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Election campaigns :: Councillors
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In Scotland, both Scottish National Party (SNP) and Labour councillors continue to be complicit in implementing cuts.
In a welcome change of approach, three Labour councillors affiliated with the Campaign for Socialism, have this year refused to vote for cuts budgets for the first time. All three broke Labour group discipline, having previously voted for cuts budgets.
Gordon Munro in Edinburgh abstained on the SNP/Labour cuts budget. In North Lanarkshire, Angela Feeney "with a heavy heart" refused to support her party's proposals.
Glasgow councillor Matt Kerr walked out of the council chamber in opposition to the various cuts budgets on offer, including Labour's alternative budget. He said: "I refuse to be an administrator for any more cuts".
Socialist Party Scotland welcomes political opposition to cuts budgets from councillors and we would oppose any witch-hunt of councillors who refuse to vote for cuts. But we would go further and call on these councillors to advocate an alternative no-cuts budget for their councils.
So far this has not happened. Individual protests by councillors are not a substitute for a strategy of building a mass campaign against cuts.
Why did these left councillors not link up with council workers and communities and put forward the alternative, legal, no-cuts budget strategy that has been demanded consistently and for several years by the joint trade unions in Glasgow for example?
This is also the official position of the UK local government committees of Unison, Unite and GMB unions, and Unison Scotland. Councils could stop cuts and council tax rises by utilising financial mechanisms such as borrowing, debt management, reserves and cancellation of PFI privatisation.
They then could launch mass campaigns uniting with trade unions and communities to demand more funding from Holyrood. The Scottish government should do the same and use its income tax powers on the wealthy to fund public services.
Historically, the socialist Liverpool council in the 1980s was able to win more funding from the Thatcher government by refusing to implement cuts. Why not follow this road if enough is really enough?
Many trade unionists, workers and community activists in Glasgow are also pointing out that despite this recent protest, Matt Kerr was part of the previous Labour administration that carried out several hundred million in cuts. He was also on the wrong side of bitter strikes in social work and over the privatisation of ICT services in Glasgow.
Angela Feeney voted to increase council tax - in reality another austerity attack on the working class - something the Socialist Party opposes.
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Article dated 11 March 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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