May 83 Labour makes gains in elections for one-third of Liverpool City Council’s seats and wins the Council from the Liberals (who have controlled it since 1973). Militant supporters are central in the new council Labour group.
November 83 20,000 people join a march to support the Labour council’s demand for the return of grant money withdrawn over the years by the Tory government.
29 March 84 Budget day for the council. Despite a one day strike by council workers and a big demonstration at the Town Hall, Labour’s ‘unbalanced’ no-cuts budaet is defeated by three Labour right-wingers voting with the Liberals and Tories. All other budgets are defeated too.
May 84 New council elections. Labour wins a solid majority. But the Militant-led Labour council does not vote through the unbalanced budget. The mass campaign is wound down in favour of negotiations with the Tory government. This is the decisive turning point when confrontation with the government could have linked up with the miners’ strike which had started in March 1984 and given a lead to all other left-wing councils.
July 84 The council leaders announce a deal with the government. Some of the financial problems are postponed to the next year, and the council can get through with a 17% rate rise. Militant call it “a 95% victory”, but the Tories are quietly satisfied: they have evaded the danger of a fight on two fronts, miners and local government, at the same time.
October 84 The Council appoints Sampson Bond, a Militant supporter, as its race relations officer, against the strong opposition of the City’s Black Caucus. The ensuing row wrecks the council unions’ Joint Shop Stewards’ Committee and alienates Liverpool’s black community. Throughout the country, Militant wages a savage campaign of racist stereotyping against the leaders of the Black Caucus, denouncing them as “pimps and gangsters”.
March 85 The miners, defeated, are forced back to work. Liverpool Labour Council has not yet said anything definite about plans for confrontation with the government over the budget for the financial year starting April 1985. Instead it delays setting a budget — a policy also followed by a few other Labour councils.
June 85 Councillors propose a budget with a 20% rate rise and some financial juggling to see them through the year without a showdown. The council workers’ unions say no. The Council sets an ‘unbalanced’ budget — yet starts no clear campaign for action.
September 85 The Council announces that it is about to run out of cash and will issue 90 days redundancy notices to all employees “as a legal device”. The council unions protest. The council leaders withdraw the notices. The council shop stewards call a ballot for an all-out strike. The vote goes against, strike, 47% to 53%. The council leaders send out the redundancy notices again— some by taxi to bypass a teachers’ picket line. NALGO, forerunner of Unison, members strike in protest.
5-11 October 85 Labour Party Conference. Neil Kinnock makes great play of denouncing Liverpool Council for sending out the redundancy noffces. The Liverpool left is not yet totally isolated—David Blunkett from the platform, hypocritically offers them help — but isolation will come over the next year.
11 October 85 The Council is forced to withdraw the redundancy notices by legal action brought by the NUT. It proposes another ‘legal device’ — laying off the whole council workforce from 1-28 January!
20 November 85 Labour’s National Executive sets up a kangaroo court “inquiry” into Liverpool District Labour Party.
22 November 85 The council announces a deal. It gets a loan from Swiss banks on condition that it makes cuts and stays legal in future. It reveals that the required cuts have already, quiety, been made! And it soon comes out that the loan had been negotiated back in August!
March 86 A court declares that the Liverpool Labour councillors must be surcharged and disqualified because of their delay in setting a budget. The Council sets a budget implying cuts. In July 1986 the District Labour Party is given details of £12 million cuts. Militant supporters vote them through.
October 86 Labour Party Conference approves the expulsion of Derek Hatton and other leading Militant people from Liverpool, with opposition only from the hard left.