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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 January 2014

Brighton Green Party referendum offers no alternative to cuts

Paul Moorhouse, Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

Brighton and Hove's Green Party leader Jason Kitcat wants to follow up last year's attack on the city's bin workers' wages with further cuts in the council's 2014-15 budget.

If successful, this would mean that his administration, elected on a mandate to 'resist austerity', has cut 50 million from jobs and services in the city in three years.

There is no question that the primary responsibility for cuts in local government services lies with the Con-Dem government's austerity programme.

The proposal by the Greens to increase council tax by 4.75%, however, is no defence in the face of this attack.

This tax increase would raise 2.75 million more than December's draft budget. But that budget proposed 22.56 million in spending cuts threatening the jobs of 100-150 council workers.

In other words the Green administration would be asking the voters of Brighton to swallow a rise of almost 5% in their council tax bills as the price for still accepting nine tenths of the cuts in jobs and services demanded by Pickles and the Con-Dem government.

These would come on top of 30 million worth of Tory cuts which the Green Party has passed on to workers and service users in the city since coming to power in 2011.

Not surprisingly the Tory local government minister Brandon Lewis MP fully supports the Greens' move.

This shows that it is not the case, as Green Party national leader Natalie Bennett has claimed, that: "Instead of letting Whitehall impose cuts on vulnerable people in Brighton and Hove, this announcement takes the decision to the people."

By playing along with the spending limits imposed by Pickles and the millionaire Eton boot boys in the Con-Dem cabinet, Brighton's Green Party is ensuring that the only possible outcome of the referendum is either:

In other words, whatever Natalie Bennett and Jason Kitcat claim, either way, the referendum can only lead to "Whitehall imposing cuts on vulnerable people in Brighton and Hove."

The referendum would also be a highly divisive exercise in 'divide and rule': pitting 'council tax payers', against 'council workers' and 'service users' when the reality is that resisting the cuts requires that we stand united (indeed, most often we are the same people, anyway!).

If we accept the Greens' 'dented shield' analysis, which says that nine-tenths of the cuts are inevitable, we will end up engaging in a vicious 'race to the bottom'.

This would pit 'education' against 'housing' and children's services against services for older people and the disabled in a struggle to become the lucky 'one in ten' to escape Councillor Kitcat's axe. Instead we should be standing together and resisting ALL CUTS.

Brighton's Labour councillors are proposing a 'vote of no confidence' in the Green administration. Not because they oppose the cuts but because they want to carry out more cuts! Labour want an 'all party administration' to implement the Con-Dem coalition's cuts in full for 2014-15, and for 2015-16. This would inevitably lead to even more losses in jobs and services.

Second question

Socialists should argue for a second question in the referendum asking the electorate in Brighton if they would rather the council defied the government and refused to implement the cuts, instead of choosing between tax increases and slightly smaller cuts or cuts alone.

Imagine if our councillors explained that adequate funding for Brighton's schools, bins and recycling (which are still reeling from the 'settlement' of last year's strike and the botched 'reorganisation' forced through by Kitcat and senior managers), housing and care services should have priority over the governments' pro-super rich austerity agenda.

In this way, councillors could build a mass movement of resistance and unite council workers, services users and Brighton's communities to force Pickles to return the money stolen from our city.

Today there is an alternative, which the Socialist Party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Brighton Trades Council and Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition have urged on the Green administration since it was first elected.

Brighton and Hove Council should set a 'needs budget' and link up with the trade unions to campaign for central government to return the 70 million plus which has been cut from central government allocations to the city since 2010.

This was what the socialist-led council did in Liverpool in the 1980s. Not only did they force the Thatcher government to increase funding for services but they expanded the council's workforce at a time of rising unemployment and built 5,000 new council houses (more than were built by councils in the whole of the rest of England and Wales in the same period).

Why not put that idea to a referendum vote?

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In The Socialist 29 January 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Recovery? More Tory Lies!

Brighton Green referendum offers no alternative to cuts

Landlords, the real beneficiaries of benefits street

Them and Us


International socialist news and analysis

Davos: World capitalism means increased inequality

New mineworkers' strikes in South Africa


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

We need councillors who stand up for us

Plymouth TUSC plans for 2014 elections


Stop London Underground cuts

Support the tube workers' strikes

Determined strikes can stop London Underground in its tracks


Socialist Party workplace news

University workers continue strike action over pay

Land Registry threatened with sell-off

PCS leadership elections

NUT activists meet to push for action

NSSN launched in south of England

Workplace news in brief


The Socialist readers' comments

Debate on the environment

A waste of a Friday evening


Fight all cuts!

Derbyshire: 'Old Labour' cuts hurt just as much

Carmarthenshire council rats

Spelthorne residents demand fire cuts are stopped

Leeds Labour breaks bedroom tax promise


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Bakers union launches fast food rights campaign

Socialist Party Northern region conference


 

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