In the Guardian on 27 April, Beth Foster-Ogg writes that Labour needs “radical local councillors” who are “building socialism from below.”
To counter swingeing cuts of up to 50% since 2010, they need to come up with “innovative, radical measures to tackle the fractures in British society.” She cites the examples of Salford and Preston as models for councillors.
Momentum’s work, she says, is “all about ensuring that Labour councillors aren’t waiting for change to come on high...”
We do need more left-wing councillors, who are held accountable by their constituents.
Labour councils should try to come up with a range of solutions to address the funding crisis.
This could include bringing workers and services in-house; a limited amount of borrowing; commissioning processes that enable local businesses to bid; supporting cooperatives; setting up banks and credit unions; and using reserves.
I share the comrade’s hopeful attitude and desire to see better local government and positive change at a local level.
But I think her comment lacks a realistic assessment of where we are and what we need to do to achieve socialism or social democracy, municipal or otherwise.
I live in Haringey, where we have seen cuts of around 40% so far. Like most inner London boroughs, it’s a place of extremes.
We have multi-million-pound houses in Crouch End and Fortis Green, and a good number of well-heeled residents who work in the media or have highly paid jobs in other fields.
We also have children living in extreme poverty whose parents cannot afford to feed them a nutritious diet.
In the last few months, several of our teenagers have been shot in the street.
Begging and street homelessness has increased roughly tenfold in the five years I’ve lived here.
Some of these issues relate more to national funding cuts and complex social problems.
But they are all interconnected with locally provided services such as children’s social care, Universal Credit and youth services.
What Foster-Ogg describes does not go nearly far enough.
A generation ago we saw Labour councils rebel against national government. Mistakes were made but their defeat was not inevitable.
Of course, if Labour councillors rebelled again after 3 May, we could lose again. But right now, we aren’t even trying to win.
In the face of these cuts, even the most dynamic councils will only be able to achieve so much.
We need to be there to back them and force the government to reverse all cuts.
We need a national fightback against cuts to local government, backed up by vibrant community campaigns and lively, strike-ready trades unions.