Jeremy Corbyn often has wise words to say about challenging austerity and today was no exception. Speaking at Labour’s National Policy Forum in Loughborough, he explained: “Not since the late 1970s have we seen such a dramatic collapse in confidence in the political and economic order”; ominous changes “that have rocked people’s faith in politicians and in politics to deliver positive change”.
In “this age of understandable cynicism” Corbyn therefore said that instead of playing on people’s fears and anxieties, Labour was going to “take what might be the more difficult approach”: it would act to give the public a reason to be hopeful that the Labour Party was on their side. As Corbyn put it:
“People know there can be no more business as usual. But the question is what will replace it.
“It is down to Labour to restore hope and give people the chance to take back real control. Hope over fear … unity over division … security over exploitation … control over powerlessness … and investment over cuts.”
Minutes after this inspiring speech, Leicester’s Deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer raised a hopeless and disempowering question from the audience where he asked Corbyn to send “strong message of support to Labour councillors in taking unavoidable, tough decisions due to Tory cuts.”
Here Palmer was of course referring to the massive cuts that Labour Councils are passing on to their constituents as a direct result of Tory funding cuts for local government. To the fore of Palmer’s mind when asking this question was probably his Council’s recent decision to attack the pay and conditions of nearly all their employees; their proposal to close half of Leicester’s vitally need children’s centres; and their proposal to destroy their city’s adventure playgrounds – services that act as a godsend to the approximately 30,000 poverty-stricken children residing in Leicester.
But let’s be clear. The “tough decision” that Leicester’s Labour councillors actually face, is whether they will be prepared to build a fight-back against Tory cuts, a tough question that our councillors seem all too willing to avoid answering.
If Labour councils want to act to restore people’s faith in politicians and in politics to be able to deliver positive change, they must do everything in their power to make this so. One vital way that Labour councils can promote control over powerlessness … and investment over cuts is by refusing to carry through Tory cuts by setting legal no-cuts budgets.
Counter to the defeatist lies being spread by many Labour-run Councils, like Mr Palmer’s, they do have adequate means of legally restoring public hope in Labour which they can do by opposing Tory cuts right now. Leicester City Council, for example, has £103 million in “usable reserves” that can be utilised to prevent imminent cuts to children’s services.
Taking such a progressive and arguably tough decision to endeavour to set a legal no-cuts budget would be the most effective way that Labour-run councils could act to prove to the public that they are now serious about offering an alternative to Tory austerity and the New Labour’s debunked business as usual approach to politics.