Monday, 14 March 2016

People's Assembly national office strategy for building the resistance to council cuts

acknowledgements to William Quick
Dear comrades,

This strategy document sent out from the People's Assembly national office to all local groups with their strategy for building the resistance to council cuts over the coming years may be of interest to you (we'll it should be :p).

You'll note all of our councillors are in either Group 2 or Group 3 of councillors according to the PA scheme, and it should be our job as Green Lefter's to work with the PA in pressuring more and more of them into moving into group 3 and then setting Needs Budgets.

(In Bristol in the last budget we managed to get 9 of our councillors to vote against the budget, and the other 5 abstained.  Other than Gus Hoyt, none of our councillors have now voted for a cuts budget).

All the best,
Will Quick

Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2016 14:48:06 +0000
Subject: Local Groups: Strategy for cuts and councils

The People's Assembly Against Austerity
Hi all

It's Budget Day coming up next week and Osborne has already announced that there'll be more cuts. Local Councils budgets look like they will be hit hard again. Following the motions passed at the People's Assembly National Conference 2015 on campaigning against cuts to local councils, the People's Assembly committee has come up with the following strategy. This will obviously be developed further in the coming weeks and month but there are a few practical things we are asking all local People's Assembly groups to do in the next couple of days.

Initially we want to get as many councillors to sign up to the letter (see point 1 on action points). Please contact all your councillors in the next couple of days and ask them to add their name. Names can be added here:
(Forward this link on to councillors)

A Strategy for cuts and councils
The Peoples’ Assembly is completely opposed to Tory Governments cuts and campaigns against them without qualification. We aim to build a national movement to stop the cuts and will support tactics that will help to build this movement.
Local council budgets is one area that has been hit particularly hard by the Government. Some councils have faced a 40% cut to their budgets compared to 2010. This has led to hundreds of thousands of public sector job losses across the country and the closure, or privatisation, of essential services. This inevitably hits the most vulnerable in society hardest. We now face a situation where Central Government is set to impose further cuts to local council budgets and there is difficulty for councils to even provide basic statutory services.
The situation when campaigning against council imposed cuts is therefore more complicated. Our attitude toward councillors and local councils can be considered in three categories:

  1. Those that fully support the neo-liberal austerity agenda and work hard to apply cuts and privatisation of services
  2. Those that are opposed to austerity but have applied cuts locally, reflecting the budget given to the council by Central Government.
  3. Those who are opposed to cuts, vote against local council austerity budgets, try to minimise them and (the better ones) work with others to resist and challenge them.

The PA is opposed to council cuts and supports local groups in their efforts to resist these and build the protest movement. In an ideal situation hundreds of councillors / councils would fall into category 3.

However, to date, not one council has set a 'needs budget' or 'illegal budget' rejecting cuts to council budgets from the government. However, there are thousands of councillors who fall into category 2 – those that are against having to make cuts but don't feel like there's any other option than to set a budget with the allowance set by the government.
On the question of calls for councils to set 'needs budgets' or 'illegal budgets' we recognise that where that may be done there are legitimate concerns from councillors that the Government will impose commissioners to politically manage the budget set by Government, or simply that they have no other option than to work with the budget they have been given.
Councils will have usable reserves but, in recognising that this is likely to be a long struggle, they may not wish to spend these reserves quickly. Others may prefer to invest the reserves in socially useful areas, such as housing, which would increase revenues, create local jobs and meet a pressing need.
The job of the anti-austerity movement should be to work with any councillor who is opposed to austerity and create a movement that can shift as many councillors from category 2 to category 3. The likelihood of a council rejecting an austerity budget, or even a significant number of councillors demanding it will depend on the size of the movement on the streets backing them (as opposed to attacking them).
By doing this we will also drive a wedge between those councillors who are ideologically committed to austerity (category 1) and those that are opposed to austerity but have voted for cuts (category 2), leaving those in category 1 isolated while building up a stronger force against austerity.
As our movement grows in response to deeper and deeper cuts it is possible that we reach a stage when many councils are prepared to take this ultimate action. This could then have a positive impact on the political crisis reached at that stage.
1) Councillors letter against cuts
Ask every councillor in your area to add their name to this statement. Get the invitation to sign the letter to come from local trade union branches, community groups and campaign groups. Once the letter has been signed by councillors, send it into local media, organise press conferences, protests or public meetings with the signatories.
"As Councillors we believe this Tory Government's ideological opposition to public services lies behind the deliberate underfunding of Local Authorities.
Councils have faced unprecedented cuts; Local Authority grants in England have been slashed, with £12.5 billion of cuts and half a million Council workers losing their jobs since 2010. Osborne has forced through 40% cuts to Council budgets meaning that local authorities face the reality of cutting frontline services including Adult Social Care and Children's Services, leaving those that rely on them at risk.
We believe that austerity is a political choice. We oppose all cuts from Westminster and believe Osborne’s plans for Local Government will only make a bad situation worse.
We call on the government to reverse cuts to council funding so we are able to provide essential services our communities rely on. Furthermore we call for an end to austerity that is seeing living standards for the majority fall. This is why we also support the national march for Health, Homes, Jobs & Education on Saturday 16 April 2016 in London."Please ask councillors to add their name here - or email signatories
2) Campaign for a 'needs budget'
One option as part of a broader strategy is for Councils to effectively set two budgets. One is the budget that they set with the money that is allocated to them from Central Government. The second is a needs budget which shows how they would like to have spent money, highlighting where and how much the shortfall is and then campaigning for the funding. This puts the onus onto Central government and doesn’t let the Tories get away with what are in essence Tory cuts. This posing of an alternative should assist in building the movement.
3) Protests against the budget & organise for the 16 April national demo
On Wednesday 16 March George Osborne will be delivering his spending review. He has already announced there will be more cuts to public spending and it looks likely much of this will fall on local council budgets.
Organise in your area, with the councillors who have signed the letter (above), a press conference / photo op at the town hall on Budget Day around the slogan 'No More Tory Cuts'. Make sure unions, campaign groups and those who are affected by cuts attend as well as the councillors. The demands should be for the Government to properly fund local councils so money can be spent on essential services that benefit the local community and the most vulnerable people. The letter can also be sent into local press in the run up to Budget Day with councillors’ signatures. Also send the names into national office for the national press.
On Saturday 16 April ask all councillors who have signed the letter to attend the national demonstration and march with local People's Assembly groups & campaigns. Get local press on coaches and interviews in the run up to the demo.
4) Conference of councillors, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners
Nationally the PA will give a lead in organising a conference of councillors, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners, with the aim of encouraging unity in resistance. More details soon

The People's Assembly Against Austerity

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