Unite in local government calls for 'no cuts' budgets
Use council reserves
Last week the national committee for local government (NISC) of Unite called on Labour councils to set ‘no cuts’ budgets. This is an important development building on Unite’s long standing opposition to all cuts.
Cuts are destroying vital services contracted out to housing associations as well as directly provided services and our branch will join with local government members in campaigning for this strategy. The NISC proposes that councils use reserves to stop cuts as an initial step, buying time to build a massive campaign to save services.
Responding to Osborne’s spending plans last autumn, even the Tory chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, denounced Osborne’s attack: “If councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light”, he complained, they will still “not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020”. The £4.1bn funding gap threatens even the most basic services. Lord Porter described the spending review as a tragic missed opportunity to protect the services “that bind communities together, improve people’s quality of life and protect the most vulnerable”.
The local government NISC (National Industrial Sector Committee) has called on Labour Councils to set legal 'no cuts' budgets by using reserves, capitalising eligible general fund expenditure and borrowing ‘prudentially’ to generate resources. By pooling reserves this could enable every Labour Council to set legal no cuts budgets defending services.
Enormous support for Jeremy Corbyn
Fifty eight Labour councils face elections in May, they hold around £4.5 billion in general fund reserves and another £1.36 billion in Housing Revenue Account and capital receipt reserves and this does not include the vast reserves held by Labour controlled Councils in London. There is no legal impediment to them pooling reserves to ensure they can all set perfectly legal no cuts budgets.
Many authorities planning to implement vicious cuts this year have sufficient reserves to avoid cuts individually; cutting is a political choice. Such is the depth of planned cuts the Tory / Independent coalition administration in Stoke on Trent is using £15.5 million of reserves to stop further cuts in 2016/17. Ironically the previous Labour administration had claimed that this was not possible while forcing through £150 million in cuts since 2011 although they are, of course, not likely to build a campaign against Tory cuts! The enormous support for Jeremy Corbyn's election campaign, and the growth in membership since then, show the potential for a campaigning anti austerity Labour Party. We would encourage Labour councillors to protect services and build on the new support that the party has attracted.
Stop the government in its tracks
Suzanne Muna, LE1111 branch secretary and Unite Executive member commented; “Unite members in housing will want to work with local government colleagues, enlightened Labour councillors and communities to stop the government in its tracks. Less than a quarter of the electorate voted for them, we cannot allow them to destroy essential public services”.
The branch will be in touch with Labour councillors to offer support, if you work in a service threatened by cuts that you would like us to highlight do get in touch with me.
Paul Kershaw, Chair Unite LE1111
The original NISC resolution can be found by clicking "Download".