Sunday, 13 September 2015

Will Corbyn end the 'dented shield' in local government?

Congratulations to local Labour Party activists who worked hard in the Corbyn campaign. As one of them remarked to me at the 'Refugees Welcome Here' demonstration yesterday 'this is only the beginning of the struggle.'

The Party's adherence to neoliberalism, the anti-Corbyn Parliamentary Labour Party, and the role of democracy within the party, including Party Conference, are just some of the areas where battles will need to be fought.

On social media today it is clear that some Greens have decided to throw in their lot with the Labour Party, and this includes a number who left Labour for the Greens when they thought Labour had 'lost its way'. However others have stated their intention to stay with the Greens on the basis that eco-socialism is a separate strand of political thinking in contrast to Corbynism which remains committed to 'productivism' LINK

Although this still leaves space for a 'progressive alliance' with the Labour Left on some issues there are problems on the ground with the positions adopted by Labour locally.

Most local councils are beginning their budget process this Autumn ready for April 2016.  Even Conservative council have said that they can no longer provide effective services with the planned cuts in funding.

Labour councils have adopted a 'dented shield position' up this point which means implementing the cuts rather than taking a principled stand against them and setting 'illegal' budgets. This was also true of the minority Green council in Brighton.  In the process services have been cut to the core and out-sourcing has become the norm with some handing over to the voluntary sector.

So how will 'dented shield' councils such as Brent adapt to the new leadership and will this mean that at last they make common cause with anti-austerity and trade union campaigners who have been challenging the cuts both in terms of their necessity and of the damage that they cause?

The May Labour NEC discussed local government issues and included this statement: LINK
Since May 2010 local government has had its funding dramatically cut. Many Councils have had their funding cut by 50% or more. This majority Conservative Government seeks to continue to cut Councils even further and puts vital public services at risk. These cuts are unsustainable and threaten services across the board, including in education, health, social care, fostering and adoption and community safety. We called on colleagues across the Labour movement to work together with Local Government to defend the vital public services our communities rely on. We look forward to working closely with Trade Unions, MPs and others to fight for a fairer deal for local government.
I think it is not just a fight for a 'fairer deal' for local government but for its very survival. In addition to the campaign  over funding there is also the need to preserve the role of local government in providing services with a public sector' ethos and purpose. This means challenging the privatisation of our education system that has taken place through academies and free schools, the out-sourcing of adult social care, children's services and youth provision.

Brent Council has eroded that ethos and undermined the role of democratically  accountable local government by accepting, and sometimes promulgating, the idea that services can be better provided by the private and voluntary sectors.

Only a few Brent Labour councillors nailed their colours to the Corbyn mast during the Labour election campaign and its leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt, argued against his CLP backing Corbyn.

This leaves the Labour Group on Brent Council out of line with both the party nationally and locally. There should be some interesting discussions ahead.


Unknown said...

Good question on whether the councillors are ready or willing to do an about turn on this dreadful (and pathetic) 'dented shield analogy.

I'd like the local council, now Corbyn is leader to start getting into things and join the Unison / Global Justice UK campaign to make Brent a no TTIP council. After all, Corbyn has spoken out against TTIP. I hope he reigns in Claude Moraes MEP as well because he's a cheerleader for TTIP and was boasting about his involvement in bestowing it upon us.

TTIP briefing for local authorities here:

Anonymous said...

Is Jesus Christ against racial discrimination?

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

Re the Russia Today billing of Jeremy Corbyn as 'hard left', I reckon that is a bad description. The man is mild mannered, and it's those who are dead keen on 'austerity' who are really 'hard'. I prefer 'compassionate left'.

And re Greens who 'throw in their lot' with Labour, what of the facts that Labour Party policy is pro-nuclear weapons while Corbyn isn't? And what of the Corbynite drive for 'economic growth' as THE solution to 'austerity'? Is their move to a different political party going to change Labour policy on climate change?

Dude Swheatie of Kwug, expressing personal concerns rather than specifically Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group concerns