The Socialist 13 February 2019 |
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Newham: women's refuge funds halved - Labour must use the £500m reserves
Newham anti-academies rally 26 February 2018, photo Niall Mulholland, photo Niall Mulholland (Click to enlarge)
Mary Finch, East London Socialist Party
Newham's all-Labour council will decide which services will have their funding axed in its 2019-20 budget on 18 February.
Rokhsana Fiaz, the east London borough's new 'Corbynista' mayor, has 'consulted' the local community on what to prioritise.
She's pledged millions of pounds for care staff, youth services, and free meals for primary school children. These are all vital services which the Socialist Party has always fought to defend.
But where in her so-called "people's budget" is the commitment to end cuts?
Newham has the highest level of homelessness in England, according to homelessness charity Shelter. Workers have endured devastating poverty and attacks on pay and conditions in the past ten years.
While the Labour council selectively invests with one hand, it destroys public services with the other.
Council funding for women's refuges more than halved from 2010 to 2017 under the previous mayor, hated Blairite Robin Wales. In the same period, the number of domestic and sexual violence cases heard by Newham's 'Marac' safeguarding body has doubled!
Newham Council had £519 million in usable reserves at the time of its last financial statement in March. The 2017-18 budget set under Wales was at pains to stipulate that using this money was impossible because it's 'non-sustainable'.
But Labour councils are already running down reserves to deal with budgetary problems - while still making cuts.
If they mobilised local unions behind no-cuts budgets to demand more funding from central government, they could stop the cuts and replenish their reserves.
Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell should also pledge to underwrite all costs incurred by no-cuts council budgets.
This would encourage councils and make austerity unworkable - but councils can and must fight either way.
The Socialist Party has consistently fought for an immediate end to the cuts. We stood four no-cuts candidates against councillors who backed school privatisation in last year's council elections in Newham.
We call on Rokhsana Fiaz to set a real "people's budget" - one which uses reserves and borrowing to end austerity, and builds a campaign for funding to provide all the jobs, homes and services workers and young people desperately need.