Picture: protest outside council
LABOUR-CONTROLLED Southampton city council voted for £16m cuts and service charge hikes at its budget-making meeting on February 13 – and refused to even discuss an alternative anti-cuts budget submitted by the two ‘rebel councillors’, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas.
Picture: Councillor Keith Morrell
The Rebel Two’s proposals met the legal requirements of a balanced budget at least for the 2013-14 financial year – it was not a ‘deficit budget’. But the council’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) judged it as not being a ‘prudent budget capable of implementation’. Consequently council officers advised the Mayor – an elected Labour councillor – to make a chair’s ruling that the amendment would not be debated at the council’s budget-making meeting and, backed by the Labour group, that’s what he did.
But the no cuts budget could have been debated. Before the meeting Keith and Don wrote to every Labour councillor answering the CFO’s objections and asking the councillors to use the legal power they had to at least allow the amendment to be debated before the public in the council chamber. But it was not to be.
Picture: Councillor Don Thomas
Councillors have a choice. There are alternatives to implementing the cuts. But Southampton’s Labour councillors chose not to take them – or even debate them. However, as Keith and Don told the local Southampton Echo after the budget meeting, “the fight is just beginning” as more and more council workers and local residents realise that cuts are not inevitable.