The worst of the cuts in local government are yet to come. Cuts in England in Wales amounted to £5.2 billion in the last two years, and are estimated to be £6.3 billion in the next two.
Leaders of Birmingham city council say they need to find £840 million over the next eight years. They have announced 1,000 job cuts and are warning they may not be able to fund all statutory services. Many other smaller councils are looking at the same kind of future.
With 500,000 jobs already gone, many further job cuts will be by compulsory redundancy. These have to be fought in the first place by industrial action.
Good, then, that there is some evidence that the main local government union, Unison, is supporting local ballots on disputes over jobs and conditions. Last year, says Unison leader Dave Prentis, the union authorised 41 local ballots, and rejected no requests. But more vigour is necessary.
A new statement by Councillors Against Cuts calls for Labour councils to refuse to implement the cuts. This can help generate discussions on the kind of political fight we need. It says: “We do not accept that the local government cuts are necessary. Not in this era of increasing inequalities of wealth, low tax rates on the super-rich and huge profits for the banking sector and their senior staff.
“We cannot simply wait for the general election. Implementing cuts will not help Labour beat the Tories. We pledge:
• To fight the cuts demanded by the Tories and not just criticise them
• To campaign alongside unions and the rank and file of local government workers in explaining to the public why these cuts are unjustified and to mobilise in opposition to them.
• To support local government workers in their fight for jobs and for the protection of local government services.
• To defend the living standards of working class communities by refusing increased charges or taxes.
• To refuse to vote for budgets that will lead to an attack on jobs or reduce services.
“[...] We call on the Labour Party to pledge that if successful at the next general election they will restore local government funding so that councils can do the job that was expected from them — providing care, education, housing, and other services for our people regardless of income and outside the grasping hands of companies driven by profit.”