Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why Councillors should fight the cuts - and what we do about it now...

Over at the LRC website there is a clear and coherent exposition of the case for Labour representatives to resist, rather than implement, cuts in public services required to balance Council budgets following devastating reductions in Central Government grants (http://l-r-c.org.uk/news/story/why-councillors-should-fight-the-cuts/).

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) will be used to posts on these issues and will know that I can also bore for England on the related subject of local Council's reserves (http://lambethunison.blogspot.com/2011/01/budget-reductions-and-unallocated.html).

Whilst I agree that Labour Councillors ought to be resisting, rather than implementing Tory cuts (even at the cost of handing control of their budget to their Chief Finance Officer) - there is, as far as I am aware, no ruling Labour Group in the country which is anywhere near this position.

I believe that the political ground which Labour Councillors are trying to occupy, in between the Government (who are assaulting our welfare state) and the workers and service users (who are and will be trying to defend it) will shrink, and that Councillors will increasingly be forced to choose sides.

Therefore, in the here and now, as well as advancing and defending the (correct) principled position that Labour Councillors ought not to make Tory cuts, we need also to make lesser demands which may help defend some jobs and services and/or encourage the movement of opposition to our main enemies - the Tory-led Coalition Government.

The debate about Council reserves is part of this work (however much it may be seized upon hypocritically by opposition Councillors in Labour authorities).

Another discussion which now needs to begin is about how Councils respond to anti-cuts campaigning activites which may have to cross some lines and break some laws in order to seek to prevent greater wrongs.

Twenty years ago I was one of a group of trade unionists who occupied two Council advice centres facing closure by a Labour Council implementing Tory cuts. Our action was clearly unlawful - and potentially a dismissable disciplinary offence. We saved one of the centres - at least for several years.

The Council chose to negotiate with us rather than take legal (or disciplinary) action against us.

The legal position is less favourable now than then (our unlawful occupation had the official backing of the Union!) However, the political choices facing Councillors are essentially the same.

We need a reasoned and informed debate about how Labour Councillors can respond to strikes and occupations opposing cuts which they are implementing in a way which builds united opposition to the ConDem source of the problem.

We also need a discussion within our unions about how to ensure that an approach of compliance with the anti-union laws (which I oppose but do not expect to change in the next few months) does not obstruct our political support for some actions which may take the anti-cuts campaign outside some laws.

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1 comment:

Government Grants said...

I think we need a reasoned and informed debate about how Labor Councilors can respond to strikes and occupations opposing cuts. And that all provide the details.