Tonight represented a double-tragedy for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity Labour Party. In the City Town Hall, Leicester’s Labour Council held their latest Children’s and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission meeting where they busied themselves with discussing how they were going ahead with cutting approximately £1 million from their children’s services budget. While in the suburbs — Evington ward to be precise – Labour Council representatives met with the public to consult on their proposal to close a community centre and numerous housing offices.
This needless cuts tragedy was compounded by the fact that today’s issue of the Leicester Mercury contained an open letter, that was signed by many Labour Councillors — addressed to Andrew Gwynne, shadow secretary of state for local government — part of which explained:
“We request that you work with Labour councils urgently to start a campaign against cuts to local government budgets and to discuss the ways in which these cuts can be tackled at a local level in collaboration with the trade unions. We’re ready to do our part – in Leicester we have a shared responsibility as ordinary Labour Party members and officers, trade unionists, local Labour councillors, Local Campaign Forum and the city major to ensure Leicester gets involved in national and local initiatives that both highlight and campaign against Tory cuts.” (Mercury, July 5)
This letter is a good start, but at the city scrutiny meeting, Peter Flack, a representative of the National Union of Teachers who had also signed the open letter, reminded the Labour councillors present that the cities trade unions had already thrown their support behind UNISON’s legal “no cuts” budget proposal. Thus it remains something of a mystery that our Labour Council continues to pretend that UNISON’s proposal is unrealistic and unworkable… perhaps even ‘illegal’, so they say?!
At the same time that Peter was making this comments, I attended the Evington consultation meeting held at the Coleman Neighbourhood Centre, where I likewise drew attention to UNISON “no cuts” alternative. As it turns out, Evington’s three ward councillors were not there to hear my gentle reminder (having failed to give any official notice of apologies to the meeting for their planned absence), although at least the assistant mayor Cllr Andy Connelly was present to hear me out. (Of these four Labour councillors only Cllr Connelly had signed the aforementioned open letter.)
Here it is important to recognise that the Labour-backed “open letter” misinformed people by saying that if Leicester’s Labour Group “are to make ends meet and stay within the law, they feel they have no choice but to cut spending drastically and also consider reducing the pay and conditions of their owner workforce”. But this statement is wrong. The fighting alternative that was proposed by UNISON earlier this year, if adopted by our Labour Council, would mean they could stay within the law and oppose all Tory cuts.
The Labour Party should therefore take heed of the words of Labour Party member Davey Ivens, who in another related article in today’s Mercury (“Time running out to fight Tory cuts”) clearly explained:
“Leicester is a Labour city and, like other cities, is being punished by the Government. We can’t take people’s support for granted, though – people need to see the Labour Party fighting for them, locally and nationally. We could be months or years from another General Election but our services and the people who rely on them cannot wait – we’re running out of time.”
Too right! Now the only question that remains is will our Labour Council get off its collective arse and do their bit by backing UNISON’s call to concretely resist Tory austerity by refusing to carry through the Tories cuts agenda?
If you can’t wait for the answer to this question and support Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity Labour Party, and would like to see a Labour Government in Downing Street later this year, then make sure you contact your local Labour councillors to politely ask them to investigate implementing UNISON’s fighting, anti-austerity budget now — see here http://www.cabinet.leicester.gov.uk:8071/documents/s82534/No%20Cuts%20Budget%20for%20City%20prepared%20for%20Unison.pdf
For the contact details of your local city councillor see http://www.cabinet.leicester.gov.uk:8071/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1