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Greens respond to Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance

Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance recently wrote to all Labour Councillors challenging them to oppose the cuts. The letter is reprinted in full below. Councillor Jillian Creasy responded as follows.

jillianchairsconference

Dear Geoff,
Thanks for copying the Green Councillors into your open letter to Labour councillors asking them to set a “no cuts” budget on 1st March. As you may have seen in the press by now, the Green Councillors, following lengthy and robust discussions with members of Sheffield Green Party, have decided to put an amendment which shows how some – but by no means all – cuts could be avoided by a small rise in council tax.
We gave serious consideration to the points raised by the Sheffield Anti Cuts Campaign and the new Councillors against Cuts initiative and recognise the strength of the arguments. At national level, the Green Party is the only one represented on Sheffield City Council and in Westminster to have set out a “no cuts” alternative at the time of the 2010 General Election. We continue to campaign for this at a national level and are deeply disappointed that the main national opposition party remains committed to “austerity” policies. We support the “Fair Deal for Sheffield” campaign, though we think the most important task of those leading it – the local Labour party – is to persuade their own leadership to set out clearly and publicly how they would increase and re- prioritise funds for local authorities and, of course, their alternative to the Coalition government’s welfare reform and the dismantling of public services.
But at local level, the Green Party councillors believe that they have been elected to make choices on behalf of the electorate within a legal and financial framework. This does not prevent us criticising and campaigning to change that framework. But we have accepted the responsibility for making the best possible fist of the conditions we find ourselves in.
You suggest that we could use reserves and borrowing or set a deficit budget. The council is obliged to carry a prudent level of reserves, borrowing can only be used for projects which can be shown to be repayable (“invest to save”) and it is illegal to set a deficit budget. To do any of these things would trigger the council being taken over by Whitehall with civil servants cutting services. This might absolve us of the responsibility for making cuts, but it would make it even harder for local people – tenants, unions, community groups, the voluntary sector – to influence the nature of those cuts. It is important to “bring local communities with us” but we will do this by being honest about the financial decision and genuine consultation about the choices and alternatives at very local level.
We will continue to fight the cuts at national level and try to make sure they are implemented in the least harmful way at a local level. The people we talk to in our ward and in the campaigning groups do understand this. We nevertheless salute your efforts and see SACA as a valuable campaign.
Yours
Cllr Jillian Creasy, Green Party

 

cutsdemo241110marchwebversionAn open letter to all Labour Councillors from Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance

 Dear Councillor

As March 1st 2013 looms, we are writing to urge you to re-commit to the political principles on which you were elected and work to reverse the Labour council’s present policy of implementing the cuts programme of the Coalition government.

People voted for you to protect their jobs, services, housing and amenities – not to attack them.  While we know that you disagree with government policy, nevertheless you and your colleagues have become the direct instruments of that policy at local level. You are the ones actually making the cuts and you cannot evade that responsibility. It is no comfort to those losing their livelihoods and services that this is being done to them by the person they voted for.

We welcome the ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’ initiative and we will help to make the case that Sheffield has been unfairly treated by government. But we do not believe that this initiative on its own can be the answer to Sheffield’s problems. The scale and severity of the cuts to come this year and in following years will mean the devastation of public services and will completely undermine the ability of the Council to defend and promote the well-being of current and future generations of Sheffielders. We therefore particularly welcome the Councillors against the Cuts initiative launched by the Labour Representation Committee and would call upon you to join them in their opposition to cuts in council spending.

You may say that there is no alternative to the present ‘austerity’ policies. But that is simply not true: the majority of economists of all persuasions now agree that cuts will not lead to economic recovery and are taking us further into recession.

You may say that you have no alternative to carrying out the instructions of a democratically elected government. But the present government has no democratic mandate for its current political course. In fact, in the last General Election, the majority of people voted against the type of policies now being pursued. To resist government cuts is therefore at the same time to reject the dishonest manipulation of our democratic system that took place with the formation of the Coalition.

You may say that there is nothing we can do differently at present. But we believe there is a lot you can do: from delaying cuts by drawing on reserves, using borrowing powers, working with tenants and unions to avoid evictions and privatisations, to setting a deficit budget. Other strategies are possible and can be discussed. But the key is to bring the local communities with you – they will rally around when you show you are willing to defend them. And if you are not prepared to take bold measures and show bold leadership, then perhaps you should stand down and allow others to take your place in the fight?

We urge you, then, to reconsider your current position and to work with colleagues to change the current direction of Council policy. Don’t betray your supporters and the people who depend on you: fight for the things you were elected for; fight for what you believe in!

 

Martin Mayer (Chair)

Geoff Turner (Secretary)

Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance

What do you think? Should the Council set an illegal budget and face the consequences, handing over the budget to Whitehall, or do their best to protect Sheffielder’s from the worst of the cuts?

Topics: Budget, City Wide, Council, Cuts, Featured, Jillian Creasy

There are 23 Responses to Greens respond to Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance

27th February 2013

You’ve lost a family of potential supporters with this statement. How many more voters and potential voters do you think this weak stance will now lose you when our lives start being compromised and ruined by cuts? When people find out you did nothing effective to fight for them? To help in them in their own fight? How can you start fighting cuts nationally when you are not putting up any kind of strong fight locally?

About cuts, you say you will “try to make sure they are implemented in the least harmful way at a local level. The people we talk to in our ward and in the campaigning groups do understand this”. Have you told these people that austerity is predicated on a vast lie and that by not opposing the cuts locally, by permitting them to go ahead, you are vindicating that lie? Cuts cannot be implemented in any way other than a harmful way; it’s like saying you will torture someone more kindly. Have you told these people what the actual effect of the cuts on them is likely to be? Their children? Their communities? Without recourse to the downplaying lies coming from the Council? Cuts are already going ahead; the cuts to children’s centres have now been approved. Where was the really strong, rallying voice of opposition from the Greens on that one? It looks likely that with such pathetic party political opposition from Greens, the Council will feel vindicated in approving more cuts; no wonder the Greens still have such a small voice locally. No wonder you STILL only have one sitting MP nationally.

The very efficacy of austerity is being discredited daily, even on cold fiscal grounds. The cuts must be fought and stopped; their effects will be irreversible, hurting people who did not cause our social crisis for generations to come, creating an even deeper social crisis. This programme of cuts is taken as mere collateral damage in the quest for economic recovery; yet it is destroying fundamental human rights to which everyone in our city is entitled on the basis of their inherent dignity. Those people are looking to you for leadership, not to act as mere agents for the cold arrogance and greed of global wealth as our Government and the ruling party on Sheffield City Council are.

You say:”The council is obliged to carry a prudent level of reserves, borrowing can only be used for projects which can be shown to be repayable (“invest to save”) and it is illegal to set a deficit budget. To do any of these things would trigger the council being taken over by Whitehall with civil servants cutting services”. You say this is illegal; in reality, this law has never been tested. It would not be instant or easy, legally, for Pickles to impose commissioners. Ask yourself: who should decide the shape of your futures? Us? Or Eric Pickles? Whose ideas should shape the future of our city? Ours? Or Eric Pickles? Under the Local Government Act 1999 s.15(6), Eric Pickles, as the minister, can personally or through “a person nominated by him” take over “a specified function of the authority” if he is satisfied that the council is failing to make “arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness”. Who defines what constitutes ‘economy, efficiency and effectiveness’? Eric Pickles and his free-market led privatisation agenda? Or us?

Realistically, if a first local council votes a no-cuts budget, Pickles is much more likely to wait for it to lose its nerve than to jump in with commissioners straight away. Assume, however, that the courts go with Pickles: think about it politically. If the commissioners attempted harsher cuts than an elected council would make – with the councillors still in office and agitating loudly against the commissioners – then Sheffield people and community anger against the cuts would increase massively against the undemocratic imposition. For instance, the Council’s own petition for the ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’, despite having their weight and that of local media behind it, got almost 3 times FEWER signatures than the petitions against cuts to children’s centres, Stocksbridge Leisure Centre and Adventure Playgrounds combined. Thousands of people have taken direct action, marched, occupied and protested against the cuts in Sheffield over the last couple of years. This shows the strength of voice against cuts in Sheffield.

With even minimal leadership from councillors, together with organisations such as unions, a vast storm of protest could be aroused further, deterring the government and rousing other councils also to oppose cuts. If it is not worth trying to push back cuts in such favourable conditions, then it is hard to see when it would ever be worth taking the risk of fighting anything.

We and our lives have already been compromised unacceptably over the last 40 years; councillors have acquiesced to the demands of past and present governments, implementing a programme of outsourcing and privatisation, unquestioningly following the ideologies of centralised power. The city’s situation today is the final endgame.

When the legality and morality of what is being demanded of you has been laid bare, when you KNOW that by carrying out such directives lives will be ruined, that communities will be divided, families will breakdown and people abandoned to poverty, that people’s lives will be shortened and their life chances destroyed then you must look to the courage of your convictions, even if that means counter-attacking in a way that those trying to force your hand may try to deem illegal.

If you do not, you will held culpable and pointed to as accomplices, collaborators in the destruction of society.

    28th February 2013

    Appreciate and empathasise with the anger, I feel it myself, we all do. I think what councillors can/can’t do at a local level does need continual honest discussion, and Jillian has been very honest, about what can be done here. What can be done at a local level is very limited, it’s very very depressing. If anyone can come up with any realistic extra/other strategies councillors can consider am sure they will. But, realistic is operative word. Using reserves seems to be a popular suggestion, generally a red herring, certainly in Sheffield. Needs budget? A nice political gesture but would open the door to outside control. A recent article in “Red Pepper” was trying to start/develop a discussion about this in an article “beyond the dented shield”, and certainly think we need to keep thinking, despite how difficult and desperate the situation is. We all know there is no hope of the Labour leadership fighting back, its heads down till the next election, and that is being and will be reflected by the majority of Labour councillors, so we do have to think of other ways other tactics.

Profile photo of Graham Wroe
28th February 2013

Thank you for your long contribution, but I think you are being unnecessarily harsh on the Greens. Have you read the press release here? http://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2013/02/25/less-than-50p-a-week-for-our-childrens-futures/
We will soon be publishing the full budget amendment which shows in detail how many of the services you are worried about could be saved.

28th February 2013

Given the Green party’s weak position on Sheffield City Council, how do you go about getting the council to raise CT by 3%? Even if a referendum was held, how likely do you feel it would be that people would vote for such an increase? Many people feel that they are already paying too much in council tax and that they are not getting the level of service, if any service at all, that they deserve due to a big proportion of their taxes going towards private profits and remuneration under outsourcing and privatisation deals. Sheffield City Council pay £730 million each year to providers: the total amount in profit siphoned off by the top 11 companies was around £15.4 million. This at a time when we are being told that the Council will be making hundreds of redundancies and having to find an extra £10 million in savings next year, and making the cuts that you should be fighting. The Council likes to suggest that this money is re-invested into the local economy, but in truth most of it is paid in dividends to parent companies or used to hike up unreasonably high directors’ pay deals during a time of austerity. {http://nowthenmagazine.com/issue-56/outsourcing/} Why should Sheffield citizens pay more money to subsidise such a system when they are already suffering financially? Any rise in council tax would disproportionately affect the poorest quintile of Sheffield’s population, who already shoulder the biggest income/tax ratio in the city; many of them will be losing their council tax benefit. A 48p a week rise in council tax amounts to £24.96 across the year. That’s actually a lot of money for the city’s poorest residents. For example, my dad’s cleaning lady is seeing her income drop as clients are not employing her due to their own worsening economic circumstances. Her vacuum cleaner has broken down and she is buying a new one, reduced to half price as part of supermarket deal; her mum is loaning her £30, about half the cost of the vacuum cleaner. If her mum had to shell out another £20 or so a year in council tax, it would make it even more difficult for her to give her daughter that help; that is how life is for thousands of Sheffield people. People like them deserve better than for an opposition councillor to continue supporting the outsourced and privatised delivery of essential public services in the city by raising their council tax. That policy just more weight to the political ethos coming from the global corporations and institutions that want that to happen.

28th February 2013

As an addition to the above, even at present council tax levels: “Up to 84% on low incomes will not pay council tax, local authorities believe” http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/27/low-incomes-council-tax-local

    28th February 2013

    I think it is a given that, barring something extraordinary happening, the amendment proposed by the Greens will not get adopted. This is in part a function of the “winner takes all” style of democracy we have in Sheffield, moderated only when there is a balance of power.
    The Greens, nevertheless, feel it is necessary to alert Sheffield voters to both the national disaster that is austerity and to the less than equitable handling by the Labour council of the cuts. Our Press Release makes it plain in its opening paragraph that we utterly reject the “There is no alternative” stance to austerity, and that we will fight on the the national level against the cuts; and, on the other hand, points out that, since local councils have failed to join together in opposing the cuts, our task on a local level is to lessen the effect of the multiple blows you so rightly point out will be suffered by those least able to withstand them.
    Our proposed Council Tax rise would actually re-instate the effect of the lost council tax benefit on lower-income families, thereby protecting them; and would also protect early years provision, helping young families to go out to work. It is to help just such people as you cite that we make this amendment.
    Whether or not the people of Sheffield would vote for it is a matter for conjecture; evidence shows that increases in Council Tax on or below the rate of inflation stand a reasonable chance of success.
    Your point about the profits of the sub-contractors is well made, and one on which we, alongside others, have campaigned. We have fought in council against this outsourcing which we believe gives less value for money for council tax payers in the medium to long term, and leaves the council with little or no room for manoevre if circumstances change. We will continue to fight this cause because we think it’s immoral that the wages and salaries of Council Tax payers should go in dividends and be exported from the region in other ways.

28th February 2013

It’s simple really. Government wants to destroy local government so, it cuts funding, and wraps it up in statements about the need for cuts/austerity because of debts or more usually “the mess left by the last Labour government” Think we are all bored to tears with that one, but,too many people fall for it…. So,local government has less money to pay for all the services it provides. You can argue as to where cuts should fall, but that’s about the limit. Some councils, (including Tory) have voted to raise council tax, as a way of slowing down, halting some cuts. It could in Sheffield make a small but significant difference to some people affected, and the people affected are those most in need. Would people vote for a council tax raise ? If they understand that council tax pays for services that without a raise will be cut, maybe. If they don’t they won’t. These are dreadful times and am sure council cuts will be a shock and surprise to many people who simply have taken no notice of what’s been going on. If more people nationwide had taken notice a couple of years ago, we may not be in quite the position we are in now. Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, did I know the NHS was under threat? ..Difficult to know whether to laugh or cry really.

1st March 2013

As far I as I know, council tax income is only about a quarter of any councils’ budget; most of the rest comes from central government, so to offset cuts of 25% in central government funding, council tax would have to be raised 70 or 80%. Also, council tax is redistributed to central government, so it’s unlikely that the extra 3% would go anywhere near service delivery for people in Sheffield.

    Profile photo of Douglas Johnson
    1st March 2013

    In Sheffield, council tax only pays for about 13% of the Council’s costs, although it does all stay in Sheffield. The cuts from central government are very harsh on cities like Sheffield. What the Green’s proposals do is look at what we can actually do in Sheffield, given the choices the Council can make.

1st March 2013

That is, if 75p in every £1 comes from central government, a cut in that revenue of 25% = 17.5p in the pound (17.5p being 70% of the 25p in every £1 coming from council tax).

10th March 2013

As a rule of thumb in Sheffield a 1% rise in CTAX raises a million pound-so the 2.95% rise you propose to raise £3million adds up. Budgets have to balance allthough you might say as an accountant I would say that. There is something about a £1.6 million Council Tax reduction grant the council gets which I understand can be taken away if CTAX gets raised. Perhaps that’s why you suggest a Referendum. I’d vote yes but not sure about other people. Setting a deficit budget would just mean Government Commissioners being appointed to run the city and impose cuts without recourse to local people. Councillors would face disqualification, fines and maybe jail and it’s not fair to ask that. The reputational damage to Sheffield would be immense. Reserves can be used-but once they are gone they are gone so you need to be prudent. Borrowing to pay for Capital projects is OK, but not to finance revenue spending and you do have to pay interest.

What Rachel says about the NHS being under threat is true-and also the bit about people not realising how bad the cuts are-and there’s more to come. Government hatred of the public sector is making things worse. A triple dip recession is here-in truth there has just been one recession which goes up and down a bit.

Don’t agree with your idea about cutting Senior Staff Salaries-they are lower than equivalent posts in the Private Sector. It’s in Private Sector Organisations like Big Banks where the Salary Multiplier needs to be introduced. There’s alot to be said for the John Lewis model.

Unhappywith LibDem policy of a general pay cut for all Council Staff unless there’s a sweetener to go with it. OK if they protect Pension Contributions at full hours level! Many Public sector workers atall levels and in all disciplines-including Senior Managers and Back Office Staff work very hard and it would be nice if politicians of all parties would acknowledge that! Many have volunteered to work fewer hours and so on over the past few years to help save money.

The only way this will change is with a different emphasis nationally. Keep 50% higher Tax Bracket (£1.3 billion pa), introduce Tobin Tax (£8 billionpa), Scrap Trident-(£25-£100 billion to buy and £3 billion a year to run), a proper plan to do something about tax avoidance and tax evasion(who knows how much is being squirrelled away?) would make a big start.

    Profile photo of Graham Wroe
    10th March 2013

    Thanks for your thoughtful posting Simon. I’m sure others will reply, but as regards the referendum it isn’t the Green’s idea-it is a device that has been imposed by Government to discourage Councils putting up Council Tax. That was one thing that made our decision difficult- because if a referendum went against putting up Council Tax we would have to pay for the referendum and still have to make the cuts. Councillors really are in an appalling situation.

10th March 2013

Simon.

“Councillors would face disqualification, fines and maybe jail and it’s not fair to ask that.”

No. The legal position now is much more favourable for defiance than in the days of Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool. Councillors run almost no personal risk.

The laws which used to open the way to councillors being suspended, or disqualified no longer hold since the relevant parts of the Localism Act 2011 came into force on 1 July 2012. The laws which allowed for them to be surcharged had been repealed even before that. The imposition of commissioners in such a context is legally untested, which is not the same as being illegal. By implementing the cuts, the Council are doing Pickles’s bidding for him in any case. The government are leaving the door open for local authorities to take a stand; by their not doing so, the government can then point to a general party political consensus for austerity, even amongst those who know they are acting on a fallacy.

As for setting a needs budget causing “reputational damage”… What??? Ruining the future lives and prospects of Sheffield people by imposing austerity, based on the absolute lie that investing the proceeds of the country’s common wealth in the future wellbeing of those very same people who create that wealth, has caused our social and economic crisis WOULDN’T cause reputational damage?????? When we know that the opposite is the case?????? What of the Council’s and our generation’s reputational damabger amongst future generations when they learn that the damage caused to their lives WAS based on a lie, that they have suffered because our council INCLUDING The Green Party would not take a principled stand??????

10th March 2013

“Councillors would face disqualification, fines and maybe jail and it’s not fair to ask that.” So: it IS then fair to implement the cuts and see the poorest and most vulnerable people in Sheffield face fines and maybe jail because they can no longer pay their council tax or their rent due to the cuts that the council are not fighting.

Profile photo of Douglas Johnson
10th March 2013

I think Brunt is correct in saying Councillors are personally safe and not going to face jail, surcharges, etc for refusing to set a budget.

Defiance is an option. But so is the principle of choosing the best available option for the people they represent, given the circumstances of the time.

11th March 2013

Defiance is the best available option Douglas. If you get people to accept ‘some’ cuts, or frame the cuts in terms of ‘less bad’ cuts, then you can persuade them to accept any and all cuts. In essence, that is what has been happening over the decades up to now. By reducing services and removing people’s choices in a steady fashion, people have become inured to the situation; the ‘slow, steady’ austerity of Blu-Labour and now, it would seem, The Greens, is part of that approach. That’s what acquiescence and non-defiance get you; the situation where going ahead and ruining people’s lives from a remote position based on a lie is seen as actually, and with a straight face, presented as the LEAST RADICAL AND EXTREMIST option compared with doing the opposite.

    11th March 2013

    Councillors face a stark choice, 1) make cuts. 2) Resign and allow non-elected others to run the local council. Either way someone will complain, either saying they accepted cuts and didn’t put up a fight or that they abdicated responsibility to support the people who elected them. Its a loose loose situation! The only winners are the Tories/Lib-Dems. If anyone has any other practical suggestions as to what councillors can do in these current circumstances please post.
    Much as I dislike the Labour Party, and especially how they are behaving locally in Sheffield, (eg refusing to hear the Green amendment, how very democratic of them) I don’t actually believe they want to make cuts, not unless any of them are closet Tories/Lib-Dems. Would be nice if all against cuts and austerity could actually work together, then maybe we’d get somewhere.

    11th March 2013

    Hi Brunt,
    What do you actually mean by “defiance” ? In practical terms ?

11th March 2013

Has anybody in The Sheffield Green’s actually read this?

““If our Labour council votes a no-cuts budget, then the Tory minister Eric Pickles will just take over the local authority and make worse cuts.”

Under the Local Government Act 1999 s.15(6), Eric Pickles, as the minister, can personally or through “a person nominated by him” take over “a specified function of the authority” if he is satisfied that the council is failing to make “arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness”.

This law has never been tested. It would not be instant or easy, legally, for Pickles to impose commissioners.

Assume, however, that the courts go with Pickles, as they probably would. Think about it politically.

If the commissioners attempted harsher cuts than an elected council would make – with the councillors still in office and agitating loudly against the commissioners – then workers’ and community anger against the cuts would double up with anger against the undemocratic imposition.

With even minimal leadership from the unions and councillors, a vast storm of protest could be aroused, deterring the government and rousing other Labour councils also to oppose cuts. If it is not worth trying to push back cuts in such favourable conditions, then it is hard to see when it would ever be worth taking the risk of fighting anything.

Realistically, if a first Labour council votes a no-cuts budget, Pickles is much more likely to wait for it to lose its nerve than to jump in with commissioners straight away.

“A single council could never win anything.”

Poplar’s Labour council, in 1921, and the Labour council of the small town of Clay Cross, in 1972-4, upheld the interests of their working-class communities by defying central government constraints, and won victories. In each case they were pretty much on their own; other Labour councils complied with the central government constraints.

Poplar extracted extra funds for councils with a poor local tax base; Clay Cross created the pressure which made the incoming Labour government in 1974 repeal Tory legislation to force council rent rises.

During the Thatcher cuts of the 1980s, Liverpool’s Labour council went to the brink of defying the government over cuts. It won solid working-class support for defiance. It won some temporary concessions.

The Liverpool council leadership, under the influence of Militant (now the Socialist Party), dodged and blinked at the crunch, and ended up making cuts. But if the councillors had held firm, Thatcher could probably have been beaten back over cuts (and the great miners’ strike then underway could have won).

Anyway, there’s something circular about each council leadership saying that it can do nothing because it’s on its own. The answer for all the council leaderships saying they can do nothing because they’re on their own is for them to get together.

Labour controls most of the big-city councils in England and Wales, and hundreds of others. If even a sizeable minority of those councils got together to defy the government, it would be politically very difficult indeed for Pickles to try to impose commissioners.

“Ah, but Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool councillors got surcharged, bankrupted (Clay Cross), and jailed (Poplar). Councillors won’t do that today.”

Few struggles can be started with a guarantee of no problems or difficulties if you lose.

In fact, however, the legal position now is much more favourable for defiance than in the days of Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool. Councillors run almost no personal risk.

The laws which used to open the way to councillors being suspended, or disqualified no longer hold since the relevant parts of the Localism Act 2011 came into force on 1 July 2012. The laws which allowed for them to be surcharged had been repealed even before that.

“If the council sets a no-cuts budget, then it will just run out of money and collapse.”

Setting a no-cuts budget is not an instant solution. We can’t defeat the government just by a vote in a council chamber.

The purpose of the no-cuts budget is to rally the local working class and community to defend services, and put the council on their side.

As it moved towards its no-cuts budget, a Labour council genuinely representing the interests of the labour movement would mobilise council workers, council tenants, and local communities for a fight. Obviously councillors can have little credibility when calling on workers and tenants to fight unless they make a stand themselves.

The council and the local labour movement should work together towards a concerted act of local working-class defiance – councillors refusing to budget within central government limits, council workers striking, council tenants rent-striking, residents withholding council tax – with the demand that central government restores the money for local services.

“The local labour movement is weak, and the union leaders aren’t willing to fight. There’s no time to build that sort of mobilisation.”

The question is whether councillors put themselves on the side of those mobilising against the cuts, or on the side of those who make the labour movement weak by saying nothing can be done.

Even a single council’s defiance would have a big effect in rousing people to think alternatives are possible.

Of course, mobilisation would take time. But councils have ways to make time.

Whatever the coming central government cuts, councils are large organisations with complex finances which give them leeway. They can cut top management and councillors’ expenses.

They can sell commercial assets. They can juggle accounts to move spending items from one financial year to the next, or from current account to capital account. Although there are legal limits on councils borrowing, there will still be loopholes. (Liverpool council found one in 1985, borrowing from Swiss banks).

“Wouldn’t it be better to adjust things by raising council taxes?”

Under current law, a council has to call a referendum if it increases council tax by more than 2%.

Under the Thatcher cuts, in the 1970s and 80s, some left Labour council leaderships thought that increasing rates (local property taxes which existed then in place of council tax) was the answer. They could do that at will (until 1985), and sometimes increased rates by as much as 49% in a single year.

The more militant left argued against that tack, and it didn’t work. The big rate rises, carried out not to improve services, but just to keep them as they were, angered local people.

In the end all the rate-raising councils had to retreat in disorder. They had not “won time”, but weakened their base by angering the ratepayers.

Council taxes are even more regressive than rates. What was councils’ business rates revenue is now set and received by central government, and then redistributed, so it would take gigantic council tax rises to offset the current cuts in central government funding – bigger than the rate rises of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Even apart from the referendum hurdle, raising council tax is not a workable option.” That kind of defiance.

16th March 2013

Liverpool of the 1980’s could well be the worst ever in the history of local government so not a good example to follow.

To Borrow money you have to persuade someone to lend it to you-and you do have to pay interest on loans. Can be a good idea to fund Capital projects but nor for day to day revenue spending.

Capital Funds and Revenue have to be accounted for separately.

Local Authorities have to account for expenditure in the financial year it relates to.Large scale deviances of the amount of money we’re talking about would get hammered by the Auditors.

Councillors Allowances in Sheffield are £11/£12k a year plus special responsibilities allowances-a drop in the ocean compared to the total Council Budget and less than in many smaller authorities-including I think Rotherham? Not paying Councillors would mean the only people who could afford to do the job would be independently wealthy or living on benefits/retired.

Senior Management Costs-already cut back on these a lot. Higher salaries in Local Govt are already less than Private Sector Equivalents. Don’t be fooled by the Daily Mail into thinking all council workers are lazy or incompetent.

selling of surplus Land and Buildings-a good idea. SCC has been doing this for many years. Of course you have to persuade someone to buy what you want to sell-and be prepared to give planning permission to the buyers to develop. Can be a good way of attracting investment and creating jobs.

Council Tax/Rent Strike-Irresponsible to encourage people to break the terms of their Tenancy Agreement and build up areas / get summoned to court and damage their credit ratings. Would just make the Council Budget problems worse and increase Administrative Costs of dealing with arrears and create damage to Councils reputation. I think there’s something about Councillors having a duty to ensure the Authority collects the income it is due to.

workers Strike-Well I’m a worker and I value my job and believe in doing it well and don’t want to go on strike. Going on strike just makes the service to the public worse, hits workers in the pocket-allthough does save the council money! Also creates breaks in service putting redundancy/pension conditions at risk. Non-council workers wouldn’t strike to save Council jobs.

i guess this highlights the problem the Green Party faces-does it try to attract Social Democrats like me-an ex SDP member who has consistently voted Labour for 20 years apart from the last Euro-election and one Council Election when I voted Green. ( General Election and last two Council Elections was back in Labour camp), or does it go for the more radical people like Brunt?

16th March 2013

I’d like to believe there is some milage in what you suggest, but I don’t. If councillors set a no cuts/illegal budget, then officers would have to inform Pickles dept. Suspect officers would be forced to alter a budget in those circumstances without ever bringing anyone else in. Anyway, whatever I think is imaterial as no Labour council will set a no cuts/illegal budget. They are simply waiting to get elected in government in a couple of years and most are sitting on their hands till then.
We have to come up with new ideas to challenge the government, old ways of thinking won’t do.

Profile photo of Douglas Johnson
16th March 2013

The Green Party certainly has vision as to how we could live in a fairer, sustainable society. But the approach is to look at what can actually be done, by us, here and now, to make the lives of people in Sheffield better. It’s a down-to-earth approach, not a text-book one.

So, the Sheffield Green Councilors’ budget proposal would have made life better for the many households on the lowest incomes, people who use community nurseries, leisure centres, libraries and playgrounds.

These are the things that attract people to Sheffield Green Party.

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