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We view the setting of a new budget for 2020-2023 as yet another opportunity for Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire County Council to stand up and defend services, jobs and our communities from Tory cuts passed on by the Labour Welsh Assembly government.
We make no excuses for again calling on Carmarthenshire County Council to set a legal no-cuts budget.
We have consistently argued for this as a means to maintain services rather than passing on cuts to employees who suffer a double whammy of job losses or increased pressure in work, and cuts and increased council tax.
It is a political choice whether to fight the cuts or to wring your hands and say there's nothing you can do.
Yet again in 2020 the council has embarked on a sham public consultation. There is no mention in the online public consultation on the 2020-2023 budget about cuts the council is proposing to make. The word cuts has been substituted by the words efficiencies and savings.
While the budget settlement has resulted in less cuts than first envisaged, £16.5 million cuts on top of previous cuts implemented will make a bad situation a lot worse.
We are opposed to increasing the charges for car parking, increased charges for public conveniences, increased cemetery charges and asking for voluntary £1 donations for breakfast clubs. We are opposed to higher charges for sports facilities.
West Wales is the poorest region of northern Europe. Many families are struggling to cope now and many employees' families are receiving benefits - these increased charges will make it increasingly difficult for families to keep their heads above water, or will result in the pubic using important services less.
We call on councillors to vote no to cuts and to call on other councils and the Welsh Assembly to join the fight against cuts; to build mass opposition with the trade unions, anti-cuts campaigners and the public that will force or encourage this Tory government to provide relief funding to Carmarthenshire and other local authorities that have had to deplete their reserves and adopt temporary one-off budget-balancing measures to maintain vital public services.
Peterborough City Council - where the Conservatives are the largest party - has approved a budget which will bring in tax rises, redundancies and cuts to services.
Despite talk of the Tories repaying working-class people for electing them in the general election, austerity is far from over at local level.
Despite the budget being approved on 15 January, more 'savings' will need to be found before April, meaning the cuts will go much further.
Council tax will rise 4%, the maximum allowed. Band D taxpayers, for example, will see a rise of nearly £55 a year on their bill.
Over 75 council redundancies are planned. A similar number of contractor staff working for a range of frontline services could be lost.
In a ruthless attack on services relied upon by those most in need, £1.7 million will be cut from care and support.
Services affected by the budget include:
Reablement flats, LifeLine personal-alarm support, children's and youth services, school transport, winter-fuel payments and the Culture and Leisure Trust all come under attack by the Tories.
They say they will "support all affected groups to find alternative funding" and that the community will be "empowered" (read: expected) to take on the running of the services.
Labour councillors must put forward alternative budgets which refuse to make cuts and instead meet the needs of citizens, using reserves and borrowing powers where necessary.
To that end, they must be prepared to campaign with trade unions and anti-cuts and community campaigners.
We must show the Tories that despite winning the election, the fight is far from over.
It has become an annual event. Swansea Socialist Party is the only organised force that has consistently challenged the council on cuts.
We attended the 9 January council cabinet meeting. We put forward a legal no-cuts budget solution to the imposition of Tory austerity.
A one-off, general election-related deal from the Tories, and a Welsh government pay-out have softened £18 million in planned cuts.
The council have claimed they're putting money into departments instead of cutting, for the first time in years.
But a council-tax hike will hit the pockets of residents.
Socialist Party member Alec Thraves and council leader Rob Stewart had a heated debate, published on Wales Online - see 'Irritated council chiefs take exception to claim services have been cut to the bone' at walesonline.co.uk.
Alec pointed to the £70 million cuts over the past three years. Some departments have been cut by up to 50% and further cuts are still on the block.
Council leader Rob Stewart had the audacity to suggest that local services have been improved by devastating cuts passed on by the Labour authority since their election in 2012.
The cabinet congratulated itself on another year 'successfully' administering Tory austerity.
That evening it was revealed that 125 local hospital beds were being 'blocked' by patients unable to leave due to a lack of social workers - this department has seen drastic cuts.
In stark contrast to what was suggested by the council leader, this is the reality of cuts.
Any apparent pause in austerity in Swansea will only be temporary, and will not begin to reinstate the decline in services and job losses. And the above-inflation rise in council tax, another austerity attack, will hurt.
We will continue to put pressure on Labour councillors, and the authority, to change their tactic and take up a legal no-cuts budget to challenge austerity and the Tory government.
Enfield North Labour Party executive committee has reinforced its no-cuts position and agreed to implement the resolution that the Constituency Labour Party adopted last year.
The resolution, passed in January 2019, urged Enfield Labour councillors to adopt a "brave and principled position opposing the cuts and demanding that central government immediately grants funding back to pre-austerity 2010 levels."
It called for a no-cuts budget, using the council's financial reserves and borrowing powers. And to build and mobilise a grassroots mass campaign of support for the councillors that do that.
The resolution suggested a conference to be convened "inviting all interested organisations (trade unions, anti-cuts campaign groups, tenants associations and community organisations etc) to come and discuss and then agree on the practical measures needed to support the councillors and resist austerity."
That meeting is now urgently being organised by Enfield North executive committee. Council budget-setting day is 26 February and a rally outside the council building is also planned.
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Article dated 22 January 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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