Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1080/30513
Councils must use resources now for emergency response to Covid-19
The following is an edited letter sent by Southampton Socialist Party to the Labour leader of Southampton City Council. We have had a reply to say he is in the process of discussing our proposal with the council officers.
Our experience tells us that senior council officers are likely to enforce the rules in favour of the Tories and the bosses. But this crisis has shown that these so-called rules are not worth the paper they are written on.
We will keep up the pressure. Labour councils need to use all of the resources at their disposal now to save workers, not the capitalist system.
The devastating impact of coronavirus is exposing the impact that austerity has had on all of our public services, and particularly the NHS. It also reveals that the number-one concern for Boris Johnson and the Tory government is looking after the bosses' profits as they face an economic crisis bigger even than that of 2007-08.
We need to fight for policies that put the health and livelihood of workers first. Our local councils could have a role to play in using all of the resources at their disposal to organise the response locally.
In Southampton, the Labour-run council has huge spending power, and the capacity to borrow much more. It currently plans to borrow £200 million to develop a private property portfolio and build offices.
A council-led campaign, with the support of the trade unions, must be launched for the government to back up council funding. If Southampton leads the way, this could be taken up in other areas around the country.
Southampton Council should:
- Establish an emergency fund, potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds, using borrowing powers and existing reserves. This should be spent with the oversight of workers and their trade unions
- Demand that all employers in the city pay workers full wages when sick or self-isolating
- Launch a campaign for recruitment to the trade unions for workers to hold their employers to account, for full pay, full protective equipment, and healthy practices at work
- Demand that the city's landlords give 'rent holidays', writing off rent payments, to tenants who need it; stop collecting council rents where necessary; and ensure no evictions in the city
- Stop collecting council tax from those unable to pay due to coronavirus
- Requisition empty homes to house the homeless and those escaping domestic abuse
- Take control of private health and social care facilities in the city for the planned use of anyone who needs it
- Give financial backing to schools providing vital care for children, as well as delivering free school meals for children and others in the community that are in need
- Stop all council budget cuts, and demand full funding from the government
In The Socialist 31 March 2020:
World War Two
What we think
Food supply and the coronavirus crisis