Monday 14 March 2016

Call for action by councillors to challenge cuts to local government funding

The People's Assembly Against Austerity have put forward these thoughts and actions as a further contribution to the discussion on local government cuts. This is clearly relevant to the debnate at Brent Momentum on Saturday.
The Peoples’ Assembly is completely opposed to Tory Governments cuts and campaigns against them without qualification. We aim to build a national movement to stop the cuts and will support tactics that will help to build this movement.
Local council budgets is one area that has been hit particularly hard by the Government. Some councils have faced a 40% cut to their budgets compared to 2010. This has led to hundreds of thousands of public sector job losses across the country and the closure, or privatisation, of essential services. This inevitably hits the most vulnerable in society hardest. We now face a situation where Central Government is set to impose further cuts to local council budgets and there is difficulty for councils to even provide basic statutory services.
The situation when campaigning against council imposed cuts is therefore more complicated. Our attitude toward councillors and local councils can be considered in three categories:

1.  Those that fully support the neo-liberal austerity agenda and work hard to apply cuts and privatisation of services
2.  Those that are opposed to austerity but have applied cuts locally, reflecting the budget given to the council by Central Government.
3.  Those who are opposed to cuts, vote against local council austerity budgets, try to minimise them and (the better ones) work with others to resist and challenge them.

The PA is opposed to council cuts and supports local groups in their efforts to resist these and build the protest movement. In an ideal situation hundreds of councillors / councils would fall into category 3.
However, to date, not one council has set a ‘needs budget’ or ‘illegal budget’ rejecting cuts to council budgets from the government. However, there are thousands of councillors who fall into category 2 – those that are against having to make cuts but don’t feel like there’s any other option than to set a budget with the allowance set by the government.  On the question of calls for councils to set ‘needs budgets’ or ‘illegal budgets’ we recognise that where that may be done there are legitimate concerns from councillors that the Government will impose commissioners to politically manage the budget set by Government, or simply that they have no other option than to work with the budget they have been given.  Councils will have usable reserves but, in recognising that this is likely to be a long struggle, they may not wish to spend these reserves quickly.  Others may prefer to invest the reserves in socially useful areas, such as housing, which would increase revenues, create local jobs and meet a pressing need.
The job of the anti-austerity movement should be to work with any councillor who is opposed to austerity and create a movement that can shift as many councillors from category 2 to category 3.

The PA is asking local councillors to sign the following letter. To sign follow this LINK
As Councillors we believe this Tory Government's ideological opposition to public services lies behind the deliberate underfunding of Local Authorities.

Councils have faced unprecedented cuts; Local Authority grants in England have been slashed, with £12.5 billion of cuts and half a million Council workers losing their jobs since 2010. Osborne has forced through 40% cuts to Council budgets meaning that local authorities face the reality of cutting frontline services including Adult Social Care and Children's Services, leaving those that rely on them at risk.

We believe that austerity is a political choice. We oppose all cuts from Westminster and believe Osborne’s plans for Local Government will only make a bad situation worse.

We call on the government to reverse cuts to council funding so we are able to provide essential services our communities rely on. Furthermore we call for an end to austerity that is seeing living standards for the majority fall. This is why we also support the national march for Health, Homes, Jobs & Education on Saturday 16 April 2016 in London.

No comments: