Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What is the role of Labour Councillors facing ConDem cuts?

I was pleased to speak to the Coldharbour Ward Labour Party meeting in Brixton this evening.

We had a useful discussion covering the future management of housing in Lambeth, the pre-election agreement between the Party and the unions and about how to oppose cuts in public spending.

Labour administrations under a Tory Government may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place - but trade unionists in local government need to recognise that in these circumstances it is our job to be the hard place.

We must organise against the Tories proposed destruction of the NHS, against their plan to price our children out of higher education and against proposals for housing benefit that will make tens of thousands homeless.

At the same time, those of us working for Labour Councils can be neither neutral not sympathetic when Labour Councillors implement Tory cuts. It is not our role to make it easy for Labour Councillors to bend the knee to a Tory Government and attack the people who put them where they are.

Whilst resistance on the model of Lambeth in the 80s, Clay Cross in the 70s or Poplar in the 20s may not immediately be on the cards we do need to start to debate what options really exist.

And Councillors who are making cuts (against the wishes and interests of their supporters) need to choose whether they are first and foremost (would-be) able administrators of the local state or primarily representative leaders of the local working class.

The latter - correct IMHO - choice entails, at a minimum, a vigorous campaign against cuts mobilising trade unionists and Labour Party members to attack the economic policies of the Coalition Government by resisting cuts which undermine the quality of our lives.

Labour Party members in Lambeth will have an opportunity to discuss this further at an all members' meeting on Saturday 20 November at the Town Hall. Party members need to work out whether local people voted for a Council which would give them a choice about which services to savage, or a Council which would stand up against savage cuts.

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