Fight for a needs budget
Steve Mckenzie, Bexleyheath CLP, asks some awkward questions
JEREMY CORBYN WON THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP ELECTION based on a movement against austerity. He has pointed out that councils could be an important focus of resistance. The central vehicles for resistance should be local Labour parties and council Labour groups together with the trade unions, which, with over six million members, are still potentially the most powerful force in society,
However, many socialists willfind John McDonnell’s recent statement unhelpful. He says:
“Councils must set a balanced budget under the 1992 Local Government Act. Failing to do so can lead to complaints against councillors under the code of conduct, judicial review and intervention by the secretary of state. It would mean either council officers or, worse still, Tory ministers deciding council spending priorities. Their priorities would certainly not meet the needs of the communities which elected us.”
Effective leadership is central to how effective the fightback against council cuts becomes. This is hardly inspiring leadership.
We clearly won’t be winning too many councils next May with this type of approach from John and Jeremy - the polls are already showing Labour 10 points down from the 2012 local government elections.
Cuts and privatisation to council services cost lives and voters need to know the full consequences of the Tory government’s cuts. Two budgets should be drawn up by all Labour authorities, one within the law outlining the consequences of the Tory cuts and the other, Labour’s alternative budget, that would maintain and enhance services based on local people’s needs.
Any Labour alternative council budget should include as a bare minimum no increase in council tax, no more cuts, an increase in the share of taxation businesses pay, no more privatisation and no extra charges for council services. A questionnaire should be sent out by every Labour Group to all residents asking what they would like their Labour council to do to improve life in their local area.
Respondents should also be asked whether they support Labour councils refusing to implement Tory cuts and whether they would actively support a campaign to restore government funding to all councils. If the questionnaire shows the public are behind our alternative budget, then we must set our alternative, illegal budget and fight this Tory government with the backing of the whole movement and the public.
Momentum and the LRC should jointly hold a one day conference to discuss this proposal.