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Councils can fight cuts!
Mick Griffiths, Wakefield and Pontefract Socialist Party
Two years ago, Wakefield district's council declared that it could no longer guarantee service provision for even the most needy.
A report by the Centre for Cities has highlighted that Wakefield is one of the five cities and towns that have suffered the largest cuts in spending.
It sits among several northern towns and cities that made the 'top ten'. The worst affected areas are Barnsley and Liverpool. But a number of inner-London boroughs also rank highly on this dubious leader board.
This 'hardest hit' status will come as no surprise to Wakefield residents.
The Labour council has dutifully implemented Tory cuts with no resistance being offered.
The consequences are all too real. A recent council report pointed to a significant rise in homelessness applications. Health and social care budgets have been cut to the bone.
These cuts compound the crisis in our NHS. The Tories' 'sustainability and transformation' plans aim to push our health service further into private hands.
A recent council health scrutiny committee raised that funding was only really available for emergency and acute services - with little to nothing left for preventative measures!
Local government is under immediate threat. The government aims to reduce councils to being no more than administrators of contracts for private profiteers.
Council budgets are currently being set. As of October last year, Labour councils around the country were sitting on £9.3 billion in general fund reserves.
Jeremy Corbyn's welcome declaration that Labour is now an anti-austerity party is seriously undermined while Labour councils continue to meekly impose central government cuts.
Councillors have a choice. They could use their reserves and borrowing powers to fund no-cuts, needs-based budgets. This would make 'for the many not the few' more than just a slogan.
Corbyn should call on councils to take this road. And he should pledge to restore the funding of any council which does - as soon as a Labour government is elected.
If Labour councils stood in solidarity with trade unions and communities to fight to defend our services, a mass campaign could stop these cuts. What's more, it could play a major part in building a movement that could force the Tories out and bring about a general election.
But if Labour councillors are unwilling to refuse to implement government cuts, they should stand aside for those who will.
Pro-cuts councillors should be prepared to meet a challenge from anti-cuts candidates at the forthcoming local elections, which the Socialist Party will be part of.
Join us to help build the anti-cuts struggle. If we fight we can win!
- Listen to this week's Socialism podcast: 'Are no-cuts budgets possible?' Available on all major apps and on the Socialist Party's youtube channel
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