Tuesday 22 December 2015

Does the People's Assembly motion show us a way of fighting council cuts?

Following the discussion on this blog on local council cuts, after the Corbyn letter to council leaders, arguing that they had not choice but to make cuts LINK , I thought it would be worth publishing the motion passed at the People's Assembly Conference earlier this month.  The motion from Cardiff PA was more contentious that other motions but passed with a clear majority.
“No Cuts” Campaign Against Council Cuts

Conference notes

1.  People’s Assembly opposes all cuts. Five more years of council cuts is unsustainable.
2.  Council cuts derive from the Tory government’s austerity policies of making us pay for the financial crisis not of our making.
3.  People, especially younger people, across the UK are under financial pressure from benefit cuts and falling real wages. In these circumstances they increasingly rely on the collective provision of council and other services, only to find that they are being withdrawn whilst at the same time experiencing increased payments for less provision.
4.  Council cuts are transmitted down from the UK Tory government by a combination of withdrawal of finance and requirement to set a legal budget.
5.  Councillors, lacking politics and confidence to challenge this political and bureaucratic process, buckle under and pass â˜their problemâ as they see it, on to us.
6.  Historical examples of councils defying central government: Poplar 1921, Clay Cross & Bedwas and Machen 1972, Rate Capping Rebellion of 80s with 26 Labour councils pledging to defy government with Liverpool and Lambeth going furthest.
7.  Recently examples of Northern Ireland Assembly and House of Lords prepared to risk a constitutional crisis over implementation of Tory welfare reform and tax credits.
8.  A small number of Labour & Green councillors have voted for no cuts.

Conference calls for

People’s Assembly to launch a national campaign for councils to refuse to set cuts budgets this year and instead set ‘needs’ budgets based upon estimating what is actually needed to adequately maintain services and campaigning for the government to provide it.

Conference therefore resolves to

1.  Publicise and develop arguments around ‘needs budgets’ to aid activists
2.  Prepare model motions calling upon councils to set no cuts budgets for use by local anti-cuts groups, trade union branches etc
3.  Give a platform to, and amplify voice of councillors who vote against all cuts 4 In all council areas an electronic petition could be drawn up demanding councillors vote against all cuts, raising directly the issues that we face and the responsibility our elected representatives have to fight back.
5.  Rectify lack of material on PA website supporting local campaigners around council cuts, especially around the political arguments (ie.  responding to ‘cuts have to be made’, ‘we have no choice’, ‘what would you cut instead’)
6.  Organise a national meeting for councillors, trade unionists and anti-austerity campaigners to explore how councils can resist.
7.  Compile and share information on examples of council ‘best practice’ in resisting austerity such as using reserves, no bedroom tax eviction policies, pledges of non-cooperation with the Trade Union Bill, Manchester Council opening up empty buildings to homeless etc.”
This along with the suggestions from  Felicity Dowling LINK and William Quick LINK could provide the basis for a discussion at Brent Fightback and Brent Momentum early in the New Year.


Anonymous said...

This looks like a good start. It is absolutely indisputably obvious (Donald Trump aside) that if every council in the country refused to set a 'legal' budget, the government would climb down. If only the Labour councils did it, they'd climb down. If only some Labour councils did it, they'd climb down. Poll tax opposition was not a majority movement. Nor was tax credits. But, as with any action, people need to feel secure and confident before they take it, and that requires solidarity, simultaneity and organisation.
Governments, like any powerful minority, operate on bluff bolstered by claims to electoral legitimacy. Given that only 36% of the electorate voted for a manifesto which, in any case, didn't include (or actually positively denied) any intention to do what they're doing, this lot have sacrificed any claims they have on that count. The People’s Assembly calls 5 more years of such cuts ‘unsustainable’ . I’m not sure that’s the word. People can get used to anything and come to regard it as ‘normal’. It CAN be sustained. The question is whether we SHOULD get used to this country being run like a squalid little 1950s Third World gangster-state descending into an ever-greater contrast between private wealth and public squalor.
There’s also the matter of whether your average councillor is up to the challenge that the government has thrown down. How many of them even have much sympathy with the principles and beliefs behind the opposition to the cuts? Or even understand what they are?
Still, good start.

Pete Firmin said...

Is there a report anywhere of what happened at the People's Assembly conference? I can't find one.