The Socialist 8 March 2017 |
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Fight the cuts: Demand no-cuts council budgets
'No cuts', photo JB (Click to enlarge)
Tony Mulhearn, Former Liverpool socialist councillor (1983-87)
In tandem with the attacks on the NHS is the ongoing savagery of council cuts. Only some six Labour councillors nationally in Labour-run councils have carried out their historic duty to vote against cuts - and have been suspended by the Blairites for their stand.
The magnificent NHS demo on 4 March reflected the willingness of millions to fight to defend public services.
Savage cuts in social care are being implemented by councils, including Labour councils. These cuts place enormous strain on the NHS, which is replacing the function of the hundreds of care homes closed or reduced by councils.
During February and March, many council budget-setting meetings are taking place across the country, slashing millions more pounds off vital services. The Tories' government budget, with its promise to create 'reserves' to deal with Brexit, will mean still more cuts.
Birmingham's Labour council has already cut around £590 million from its annual budget since 2010, and is expecting to cut another £180 million.
Liverpool's Labour council has already cut £330 million with a further cut of £90 million budgeted for. This, according to Blairite mayor Joe Anderson, could see Liverpool council unable to provide even statutory services for the neediest.
Their idea of opposition is to cry crocodile tears, wring their hands, and hide behind the claim that they have 'no choice'.
But there is a choice.
In Scotland, North Ayrshire's Labour council has set a budget which spends reserves to reduce service cuts. This gives a glimpse that councils can act. But, unfortunately, it does not stop the cuts, let alone reverse them. It also relies on a council tax hike, which punishes working class residents. West Dunbartonshire has taken similar steps.
Reserve spending - while an important tactic - can only be a stopgap. And to be effective it has to reverse the cuts, not just carry them out more slowly. Councils and devolved governments can use tactics including borrowing, pooling reserves and cancelling debts to achieve this.
The breathing space a genuine no-cuts budget built on this approach would provide should be used to develop a mass movement of opposition to Tory cuts, with Jeremy Corbyn well placed to make the call.
The 4 March demo confirmed the existence of a mass movement crying out for leadership which could transform the political landscape, by forcing the Tories to retreat - and, in the process, isolating the Blair-Mandelson saboteurs.