Socialist Party documents

Socialist Party Election Manifesto 2012

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For councils that fight the cuts!

New Labour, Plaid Cymru and Green councils say that have 'no choice' but to implement the cuts - but that just isn't true. If any council was to stop acting as collaborators with the Tory axe wielders, and instead want to stand up and fight, they would discover there were a thousand ways to defy the cuts: To name a few, councils could:

  • Stop homelessness rocketing by refusing to evict council tenants who fall into arrears because of housing benefit cuts. They could also use their legal powers to threaten compulsory purchase orders against big landlords who evict tenants suffering from housing benefit cuts.
  • Halt the destruction of state education by using councils 'schools monitoring powers' to build a campaign against academies and free schools by organising, for example, parents' ballots on the issue.
  • Stop 16+17 year olds being thrown out of education by continuing to pay EMA to local students, as some councils have done. Any council which continued to pay it would win the support of a whole generation.

Set a 'needs budget'

All of these measures, and many more, could be carried out by using councils' legal powers. However, legal powers alone would not be enough.

In order to stop cuts councils need to set budgets that do not include any cuts in jobs and services.

Setting a 'needs budget' means a budget based on the needs of the local population, not the constraints of central government.

We are told that doing this - following the example of Poplar in the 1920s, or of Liverpool and Lambeth in the 1980s - is 'impossible' and will inevitably lead to defeat.

But the real history is different. Poplar council won a campaign to equalise the rates across London and were able to introduce a programme of financial assistance for the poor, equal pay for women and a minimum wage for council workers.

In the 1980s Liverpool City Council, in which Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) played a leading role, forced Thatcher to hand over an extra 60 million to Liverpool - which was used to build 5,000 council houses (more than were built nationally the whole time New Labour was in office!), plus new leisure centres and nurseries and to create tens of thousands of jobs.

Today the lie is being spread that was only able to implement its programme by borrowing huge sums of money, leaving the city in catastrophic debt.

This is completely untrue - in the final stages of the struggle the government vindictively cut off the council's funding, forcing them to borrow - but even so, when the four year struggle came to an end, the debts of Liverpool City Council were only around average per head of population for councils at the time.

Liverpool's inspiring struggle was conducted in the teeth of massive opposition - not only from the Tories, but sadly from the right-wing leadership of Labour.

If other Labour councils had followed the Liverpool and Lambeth road Thatcher would have been finished.

Liverpool's councillors were only able to be removed and surcharged, following a four year struggle, after the betrayal of Labour leader Neil Kinnock and Co.

Lessons of Liverpool, Lambeth and Poplar for today

Today councillors can no longer be surcharged unless they are found guilty of financial crime for personal gain.

But it is still true that any council that refused to carry out cuts or introduce hikes in council tax would - at a certain stage - come into conflict with the legal system.

However, such a council would also be enormously popular. Trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners would be able to mobilise tens of thousands in support of such a stand.

In these circumstances - as in Liverpool - it would be very difficult for the law to be used against such councils.

Most councils have time to prepare before taking this road, however. By using their reserves and borrowing powers to avoid making cuts, councils could gain time to build a mass movement in their support.

Can even a few TUSC representatives make a difference?

Many workers who are considering voting TUSC this year may ask if it is worthwhile to do so, given that TUSC is a new force.

But even one or two fighting councillors, or members of the Greater London Assembly, can make a difference by using their position as democratically elected local representatives to give confidence to and help organise community campaigns and trade unionists to fight.

TUSC councillors would pledge to oppose all cuts in council jobs, services, pay and conditions. We will campaign against the idea that 'some cuts' are necessary.

We would refuse to allow divisions between council staff, service users and communities, which are inevitable unless we oppose all cuts.

TUSC councillors would vote against privatisation of council services, or the transfer of services to 'social enterprises' or 'arm's-length' management organisations.

TUSC councillors would seek to use all the legal powers open to councillors to delay or obstruct government policies which lead to cuts or the transfer of public services to private bodies.

For example, councils could refer local NHS decisions for further scrutiny. They could initiate referenda, public consultations (for example of parents over the creation of divisive academy schools) and commissions as part of a wider campaign.

In Ireland the sister section of the Socialist Party has two members of parliament (TDs) Joe Higgins and Clare Daley.

Both have been able to play a major role in building the current mass non payment campaign of the household tax - part of the Irish government's attempt to make the 99% pay for the economic crisis.

So far only 20% of eligible people have signed up to pay the tax. TUSC supporters will work with every anti-cuts campaign, and fight the implementation of the cuts agenda, library by library, swimming pool by swimming pool, youth club by youth club.

It's one thing to pass a budget, it's another to implement it! TUSC elected representatives can help by acting as a voice for the anti-cuts movement.

And out of many such campaigns will emerge new TUSC candidates to challenge the capitalist parties in future elections.

Campaigners in many towns successfully challenged the main parties over issues such as PFI hospitals and the closure of comprehensive schools in favour of academy schools in England.

In Coventry, Lewisham, Huddersfield, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Kidderminster, Barrow in Furness, Preston, Wigan, Walsall, and Wellingborough independents, socialists and trade unionists have captured seats.

These small but significant victories show the possibilities of a wider challenge. And whilst TUSC's initial results may be modest, they represent the beginning of building a clear pro-working class, anti-cuts political voice.

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