Don’t collaborate with the cuts

THROUGHOUT the country Labour councillors are wringing their hands, saying how much they oppose the cuts to their budgets, and yet still implementing those cuts. They plead that if they do not do this then the Con-Dem Coalition will suspend the powers of the council and appoint Government commissioners to come in and implement much deeper cuts.

The Tories are making cuts far beyond anything necessary to deal with the Government deficit. They are cutting for ideological reasons; they are attacking services to the most vulnerable people in our society — the disabled, the elderly, the mentally ill, children and young people.

The amount of money involved in these cuts is a drop in the ocean compared to the £billions used to bail out the banks a couple of years ago. It is evidence of how little our society has been spending on these vulnerable people anyway. But cutting the little they have will inflict maximum misery and destitution on those who least deserve it.

If reducing the deficit was the reason for the cuts this could be achieved far more easily with a proper progressive tax system that makes the seriously rich pay their fair share — and by scrapping Trident and ending the imperialist wars and aggression against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. The rich would still be rich enough and the level of suffering in Afghanistan and other countries under attack would be greatly reduced.

But it is part of Con-Dem sadism that they want to add to the misery by forcing Labour councillors to carry out their dirty work for them — so that these councillors will become as hated, if not more, than the Tories. These councillors must refuse to play their game, refuse to set a cuts budget and if the Government sends in the commissioners, then so be it. It will not make a lot of difference to the cuts in the long run because once they have coerced Labour councillors to do their bidding once; they will do it over and over again every year.

Labour councillors cannot protect their constituents from anything by collaborating but they can give local people a firm stand to rally behind. And if enough of them refuse they can make it very difficult for this Con-Dem government to implement its cuts. There is a critical mass of non-compliance than could screw up the whole policy — as happened with the poll tax.

And there are some heroic precedents to remember — as in the Poplar rates rebellion of 1921, where, in similar circumstances, the Labour council, led by George Lansbury, refused to set a budget that would have inflicted real hardship on thousands of constituents. Thirty councillors were jailed, including six women, one of whom was pregnant.

But local people came out on the streets and campaigned for their release. It was a hard battle but the people won and the Government was forced to back down and change the rating system. This was the real “Big society”, with the working people and the councillors they had elected to represent them standing together, side by side to fight a common enemy. It’s very unlike today where Labour councillors are more likely to take a condescending attitude to their constituents.

Again in the early 1980s under the Thatcher government, Labour councils throughout the country verbally opposed swingeing cuts being forced on them by cuts in central government support. Many boroughs said they would refuse to implement the cuts but only two stood firm: Liverpool City Council and Lambeth in south London.

The councillors who stood firm were demonised by the Government and the press and ended up being surcharged for money allegedly lost to the councils through their action. They did not succeed in stopping the cuts but they did delay them and they did give their constituents a raised banner and a focal point to rally behind.

We must all get in touch with our Labour councillors and urge them to make a stand.