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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 February 2019

Leeds Trade Union Council presents a no-cuts alternative budget for city

Leeds TUC delegates presenting the alternative budget, 12.2.19, photo by Iain Dalton

Leeds TUC delegates presenting the alternative budget, 12.2.19, photo by Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

The anti-austerity committee of Leeds Trade Union Council (TUC) - which brings together the city's unions - presented its alternative city budget at a special public meeting on 12 February.

If adopted, this budget would use reserves and borrowing to reverse all the Labour-run local authority's cuts to jobs and services, as well as reversing this year's fee and rent increases.

In contrast, this is the ninth cuts budget in a row proposed by Leeds Labour. For the last year, Leeds City Council has received no 'revenue support grant', part of £266 million cuts from central government.

But the council has not led any serious fight for the return of this stolen funding. It has instead passed on Tory cuts. Meanwhile it has sought partial replacement though local business tax growth from city centre development, trialling 100% business rate retention.

Even the council's own proposals admit that any "apparent growth in the economy has not translated into business rate growth; in fact the income from business rates available to the council declined from 2014-15 to 2016-17, only returning to 2014-15 levels in 2018-19."

With a £90.8 million projected budget gap up to 2021-22, the council will consider "stopping, delivering differently or charging for those services that are no longer affordable."

Leeds City Council is already spending reserves to support its budget, such as 'un-earmarking' the 'Early Leavers' Initiative' reserve, and making temporary use of the 'Section 106' money developers must pay. But this year it is actually putting an extra £4.5 million into reserves, following a large portion of a £7.3 million VAT rebate last year!

Leeds TUC identified £6.63 million of cuts to jobs and services, and increases to rents and fees, in this year's budget. This is out of a larger budget gap partially plugged by reserves, as well as cost-saving capital investments like upgrading to LED street lamps.

Important among the council's attacks is an inflation-busting 4.3% rent hike for tenants of council homes built on profit-sucking 'private finance initiative' schemes - while other council tenants receive 1% rent cuts. The council is also pushing for 'efficiencies' in various departments, including leisure and libraries.

As well as scrapping these attacks, Leeds TUC's alternative budget proposes additional spending. This includes reversing the £230,000 cuts to domestic violence services fought by the Women's Lives Matter campaign.

The alternative budget incorporates demands from the Leeds Labour Representation Committee, a Labour left group, like ending the use of bailiffs to chase council tax arrears. And it calls for the council to pay outsourced workers the same as in-house workers, as demanded by the Leeds branch of public service union Unison.

But the key to the alternative budget is not simply passing on no cuts this year, but mobilising trade unions and community campaigns to demand the return of all funding stolen from our city. We also demand that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pledge an incoming Labour government will reimburse councils who use reserves and borrowing to set no-cuts budgets.

Leeds TUC lobby of Leeds City Council budget-setting meeting: Wednesday 27 February, 12 noon, outside Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 1UR

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In The Socialist 20 February 2019:


News

Nationalise Airbus and other manufacturing plants to save jobs now!

NHS crisis deepens: Workers' and community action can save our health service

What we heard

What we saw


Youth climate strikes

"There's no planet B": Thousands of youth strike against climate change - we need socialist change!

Youth strike for the climate reports: "There's no planet B"


Opinion

TV: Les Misérables - Hugo's novel and this adaptation both offer a message of hope

The Socialist Inbox


What we think

Eight Blairites split - Now kick out the rest


Workplace news

PCS Left Unity must unite on pay and elections

Universal Credit staff ballot for action

Annoyed?! I'm annoyed to be on poverty wages

Nationalise to save jobs at Honda!

Birmingham bin strike against 'blacklisting'

Deliveroo riders strike against exploitative pay and conditions

Leicester college pay strike goes on

Cardiff Uni: urgent action needed to stop job cuts

Hackney: Unite fights racism and victimisation

Harrowing accounts of austerity at Unison women's conference

Unite GLL pay campaign


International socialist news and analysis

Spanish state: social polarisation and budget defeat force snap election


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Unite union London council workers back Enfield Labour no-cuts call

Leeds TUC presents a no-cuts alternative budget

Socialist Students conference shows potential for fighting leadership

London housing campaigners disrupt auction

Birmingham Uni: Standing up to racism is not harassment!

Leicester Socialists stand against Blairite mayor

Lincoln students back UCU ballot

Leicestershire needs NHS beds

Claimants and union slam Universal Credit

Energy retail firm collapse hits Tyneside


World economy

New recession fear stalks the world economy


 

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