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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 November 2021

Local government cuts set to continue - we need councillors prepared to fight

Trade unionists in Carmarthenshire lobbying their Labour council for a no-cuts budget in 2014, photo Scott Jones

Trade unionists in Carmarthenshire lobbying their Labour council for a no-cuts budget in 2014, photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Walsh, Liverpool Socialist Party

There will be more cuts to essential local government services next year despite the government's smoke-and-mirror claims that more resources have been made available, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicts. Unless a fightback is organised, there will be even more cuts to vital local services like social care, public health and youth services as well as many more job losses. And these cuts come on top of the devastating 60% cut to local authority budgets since the 2008 financial crisis.

Among other spending announcements, Sunak promised a 4.8 billion increase in central grant funding for local government across the next three years, a long way short of the 10 billion extra the IFS estimates councils need to maintain existing service levels. In April this year, many faced council tax rises of up to 5%, these increases are set to continue at an estimated 2.8% a year.

Inflation

With inflation expected to rise towards 5%, Sunak's promises are set to be wiped out by increased costs for councils. A similar inflation squeeze will face other departments too, as it will workers.

Also included in Sunak's budget was an end to the public sector pay freeze in April next year. But the fight is on now to win an above-inflation pay rise for council workers. Members of Unison, Unite and GMB unions in local authorities have all voted to reject the current 1.75% pay offer to staff in England. Unions will now ballot members for strike action and together call for a 10% pay rise. Even this would only go part way towards restoring pay lost over a decade of austerity pay freezes.

It is vital that this campaign, and other campaigns for public sector pay rises, are linked to the need for a genuine real-terms increase in funding. Labour MPs and councillors cry crocodile tears and say there's nothing they can do. But in reality there's nothing they want to do.

In 2018-19, 125 Labour-led councils held over 9 billion in 'general fund reserves'. This money should be spent to meet the needs of the communities they are supposed to represent, as part of building support in those communities to demand the money back from the government.

Currently local authority unions all give financial backing and political support to Labour councillors who have carried out cuts. I was a delegate to the Unite policy conference last month. Socialist Party members made tremendous interventions calling for Unite to use its resources to back socialist candidates who are willing to lead a fightback and resist austerity. Unite is now committed to "adopt a policy calling on Labour councils to set legal, balanced, no-cuts needs-based budgets".

In previous conferences these arguments have been challenged by those defending the Labour link, but this year was different, as if even the most fervent Labour Party apologists had run out of arguments.

The Socialist Party, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), is organising dozens of People's Budget events across the country, setting out the needs of our communities, and raising the necessity for councillors who will fight for them.

Unite policy conference resolutions that Socialist Party members moved and supported have taken us a step closer to branches having the freedom to support socialist candidates outside of Labour, who will fight in the interests of Unite members and our communities. Candidates like Anne Walsh and Roger Bannister standing in Liverpool City Council by elections as part of TUSC on 18 November.


See also:

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In The Socialist 3 November 2021:


COP26

Socialist change to end climate change

Fight for socialism to end climate destruction

COP26 begins - workers strike for pay

COP26 News in brief


Campaigns news

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Fund the fight for a socialist world

Sheffield students tirelessly campaigning for socialist change

Hackney children's centres: Campaigners see through council deception

East London gentrification plans exposed


News

Fight for a real wage rise for all

Local government cuts set to continue - we need councillors prepared to fight

Race to top for bankers

Fight for a 15-an-hour minimum wage and an end to youth rates

Water companies put profits before protecting our environment

Tories threaten arts students: we are prepared to fight back!

Tory Universal Credit crumbs no solution to cost of living crisis

Tory plans won't fix social care

Pay freeze lifted for civil servants - prepare now for the struggle for a decent rise


Workplace news

NEU: Strategy needed to bring members together to take national action

Oaks Park school strike spurred on by head's lies

Scunthorpe scaffs strike into fifth week

Unite leaflets supermarkets to build support for Weetabix fire and rehire strike

Plant engineers pay dispute


Fighting sexism

Sexism, safety and the profit system


International news

Sudan - mass protests and general strike against coup

Chile: International solidarity campaign to free political prisoners

Vaccine inequality - the ugly face of capitalism

Hunger strike in Calais for refugee rights

Protests against Sudan coup reach Britain


 

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Related links:

Local government:

trianglePublic spending under further threat from Tories

triangleFight to defend homelessness services

triangleUnison LG members reject insulting pay offer

triangleCarmarthenshire: Fighting for trade union recognition at council-owned company

triangleSocialist Party to the fore at Unison LG conference

Government:

triangleSlough: Adult service cuts will leave vulnerable homeless

triangleSudan: "Hamdok has sold the revolution!"

triangleWorking class strangled by price rises and pay cuts

triangleHS2 eastern route cancelled: Fight for a workers' plan for public transport

Cuts:

triangleNorthampton: Phoney consultation to mask cuts

triangleWest Sussex: Payouts for council bosses, cuts for us

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triangleTV review - Grenfell: The Untold Story

Socialist:

triangleWhat did you think of Socialism 2021?

Labour:

triangleNewham: Durning Hall - another shameful act of Labour gentrification

Pay:

triangleSupport uni workers' walk-out on pay and pensions

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