Corbyn-supporting council was elected. It cancelled the HDV and instituted a 100% council tax rebate for residents on the lowest tax band. But the council is faced with a massive budget deficit due to cuts in central government funding amounting to over £140 million per year.
The Socialist Party advocates the council use its reserves and borrowing powers in order to avoid making further cuts. This would allow time to build a mass campaign based on the workforce, local labour movement and wider community, fighting to force the government to return these funds and provide the resources that the borough needs.
After the initially proposed cuts in social welfare provoked massive opposition in the local Labour Party’s ranks, the council leadership has agreed to use some reserves this year.
But there has been no hint of building a local campaign for increased government funding. And without such a campaign the council will eventually either run out of money, or become a transmission belt for Tory cuts.
Neither the council nor the local Labour Party have produced a single leaflet or called a single public meeting on fighting the cuts. And the line put forward by the official council publications – of managing the cuts as well as possibly using “creative solutions” has not changed since the Blairites ran the council.
In order to defend jobs and services, it is not sufficient to have well-meaning councillors appointed to the key posts. They need to be armed with a programme to mobilise the community in the struggle for the needed resources.
Haringey is seen as a laboratory for Corbynism in power. A future Corbyn government will need to overcome much bigger pressures if it is to end austerity, and deliver pro-working-class, socialist policies.
The labour movement in Haringey needs to urgently assert its authority on the ‘Corbyn council’, demanding an end to the secrecy of Labour group and council deliberations, and building a campaign to mobilise the community to demand the resources the borough needs.