Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 September 2021

Save our services

Preparing for no-cuts People's Budgets

Socialist Party stall in Liverpool - campaigning for TUSC election candidates, 24.4.21, photo Mark Best

Socialist Party stall in Liverpool - campaigning for TUSC election candidates, 24.4.21, photo Mark Best   (Click to enlarge)

The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), alongside the RMT transport union and other organisations.

TUSC nationally is promoting the idea of local conferences to draw up no-cuts People's Budgets as part of its campaign against the post-Covid austerity that looms.

Below are extracts from TUSC's campaign material. It can be read in full at

What can councils do in the face of government cuts to funding for local public services? Actually, they can do a lot.

Councils in England are responsible for over one-fifth of all public spending, with responsibilities for housing, adult social care, education support, transport, recycling and waste collection, libraries and many other services. The 120 or so Labour-led councils have a combined spending power greater than the individual state budgets of 16 European countries. That's a powerful starting point from which to organise a fightback against relentless Tory austerity.

Covid has revealed both the drastic situation our local public services are in - with councils massively underfunded by central government - but also some of the many things local authorities have the power to do to improve our lives.

In the first lockdown, for example, councils acted against homelessness in their local areas through the 'Everybody In' scheme.

Many councils stepped in during autumn half-term to continue free school meals. But they could go so much further.

Most current councillors, however, including unfortunately the majority of Labour's 7,000 or so local representatives, would say they cannot use their legal authority to act without first getting funding from the government.

But that's the wrong way round. TUSC argues that councils should first spend what's needed - and then demand the money back from the government.

The multiple U-turns made by Johnson and his chancellor during the pandemic, spending billions when public pressure was on them, show that if just a handful of councils used the powers they have to refuse to implement any more cuts and spend what is necessary instead, the Tories could be made to pay up.

A glimpse of what is possible

Early in 2021 the TUSC steering committee published a report examining the policy pledges made in Labour's 2019 general election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, which councils have the legal powers to implement today if they had the political will to do so.

The report identifies 46 separate policies which councils could carry out immediately that would transform peoples' lives. Even just a selection of these policies could form the basis of a People's Budget to present to a local council.

But inviting local trade union branches, campaign groups, community organisations, student groups and others to contribute would undoubtedly come up with more ideas - and lay the basis for a campaign for the local council to implement them now, using their reserves and borrowing powers to temporarily finance them while launching a mass campaign locally and nationally for permanent funding from central government.

Here are some simple policies that any council could implement instantly.


Jobs, pay and conditions

Education and children

Health and social care


Youth facilities

Councils could reopen closed youth centres and restore lost youth services, starting now to put into place the foundations of a genuine national youth service, as Labour promised

Every council could stop the sell-off of playing fields and sports facilities to developers and private leisure companies, and invest in sports and recreation facilities and services

Empty high street shops, for example, could be taken over and transformed into sports facilities and spaces for all sections of society

Climate emergency

The myth that it is 'illegal to resist'

The right-wing Labour council leaders sabotaging the call for anti-austerity resistance do not justify themselves in the main by defending the consequences of the cuts, privatisations and other measures that they are implementing.

Instead their 'defence' is to say that there is no alternative, that introducing no-cuts budgets is 'illegal'. They even got a rule change agreed at Labour's 2016 conference that a backbench councillor supporting "any proposal to set an illegal budget" could "face disciplinary action".

Unlike in the US, a council in Britain cannot go bust in the same way as a private company can. A court could appoint a receiver if a council defaulted on its liabilities, but it would not be the equivalent of a private sector bankruptcy in which a company is wound up (and creditors risk losing their money). Because only an act of parliament can dissolve a local authority, council finances are implicitly underpinned by central government.

To maintain some control by central government of council finances, local authorities are legally required to set a 'balanced budget' each year before they can issue council tax bills, set service charges, etc. If a council meeting was to deliberately approve an 'unbalanced budget', the council chief finance officer would serve a Section 114 notice to block council departments from non-statutory expenditure and prevent the issuing of council tax bills.

That is why TUSC does not advocate presenting deliberately 'unbalanced budgets' to council budget-making meetings or using the meetings to not set a budget at all, which would precipitate an immediate legal conflict.

But presenting a no-cuts budget that is formally 'balanced' by the use of prudential borrowing powers and reserves, to buy time to build a mass campaign for government funding while still maintaining the functioning of the council, is a different matter. This is the strategy that has been pioneered by TUSC.

What steps can groups take?

Local TUSC groups should look to meet and lay out plans to host a People's Budget conference before the end of 2021, to draw together the local set of demands and campaign issues to take to the council ahead of their 2022-23 budget-setting meeting, which will take place in January or February 2022.

After deciding on a date for the People's Budget conference, a plan of action should be discussed and drawn up to build for it, by contacting trade union branches, campaign groups, community groups, residents associations and so on to take part - co-hosting if they wish - but certainly inviting them to contribute with their ideas and proposals for what is needed in the local area.

Drawing up a local People's Budget can sound daunting - but it doesn't have to be. Getting across the idea that council budgets should start from what local communities need - not what central government austerity policies demand - can begin with just one local campaign.

And election planning too

People's Budget campaigns can play an important role everywhere in organising a local fightback to the efforts the pro-capitalist politicians will make to pass the costs of the Covid pandemic onto the shoulders of working-class people. But in areas with local council elections next year, they could be central in laying the foundations to pull together the broadest possible anti-austerity electoral challenge - a powerful means of building the pressure on austerity establishment politicians.

But that means election planning too, appealing for candidates early on, getting an election agent (or agents) in place, and so on.

Liverpool socialist council showed the way

From 1983 to 1987 Liverpool City Council was led by supporters of Militant - predecessor to the Socialist Party. When faced with cuts from central government, they refused to pass them on. Instead, with the slogan "better to break the law than break the poor", they made huge advances for working-class people in Liverpool, defeating Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and winning 60 million for the city.

While other councils were implementing cuts, Liverpool council built 5,000 houses and flats - gardens back and front in many cases. It cancelled all cuts and redundancies planned by the outgoing council, built six new nursery schools and five new sports centres, three new parks, and rents were frozen for five years. 2,000 additional jobs were provided for in the Liverpool City Council budget.

This was made possible by mobilising tens of thousands of local people on demonstrations. On three occasions the Joint Local Authority Shop Stewards Committee organised 30,000 council workers in strike action to defend the policies of the council.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 29 September 2021:

What we think

Starmer consolidates post-Corbyn Blairite transformation of Labour


German election: A change of capitalist government, but disaster for Die Linke

People's budgets

Save our services


End profit-fuelled crisis

NHS workers reject 3% pay insult

Driver shortages - a view from the inside

News in brief

Black history month

Black history month and its relevance today

Climate change

CWI livestream rally report

Workplace news

NEU deputy general secretary election

Corby and Burton Latimer Weetabix engineers strike

Fightback to save Birmingham GKN jobs!

Flexibility to suit workers not the bosses

College workers walk out in pay dispute


London tenants v greedy contractors

Bromsgrove protest for NHS fair pay

Sabina Nessa vigil: End violence against women

Youth and Students

Join the fight for our future

Sunak's student special

More market chaos: York students given digs in Hull

Lots of sign-ups for Socialist Students at freshers

Youth climate protests are back


Home   |   The Socialist 29 September 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleNottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay

triangleBuilding a political alternative to Tory and Labour cuts

triangleHackney TUSC: Hackney needs jobs, homes and services

triangleNorthampton: Phoney consultation to mask cuts

triangleSlough: Adult service cuts will leave vulnerable homeless


triangleKhan threatens further London transport cuts

triangleStop the cuts to Uni arts funding

triangleWest Sussex: Payouts for council bosses, cuts for us

triangleVictory! Hackney children's centres saved


triangleTories strengthen repressive laws

triangleKickstart scheme 'insufficient and flawed'

triangleBulb bailed out, nationalise energy to solve price crisis


triangleBirmingham People's Budget

triangleLeeds TUSC: A 'People's Budget' is needed for Leeds


triangleSouthampton West Socialist Party: Feedback from the TUSC conference


triangleSouthampton People's budget Building an alternative to Tory and Labour austerity

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Napo ballots for trade dispute, but members need strategy for industrial action



Higher education disputes



Welcome support for striking Scunthorpe scaffolders


Violence against women

Plymouth: Hundreds attend vigil for Bobbi-Anne McLeod



Education unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation



RMT strikes against abolition of night tube train operators



South Yorkshire Stagecoach drivers strike against measly 1% pay offer



Nottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay



Oaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions



Building a political alternative to Tory and Labour cuts


Socialist Students

Stop the cuts to Uni arts funding


Fighting Fund

Socialism 2021: How we reached our fighting fund appeal target



End fuel poverty



Staff and students unite against university bosses' attacks



Housing campaigners protest CEO champagners

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

December 2021

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021