What lessons has Leicester’s Labour-led City Council learnt from Jeremy Corbyn’s fighting socialist program for transforming society? Not many it seems.
Corbyn’s anti-austerity message received an enlarged mandate in Leicester, so why are our dear councillors now ‘consulting’ (again) on forcing the poorest households in Leicester to pay more council tax? (“Why 20,000 of Leicester’s poorest households could be hit with higher council tax bills,” June 26, Leicester Mercury.)
Leicester expects better.
Why, for example, don’t our Labour councillors now give proper attention to the strategy for opposing further austerity and attacks on the poor that was outlined earlier this year in Unison’s “no-cuts” budget? Maybe, just maybe, they want us to remind them where Unison’s fighting socialist budget proposal can be found online: https://goo.gl/6aj2us
Today, however, to many peoples relief the Leicester Mercury revealed that two of Leicester’s 52 Labour councillors have decided to oppose the proposed changes to council payments — although neither councillor have yet to say anything positive about Unison’s budget proposal (“Councillors urge Leicester mayor to use unspent cash to help city’s poorest families,” June 29, Mercury.)
Thus former city council leader Ross Wilmott was reported as saying to the newspaper:
“I am opposed to increasing the burden of tax on the poorest in the city. It would be a disgrace for a Labour council to do this. It is not why people voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the last election and I hope the mayor does not implement this increase.”
Although Cllr Willmott can boast of quite a chequered past politically speaking, over the past year he has been a firm supporter of Labour’s leader, even going as far as penning a blog post on April 19 entitled “Why Jeremy Corbyn will lead us to Victory on June 8th.” Unfortunately the same political commitment to supporting Corbyn’s leadership against austerity has not been demonstrated by Councillor Vijay Singh Riyait. Cllr Riyait nevertheless explained to the paper:
“There is disquiet among Labour members about something that could hit the worst off and most vulnerable families when we have a political choice. I don’t think I will be able to vote for it. Is this the thing a Labour council ought to be doing when there is another way?”
But while Cllr Riyait may oppose some cuts — which is nice –he has also been strongly opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. This opposition to Corbyn makes sense when one recalls that his preferred candidate for the 2015 Labour leadership contest was die-hard Blairite, Liz Kendall.
One should also note that over the past week Cllr Riyait has been busy on social media sowing division in the Labour Party’s ranks, which he did by joining those Labour MPs and MEPs who are demanding that Corbyn fully accept membership of the single market (for more on this read “Leaving the single market will unleash the full potential of Corbynism, no wonder the Blairites want to stay in it”). (Another local Labour councillor who seem similarly enamoured by the regressive single market is Cllr Susan Barton.)
Never has a principled and substantive opposition to austerity been more necessary than now, which is why it is so frustrating that all of Leicester’s 52 Labour Councillors are ignoring Unison’s proposal that the Council set a legal “no cuts” budget.
The significance of Unison’s fighting proposal is however becoming more significant by the day, and the latest news about cuts has generated the following headline “Youth services set to be cut and jobs axed by Leicester council” (June 30, Mercury). Councillor Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for young people, misexplained to the Mercury:
“The reality of ongoing and severe cuts to council budgets means we have no choice but to look at changing the way we deliver our youth services.”
This is a lie.
As Leicester’s various trade unions have already demonstrated, the Council can fight back and oppose austerity if it wants to. That is why it is essential that we (the public) succeed in forcing our Labour Council to follow in Corbyn’s socialist footsteps by launching a local campaign against all further cuts!