Fighting council candidates to stand in over 60 local elections

Vote TUSC and build the resistance to the cost-of-living crisis

On 5 May, voters will head to the polls in local council elections with the opportunity to express their anger at the Tory cost-of-living crisis. For those fed up with the rich getting richer at our expense, Keir Starmer’s Tony Blair-style New Labour is no alternative – most of Labour’s councillors have been carrying out Tory cuts for decades when in power.

Working-class people need a fighting political alternative. That’s why the Socialist Party is standing candidates, alongside other trade unionists and community campaigners, as part of the over 200-strong Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stand in May’s elections.

TUSC national chairperson, and Socialist Party member, Dave Nellist says:

“Faced with the biggest drop in living standards in sixty years, it’s more than time for a fightback – starting in the town hall.

Local authorities are responsible for over one-fifth of all public spending. The 125 Labour-led councils alone control budgets of at least £82 billion. On top of that, they have usable reserves of just under £20 billion, and borrowing capacities that could boost their spending power.

That’s why it’s completely wrong of the BBC, in their preview of this year’s local elections, to say that the cost of living is ‘not something councils have real control over’. There really is no excuse for Labour councils, in particular, not to act now to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis.

They could, for example, introduce tomorrow free school meals and breakfast clubs for every pupil, including during school holidays, which would immediately help family budgets. They could reinstate childcare provision in SureStart early years centres, and reopen the hundreds of centres closed since 2010, to reverse rising childcare costs.

Local authorities could freeze council home rents and, at the same time, through their powers to compulsorily register landlords, combat rising rents – and energy-guzzling poor home insulation – in the private sector.

Rishi Sunak’s miserly increase to the Household Support Fund in the Spring Statement was pitifully inadequate, but there’s nothing stopping councils from topping it up themselves to meet real local needs. The list goes on. Councils are not powerless – if there were councillors prepared to fight.

But it is clear that Sir Keir Starmer’s Tony Blair-style New Labour is not prepared to take on the vested interests of the capitalist establishment as they seek to pass the costs of the Covid crisis and now the war in Ukraine onto the working and middle classes.

When the Tories say they ‘can’t interfere in commercial decisions’, as the energy corporations rip us off or P&O brutally sacks 800 workers, where is the call from the Labour frontbench for nationalisation as the lever to take back control from the CEOs and wealthy shareholders?

But locally too, Starmer’s Labour councillors provide feeble ‘opposition’. That’s when they aren’t enthusiastically implementing Tory policies – such as in Coventry where the Labour council has spent around £3 million so far to try and defeat its Unite-organised bin drivers rather than the £300,000 it would cost to settle the dispute.

The scale of the TUSC challenge in May’s local elections is modest compared to what could have been achieved, and what will hopefully be achieved in the future, with the potential for thousands of anti-austerity trade unionists standing if the unions were to organise a national drive for candidates.

But nonetheless it is still an impressive list of trade unionists: headed by the senior assistant general secretary of the RMT transport workers’ union and national executive members from UNISON, the National Education Union and NAPO; of former Labour councillors and council candidates now standing for TUSC; and of individual members of the component organisations of our coalition. All of them pledged to vote against cuts, closures, privatisation and other austerity politics in the town halls. “At the very least, in over 60 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, the local representatives of Starmer’s Labour will know that they will have to look over their left shoulder as they consider carrying out Tory-lite policies in the council chamber”.