Third anti-cuts councillor elected in Coxford! Congratulations Tammy Thomas!

As results were announced some relieved faces underlined the fear Labour councillors had of losing control in Southampton after four years of carrying out Tory cuts and their vote falling by over 6%. The results give a glimpse of different trends that the establishment and Blairites in the Labour Party would like to gloss over in their haste to bury Corbyn.

 Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 08.22.58Notably it was the fall in Tory votes by 6% that saved Labour, underlining the unpopularity of endless austerity, even then they still managed to lose a ward to the Tories in Sholing.

Debate rages over whether the Corbyn factor was positive or negative. Indications are that it was positive in some areas with Labour winning in Portswood for the first time in 35 years despite no campaigning and not putting out a leaflet.

Questions will also be asked of the campaign waged by UNITE and UNISON local council branches. Having carried a one-page ad in the local paper asking questions of candidates as to how council jobs and services could be protected in fear of a Tory victory, activists were sent out to Coxford, where local anti-cuts candidates Keith Morrell and Don Thomas have been re-elected with big majorities in the last two years.

If fear of losing to the Tories was the priority why weren’t activists sent to more marginal wards like Sholing which was lost, or seats like Bitterne Park where the Tories narrowly won?

It seems to be the case that right wing Labour fear a challenge from the left and went out to prevent a further anti-cuts councillor getting elected. They are right to be fearful. Underlining the support Keith and Don have built in Coxford in opposing cuts and defending council services, anti-cuts candidate, Tammy Thomas was elected with 45% of the vote and Labour nearly 500 votes behind.

The demand will now be raised of what can be done to fight the next round of cuts Labour plan to implement? It on this anger that a fightback against further cuts that should be mobilised amongst Corbyn supporters and the council unions. Southampton TUSC candidates continued to raise that call in the elections and will do so in the months ahead. Thanks to all of you who gave your support. Come and join us!

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To defend Southampton council jobs and services, Labour must refuse to implement cuts!

Southampton candidates standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the local elections on May 5th would like to reply to the questions asked by UNITE & UNISON in its Friday night advert in Southampton’s Daily Echo. (SEE BELOW)

“Our candidates state clearly and unequivocally our opposition to Conservative cuts to local government funding and its intention to abolish the Rate Support Grant by 2020. This represents a threat to the existence of elected local government councillors delivering public services to meet the needs of working class people and their communities.

We oppose the continued policies of cuts and privatisation of jobs and services in the city carried out by Labour since 2012, when the Tories were removed from control of the council, after the strike by council workers.

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The only way to protect jobs and services and the terms and conditions of council workers is to build a city-wide mass campaign of the communities and our trade unions to demand the restoration of government funding.

To mobilise support for such a campaign Labour councillors must refuse to carry out further cuts and use its £40 million reserves and prudential borrowing powers to ensure jobs and services are protected. A legal balanced, no cuts budget was proposed to the council by anti-cuts councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas in 2013 showing what is possible. Click to read NO CUTS budget

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The Tory government is divided and deeply unpopular for its tax hand-outs to big corporations and the super-rich. Enormous support exists for a fightback, seen in the overwhelming support for the Junior Doctors strike.

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Our candidates played a leading role in Southampton, in the historic anti-poll tax campaign that defeated Thatcher. Nationally over 17 million backed the mass non-payment campaign and the equivalent of £7 billion was restored to local councils.

We support the call made by UNITE National Industrial Sector Committee and the UNISON Local Government Service Group Executive for Labour councils to refuse to carry out further cuts and give our full and continued support to such a campaign.

Southampton council taking such a step would receive enormous support locally and nationally, which would block any attempt by this unpopular government to use un-elected commissioners to intervene.

On the basis of such a stand we are confident that government funding can be restored along with vital jobs and services that have been lost to the city, as a step towards a city council budget that can raise the living wage to £10 and include an urgent campaign to tackle the severe housing crisis with a programme of mass council house building.”

Yours fraternally,

Nick Chaffey, Secretary and Sue Atkins, Chair

On behalf of Southampton TUSC council candidates

 

Statement from UNITE/UNISON

‘Council cuts’ advert wake-up call for Southampton voters

21 April 2016

The 253,000 people served by Southampton city council will be dished up a menu of such unpalatable cuts that vital public services will be decimated, if the Tories take over after the local elections on 5 May.

As a wake-up call to residents in the run-up to the local council elections on Thursday 5 May, Unite, the country’s largest union  and public service union Unison have paid for a full page advert in the Southampton Echo tomorrow (Friday 22 April).

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “What we fear is the Tories taking control of the city council after 5 May as their leader is ideological Brexit supporter Cllr Jeremy Moulton and committed to serving up an unpalatable menu of cuts that will salami slice public services.

“The unions that represent the 3,800-strong council workforce appreciate that the authority faces a £60 million funding gap by 2017/18, which has been made worse by the massive ‘austerity’ cuts to local government made by Whitehall since 2010.

“In the past few years we have worked exhaustively with the council leadership to safeguard services. There is a plan in place to do that in coming years, despite the large hit to the budget.

“Our concerns are two-fold that a change of administration could put all this at risk and voters need full disclosure because they are the service finders and users.

“We don’t feel that Tory councillors have been as open as they should be with the electorate as to what is on the cards in terms of cuts to council services, such as adult and children’s social care; and waste and recycling.

“We are writing to all political parties contesting seats on 5 May urging greater transparency and constructive dialogue with the staff side unions to show moves to outsource is not the answer to providing quality services to the Southampton community.

“That’s why we are asking four questions in the advertisement including asking councillors if the council intends to outsource services to a private company and seeking a commitment that there will be no more changes to the workforce’s pay, terms and conditions and job security.”

Are you anti-austerity? Vote for anti-austerity candidates in Southampton on May 5th!

“THE TORIES HAVE SLASHED FUNDING TO SOUTHAMPTON COUNCIL BUT LABOUR COUNCILLORS HAVE SIMPLY CARRIED OUT THE CUTS.

WE NEED COUNCILLORS LIKE ANTI-CUTS COUNCILLORS KEITH MORRELL, DON THOMAS & ANDREW POPE WHO VOTED AGAINST BUDGET CUTS IN FEBRUARY.

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN TO RESTORE COUNCIL JOBS & SERVICES.

A UNITED CAMPAIGN OF SOUTHAMPTON ANTI-CUTS COUNCILLORS, TRADE UNIONS AND THE COMMUNITY CAN FORCE THE RETURN OF FUNDING STOLEN SINCE 2010.” Sue Atkins, Southampton TUSC

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SOUTHAMPTON TUSC COUNCIL CANDIDATES: 100% ANTI-CUTS!

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BASSETT: DAVID RAWLINSON

BEVOIS: ANDREW HOWE

BITTERNE: DEE STRUTT

BITTERNE PARK: LINDA BOULTON

HAREFIELD: GRAHAM O’REILLY

HAREFIELD: BO FLETCHER

MILLBROOK: PETE WYATT

PEARTREE: MIKE MARX

PORTSWOOD: NICK CHAFFEY

SHOLING: DECLAN CLUNE

SWAYTHLING: KEV HAYES

WOOLSTON: SUE ATKINS

WOOLSTON: GRAHAM HENRY

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SOUTHAMPTON TUSC SUPPORTS ANTI-CUTS CANDIDATES:

BARGATE: JOHN EASTON

COXFORD: TAMMY THOMAS

REDBRIDGE: DENISE WYATT

SHIRLEY: DAVE FLETCHER

SOUTHAMPTON TUSC WORKS ALONGSIDE ANTI-CUTS COUNCILLORS: KEITH MORRELL, DON THOMAS & ANDREW POPE

If Southampton Labour councillors won’t stand up to the Tories… let’s elect ones who will!

Southampton TUSC Council Elections May 2016

We are standing in May’s council elections in Southampton to offer a 100% anti-cuts alternative to Conservative austerity and Labour councillors who say there is nothing they can do. We need more councillors like Keith Morrell, Don Thomas and Andrew Pope who have been prepared to vote against further cuts in the city.

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All the Tory promises to return the country to economic growth and prosperity have turned to dust as cuts continue to the NHS, education and council services. Shamefully 24% of children in Southampton live in poverty and rely on food banks. No wonder that anger found a voice in the shock election victory of anti-austerity Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the Labour Party.

But all those hoping to see a change at Southampton Labour Council must be sorely disappointed as a further round of cuts were voted through.

Why are we being asked to pay in cuts  to our council services while the Tories hand out massive cuts to big business and the super-rich? Why is the fifth richest country in the world seeing library funding cut, Bitterne NHS Walk-In closed, elderly care at Woodside Lodge and Brownhill House closed and a housing crisis that sees 15 000 on the council waiting list?

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TUSC candidates are standing across the city alongside anti-cuts campaigners in Coxford, Redbridge, Shirley and Bargate to give a voice to those who want an end to austerity. We reject the argument of Simon Letts that there is nothing Southampton Council can do. Why not mobilise the anger in Southampton of council workers, their trade unions and the local community and demand the Tory government restores the £90 million funding to Southampton, cut since 2010?

To do this would mean calling a halt to further cuts and using the council’s £40 million reserves and borrowing powers to protect jobs and services.

The council found an extra £2 million to furnish the Arts Quarter with fancy door knobs, why not find the money for the Bitterne Walk-In or Brownhill House? Why not fund the libraries and youth services we need?

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Such a stand would receive an enthusiastic response and heap enormous pressure on a weak and divided government. The government has been forced to retreat on cuts to tax credits and PIP disability benefits. Why not on council cuts?

Election launch public meeting: NHS GP Crisis, re-open the Bitterne Walk-In

Saturday 26 March, 2pm Bitterne United Reform Church

Bitterne Precinct (Above Iceland), Southampton

For more information contact Nick Chaffey 07833 681910

What can Southampton Labour Council do to stop the cuts?

“It is very disappointing to us and the people of this city that we find ourselves here in this chamber once again, on the verge of witnessing another devastating round of cuts that will heap yet more misery on our city.”

Deputation by Declan Clune, Southampton TUSC, to Southampton Council budget setting meeting, Wednesday 10 February.

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“The reason for this long and painful period of austerity is well known being as it is ideologically led by the Conservative Party, some of whose representatives we have in this chamber. It is clearly evident to all how the party that is so willing to allow multibillion pound corporations get away with paying little or no tax in some cases, the party that is committed to ensuring that the workers and poor in this country pay for a crisis that was not of their doing, are so committed as part of that agenda to strip away every public asset we have in our communities.

 

In recent years we have lost youth services in this city, we have lost the Bitterne Walk-in Centre, Woodside Lodge, (an essential service for sufferers of dementia and Altzeimers) our libraries and sure start centres reduced or taken away, along with all the jobs that existed in those services reduced and stripped away. The latest round of cuts have threatened another essential service for our city’s elderly and vulnerable people in Brownhill House, where will this end?

Throughout the years this has taken place, we in TUSC have addressed you before to raise the real opportunity to resist these cuts time and time again. The brave and inspirational stance of Southampton Councillors Against Cuts, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas who refused to vote for the cuts was ridiculed and ignored by members here today. Those people ridiculing this stance claimed that it was political suicide for them and that they would be beaten at the ballot box for taking this stand. Yet both of these councillors went back to their electorate to find they had overwhelming support and backing from them leading to their re-elections by landslides in both cases.

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When it comes to the councillors here on the Conservative side of the chamber, we to some extent expect their attitude to reflect their national leaders. But isn’t it interesting to hear this week that even David Cameron’s aunt has taken a stance against cuts by signing a petition launched to fight the closure of a service in her area. In fear of losing support for political support in their own back yards Cameron has found £300M emergency funding for cash strapped councils. Labour are claiming 83% of that money is going to Tory run councils. This begs the question to Labour, what could you win if you were willing to put up a fight?

Labour, surely we have a right to expect so much more from. We heard time and time again from some of the councillors sat here today how there is no mood in society to vote against cuts and that taking that position has no support. How interesting it was then to see the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of that party. His campaign was won with the same demands that prove those councillors wrong.

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We in TUSC have been out all over the city with stalls asking residents what it is they want from their council. They overwhelmingly replied that they wanted public services to remain, stay public and be fully funded. We asked them if they would support the council if it voted against cuts and they overwhelmingly replied they would. We asked if they would support the council if it used reserves to pay for services and used the prudential borrowing powers available to them while mounting a city-wide campaign to demand proper funding is returned to the city from central government. They again overwhelmingly replied that they would.

These demands are not new and I know councillors here have heard these demands before. Because we have raised them consistently every year since the age of austerity forced upon us began. The arguments we have heard before about these demands not being a viable alternative are now found to be untrue. Today we have a council in Stoke that is committed to using its reserves to pay for services that would otherwise be lost without any hysterical claims that this is illegal.

Of course, that council that was once a Labour council but is now controlled by independent/conservative coalition, does not go far enough. They have no intention of using the time this move gives them to mount any kind of mass campaign to make the demand of a return of funding to that city.

We know from documents available from this council that there are £40M in reserves that could be used in such a way. More and more people are starting to understand how particularly vicious these cuts are when they realise how services already lost could have been saved by using a small percentage of those reserves.

I am here today to again put forward the alternative that exists but I want to be clear. What we are asking for is not for this council to refuse to make a budget or indeed set an illegal one. We are saying loud and clear that you do have a choice and the choice is to set a legal no cuts budget by using those reserves and using the time positively as I explained earlier.

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I would like to encourage, beg and plead with any of you who can find a shred of humanity, a shred of decency to vote against these cuts and become a part of the fight back against these cuts. As Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas have shown and they have told us, your residents will back you and we can fight together to stop the widespread ruination of our fair city. Too much has been lost already.”

NO MORE CUTS! LABOUR MUST FIGHT!

Southampton people’s budget meeting

Bo Matthews, Save Bitterne Walk-in Campaign

On Saturday 9 January Southampton TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) held a public meeting to support a council budget that meets the genuine needs of the people who live and work in the city.

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Before the meeting residents chatted over tea and coffee and had photos taken of them holding signs with messages they had written telling the council what they would like them to do for the people.

 

Sue Atkins, TUSC, chaired the meeting and explained that throughout December we had been out on the streets asking local people what they would like from the Labour council and encouraging them to complete our budget consultation forms.

Sue then invited the audience to have their say on how they feel about local issues. Topics ranged from cuts to elderly social care provision, the local housing crisis, child poverty in the city, to the closure of five of the city’s libraries.

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Sean Hoyle, RMT President

Sean Hoyle, the new RMT transport union president, promised solidarity from the TUSC affiliated union over backing the ‘people’s budget’. He also said establishment politicians are there to convince 51% of the population that they can have whatever they like in life as the other 49% will pay for it!

Betrayal

Southampton councillor Keith Morrell (who rebelled from Labour over cuts) also spoke. He talked about how people want accountability and a principled stand from their representatives on the local council – instead of doing whatever the government tells them to do.

People don’t expect betrayal from those that they voted into a position on the council.

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Keith Morrell, Southampton Councillors Against Cuts

Keith said Southampton Labour council and other councils around the country should stand together and demand that the government return the funding stolen from us.

The Labour Party, including its councillors, should get behind Jeremy Corbyn’s, anti-austerity call, on which he was decisively elected Labour leader. We should demand that Labour candidates support the People’s Budget. But, Keith doesn’t believe that this will happen and Labour could lose in May’s local elections. The consequence will be a Tory council in charge of our city.

Nick Chaffey, TUSC, closed the meeting saying that the council should utilise its reserves as a temporary tactic to protect our services. He said TUSC is 100% behind councils opposing the cuts and will stand with Labour councillors that oppose them, but we will not support those who accept them.

The meeting agreed to call a demonstration against the cuts on Saturday 6 February, 12noon outside West Quay, Southampton and to lobby the council on Wednesday 10 February, 1.15pm, Civic Centre, Southampton.

TUSC

The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance involving the RMT transport union, the Socialist Party, other socialist group and leading members of trade unions.

Visit the TUSC website www.tusc.org.uk

Southampton People’s Budget, have your say!

What do you want from Southampton Council?

Southampton People’s Budget event, Saturday 9 January, 2pm

Meon Suite, James Matthews Building, Above Bar Street, Southampton

Come and have your say! Come and meet other anti-cuts campaigners and trade unionists in Southampton. Come and hear from anti-cuts councillor Keith Morrell what councils can do to stop the cuts. Hear from national president, Sean Hoyle, of the transport union RMT what unions are doing to oppose the cuts.

In the face of 5 years of cuts to local government funding by the Tory government, council services have been decimated with the loss of hundreds of council jobs. Over 15 000 people are on the council house waiting list. Poverty pay, the bedroom tax, benefit cuts and sanctions means a struggle to eat, with hundreds of families using food banks.

Youth services have closed. The NHS Walk-Ins in Bitterne and Shirley have been closed. Care homes for the elderly, like Woodside Lodge have been closed.

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Now libraries are under threat with funding cut to Burgess, Cobbett Road, Millbrook, Thornhill, Weston and the mobile library.

We say enough is enough. Southampton Labour Council alongside other Labour councils across the country must refuse to carry out further cuts; use reserves and borrowing powers to protect all jobs and services, and campaign for the government to restore the £90 million stolen from the city since 2010.

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Southampton library protest

Such a stand would receive enormous support. If the council set a people’s budget based on the needs of the city, rather than carry out further cuts, a mass campaign of council workers, their trade unions and the community could massive pressure on the government to fund local services.

The Tory government is weak and divided. It has been forced to u-turn on planned cuts to tax credits. It can be forced back over council cuts.

While cuts have been made to council funding, tax cuts have been given to big business and the supper rich. Austerity is a political choice. Austerity is planned poverty. The election of Jeremy Corbyn, unapologetically anti-austerity, has given hope to millions that the cuts can be stopped.

If Jeremy and the Labour Party gave its backing for Labour councils to take a stand with the support of trade unions like UNITE and UNISON, pledged an incoming Labour government would reimburse all local authorities who used reserves and borrowing to protect jobs and services, then the attacks on local council services could be stopped and reversed.

Southampton TUSC is committed to that fight, come and join us!

Is it illegal for councils to use reserves and borrowing powers to defend jobs and services? No! To win, Labour councils must fight!

On February 10, Southampton Labour Council is set to vote through another massive round of cuts to council jobs and services.

Is it true that councils have ‘no option’ but to pass on Tory cuts?

Below we reprint the legal, balanced, NO CUTS budget of Southampton anti-cuts councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas presented to the council budget meeting in February 2013.

This showed clearly that councils can use reserves and borrowing powers, to set legal, balanced, NO CUTS budgets as a means to build a fightback to restore government funding to provide the services Southampton urgently needs.

If Southampton Labour council were to take similar steps now, set a budget that met the needs of the city and demand the government funds the shortfall, they would receive enormous support for such a stand and set a fighting example for other councils to follow.

If you agree, come and hear more at the Southampton People’s Budget event this Saturday 9 January, 2pm in the Meon Suite, James Matthews Building, Guildhall Square, Above Bar Street, Southampton.

 

Southampton NO CUTS budget, February 2013

Clive Heemskirk, TUSC national agent

Working class people all over the country are facing vicious cuts in council services. Labour councils are generally responding by wringing their hands and making the cuts anyway.

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But in Southampton two councillors, Don Thomas and Keith Morrell have refused to do this and have made an important stand against the cuts.

They have been expelled from the Labour Party as a result. On 13 February they put an alternative budget to the council, which the council tried to gag.

But as the reports below explain a protest before and lively interventions in the council meeting made sure the cuts budget was exposed and an alternative posed. The fight against the cuts goes on!

Is it true that councils really have ‘no option’ but to pass on the Con-Dems’ cuts? That’s the argument being made by Labour councillors as they meet to set their 2013-14 budgets.

A core policy of  TUSC is that when faced with government cuts to their funding, councils should refuse to implement them.

It argues that the best way for councils to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to roll back Con-Dem austerity would be for them to set budgets that meet the needs of their local community and demand that the government makes up the shortfall, like Liverpool council successfully did in 1984.

But to save jobs and services now while building such a campaign, TUSC would support councils using their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing on the Con-Dem cuts.

But is even this ‘buying time’ strategy possible? What about local government legislation that commits councillors to setting a ‘balanced budget’? Wouldn’t council officers step in and set the budget themselves? All these questions have come up in the anti-cuts struggle in Southampton.

Winning support

When TUSC’s policy was first raised by Socialist Party members in official consultation meetings late last year Labour councillors baldly dismissed it as ‘not possible’.

But it began to win support from council workers and service users. And when the ‘rebel two’ councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas submitted a draft budget amendment to increase Southampton’s ‘unsupported borrowing’ by £22 million, council officers were forced to respond.

The rebel councillors’ 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) would not endorse it as a ‘prudent budget capable of implementation’.

He argued, for example, that Southampton was not in a sufficiently ‘dire financial position’ to successfully apply for a ‘capitalisation direction’ (government supported borrowing to fund day-to-day ‘revenue spending’), one of the alternative budget proposals.

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 that’s what he did.

But it could have been debated. The myth of the all-powerful officers was shown to be just that – it was councillors who closed off the debate.

Even the legal guidance all the Southampton councillors received – and this is standard everywhere – made it clear they had the power to “determine whether they agree with the CFO’s statutory report issued under section 26 of the Local Government Act 2003”.

That means, of course, that if there are genuinely different assessments that could be made, councillors can make them.

Before the meeting Keith and Don wrote to every Labour councillor asking them to use the legal power they had to at least allow their amendment to be debated.

The officers were, inevitably, making a political assessment of their proposals. So “it’s worth asking”, they wrote, how many CFOs in November 1990, just before the fall of Thatcher, “began drawing up budget proposals for 1991-92 confidently predicting that, just four months later, the Community Charges (General Reduction) Act would have gone through parliament, cutting the last poll tax bills by £140 and increasing government support for local authorities by £4.3 billion (nearly £7 billion in today’s money)?”

“Isn’t it for elected councillors to judge whether the crisis for public services in the city is ‘sufficiently dire’ for the steps we propose to be taken?” Keith and Don asked. Evidently not, as the Labour councillors backed the Labour Mayor’s ruling.

Nothing can hide this lesson of Southampton. Councillors have a choice. There are alternatives to implementing the cuts. And Labour councillors chose not to take them.

“Isn’t it for elected councillors to judge whether the crisis for public services in the city is ‘sufficiently dire’ for the steps we propose to be taken?” Keith and Don asked. Evidently not, as the Labour councillors backed the Labour Mayor’s ruling.

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In the local press. Extracts from Southampton’s Daily Echo, after the council meeting:

“[Keith Morrell said:] ‘The trade unions were instrumental in getting Labour elected and I think there’s a lot of disappointment among their members that Labour isn’t delivering.

‘Labour promised to protect jobs and to protect services and obviously they’re not.

‘There’re a lot of union members who are angry, frustrated and probably unsure where to go – they put their faith in Labour.

‘The trade unions should be doing more, if only to reflect what their members want from them.’

The pair are now working to form a local group so that they can field anti-cuts candidates across the city during the next election.”

Since this was written in 2013, Keith and Don have both been re-elected with large majorities in the Coxford ward in Southampton and continue to stand firm in their opposition to cuts.

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Motion for Southampton council budget meeting, February 2013

Amendment to the cabinet’s budget proposals

By councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas

This council agrees to amend the Executive’s General Fund Budget proposals as set out below:

  1. Additional spending proposal

To re-open Oaklands Pool by restoring the funding (£235K) discontinued at the July council meeting. In addition, to provision a capital outlay of £1.5m to ensure a 15-year lifespan for the restored facility.

  1. Savings Proposals

To reverse £15.31m of the service reductions and additional charges proposals in the Executive’s General Fund Revenue Budget for the 2013-14 financial year, as follows:

Adult Services: £3.997m

Children’s Services: £5.249m

Communities: £0.752m

Environment & Transport: £2.828m

Housing & Leisure Services: £1.722m

Leader’s Portfolio: £0.628m

Resources: £0.134m

  1. Council Tax

To reverse the proposal for a 2% increase in council tax for 2013-14 in favour of a council tax freeze, and to consequently accept the government’s Council Tax freeze grant (at a net negative cost to the General Fund for 2013-14 of £0.470m).

  1. Council Tax Discounts

To reverse the proposals to abolish the Older Persons council tax discount and the discount for Special Constables, at a cost to the General Fund for 2013-14 of £1m.

  1. General Fund borrowing

To prudentially increase General Fund Unsupported Borrowing during the 2013-14 financial year by £22m – following an officers review of all General Fund expenditure and assets which could be properly supported by the capital programme or a capitalisation direction applied for – with the revenue funding to support such borrowing to be drawn from the Organisational Development Reserve.

  1. 2013-14 and Future Years Revenue Budgets

To instruct the cabinet to bring forward proposals to develop the Stand Up For Southampton campaign, in collaboration with other local authorities, to persuade the government to reverse the cuts in central government funding for Southampton and other local councils and provide relief funding for those authorities that have had to deplete their reserves or adopt other temporary budget-balancing measures to maintain vital public services.

 

Letter to Labour Mayor and Labour councillors

To: Cllr Derek Burke, Mayor of Southampton

Members of the Labour Group

Dear Derek

We are writing to you about the forthcoming budget debate at the 13 February Council meeting.

As a minority group on Southampton council we properly submitted an amendment to the Executive’s proposed budget. While our amendment meets the requirements of a balanced budget for the 2013-14 financial year – it is not a ‘deficit budget’ – the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), under his budget monitoring authority, has not been able to endorse it as a ‘prudent budget capable of implementation’ if it were to be agreed by the full council.  In consequence we understand that the Director of Corporate Services, in his role of Monitoring Officer, has decided to recommend to you, the Mayor, to make a chair’s ruling that, while the amendment will be printed and distributed to members at the 13 February meeting, it should not be published on the council website or debated at the meeting.

We are not writing to ask you to support our budget amendment, although we believe that it reflects the election promises to protect council services made by Labour candidates.  But we are appealing to you – as democratically elected councillors with the ultimate say on what can and cannot be debated on 13 February – to at least allow our amendment to be discussed as part of the usual budget-making process.

Councils’ borrowing powers

The main point of controversy over our budget amendment is the proposal to increase General Fund Unsupported Borrowing during the 2013-14 financial year by £22m, following an officers’ review of all General Fund expenditure and assets which could be properly supported by the capital programme or a capitalisation direction applied for.  We see this measure – which would generate sufficient resources to avoid cuts and increased service charges for this year – as a means to ‘buy time’ for the campaign necessary to reverse the cuts in central government funding for Southampton and, indeed, for local government generally.

Our starting point when drafting our amendment was best summarised in the commentary on the Prudential Code – which guides council borrowing – by Richard Harbord, a member of the working group that compiled the Code, who greeted the new borrowing regime inaugurated by the 2003 Local Government Act as a “move to integrate the whole financial planning process” [Understanding the Prudential Code, Seamus Ward, ACCA, 2004].  “This is the first time capital programmes, revenue budgets and Treasury investment strategy has been integrated”, he argued, giving councils greater financial flexibility and freedom to borrow, and we believe that our proposal is in accord with that principle.

An officers’ review

It is true – and this is a point of contention – that our budget amendment does not specify the items of current and projected General Fund expenditure which involve a capital element which could be properly supported by the capital programme through prudential borrowing (without needing government permission).  Or alternatively, any other elements of General Fund expenditure for which a ‘capitalisation direction’ (government permission to capitalise revenue expenditure) could be sought over the next 12 months.

But that is why we are calling in our amendment for an officers’ review of General Fund expenditure, not being able, of course, as minority group councillors, to instigate the thorough examination needed except through such means.

Not a ‘prudent budget’?

The CFO, having cautioned members about “significant shortfalls in future years” even in his initial statutory statement on the Executive’s draft budget [paragraph 63, General Fund Revenue Budget, 20 November 2012], not unnaturally does not judge this course of action to be prudential or sustainable over the medium term.  In addition, while he has confirmed with the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that there will be a Capitalisation Directions programme for 2013-14, he believes that Southampton is not in a sufficiently dire financial position for any applications it makes to be successful, at least in whole if not in part. Consequently he is arguing that, even if the council were to adopt our amendment, it would not be ‘capable of implementation’.

These judgements, of course, must be taken into account by councillors when they come to vote on budget-making decisions.  But they are nonetheless judgements and having regard to them in their budget deliberations is not the end of a councillor’s role.  They too must assess the arguments and make a judgement – and they can only do so in this case if the budget amendment is allowed to be presented to the full council.

Councillors’ role in budget-making

The final budget document that councillors received makes it clear how they should assess the CFO’s advice on budget decisions: “Members have a duty to determine whether they agree with the CFO’s statutory report issued under section 26 of the LGA 2003” [paragraph 130, General Fund Revenue Budget, 5 February 2013].  That means, of course, that if there are genuinely different assessments that could be made, councillors can make them.  So why shouldn’t they be able to subject our amendment to the same test as the Executive’s proposals?

The budget document guidance also stresses that the decisions councillors make are “effectively preliminary decisions”, “setting the framework” for the budget period but with “specific proposals” requiring “further implementation decisions” [paragraph 142]. It further notes that it will be “for Council to determine how to meet any budget gap that may arise as a result of such implementation decisions” [paragraph 144].  All budget proposals then, require an assessment as to whether they would be ‘capable of implementation’.  So why not ours?  But this can only be done, of course, if the amendment is presented in the usual way.

Judgements and political assessments

Lastly, there is the question to consider of judgements and political assessments. Any CFO’s assessment must inevitably include an element of political judgement.  That is only right but it is also right for councillors to make their own judgement.  We face a different situation to that facing councils, for example, in the early 1990s.  But it’s worth asking how many CFOs (then more usually known as borough treasurers) in November 1990 began drawing up budget proposals for 1991-92 confidently predicting that, just four months later, the Community Charges (General Reduction) Act would have gone through parliament, cutting the last poll tax bills by £140 and increasing government support for local authorities by £4.3 billion (nearly £7 billion in today’s money)?  Isn’t it for elected councillors to decide whether the crisis facing public services in the city is ‘sufficiently dire’ for the steps we propose to be taken?

In conclusion, we are more than happy to further discuss the issues raised by our budget amendment beyond those dealt with here.  But we do appeal to you to use your power as an elected councillor to allow our amendment to be properly tabled, even if you cannot subsequently bring yourself to vote for it when a full and fair debate has been concluded.

Kind regards

Keith Morrell, Leader, Labour Councillors Against The Cuts Group

 

 

SUPPORT SOUTHAMPTON PEOPLE’S BUDGET

SUPPORT SOUTHAMPTON PEOPLE’S BUDGET

A BUDGET TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE CITY. A BUDGET TO FIGHT FOR!

Saturday 9 January 2pm, Meon Suite, James Matthews Building, Guildhall Square, Southampton. All welcome, full access.

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What is a people’s budget?

It is a budget that is set to meet the genuine needs of the people who live and work in the city.  It bases itself on the belief that Sotonians as service users, local authority or private sector workers and their trade unions, community groups or individuals, know about how to maintain and improve jobs and services. It is an alternative to the austerity driven agenda of the Tory government.

Sounds interesting, how would it work?

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As a first step we want people to come together to talk about the current state of services in the city and what we need. From this the council could set a budget based on those needs, not driven by austerity. Support across the city can then be built to demand the government restores funding to deliver the services we need. Cuts are hugely unpopular, a People’s Budget would gain enormous support. This would then be costed and presented as an alternative to the cuts being proposed by the other parties.

I don’t like services being cut but haven’t the council tried everything already?

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Every year local politicians ram down our throats the idea that austerity and cuts are the only option.  The election of Jeremy Corbyn in September shows that there is genuine interest and support for a different approach. He has said that cuts are unnecessary and do not need to be made. We agree and call upon Southampton Labour led city council to adopt this idea.

We can’t spend money we don’t have can we?

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Local councils have financial reserves and specific borrowing powers to enable them to fund a budget that would improve lives instead of ruining them. Southampton Labour Council must use these powers to set a legal, balanced, no cuts budget. Such a stand would gain massive support and force the government to restore council funding to the city. Jeremy Corbyn must back such a stand and give a commitment that a future Labour government would restore any money borrowed to protect jobs and services.

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The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition opposes all cuts to jobs and services and calls on Labour councils and councillors to refuse to implement Tory cuts. TUSC was launched in 2010 by transport trade union leader Bob Crow. In Southampton we support Coxford Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, Councillors Against Cuts.

For more information contact Nick Chaffey 07833 681910 or visit http://www.tusc.org.uk

Southampton TUSC launch a no cuts People’s Budget consultation

Southampton Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) have launched a consultation for a People’s Budget for the city, in contrast to the new round of cuts being proposed by the Labour-led council.

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A questionnaire has been produced (clickhttp://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/351.pdf) for community groups, local trade unions and Southampton residents generally to say what they would like the council to do to improve life in the city.

Respondents are also asked whether they would support Southampton Labour council refusing to carry out further cuts; whether they think the council should use its reserves and borrowing powers to protect jobs and services; and whether they would actively support a campaign to restore government funding to Southampton.

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The first results of the survey will be discussed at a Southampton People’s Budget Conference on Saturday 9 January, 2pm, Meon Suite, James Matthews Building, Guildhall Square, Southampton.

Rebel councillor speaks out

At the most recent Southampton council meeting on 18 November the Labour Group presented a resolution opposing the government’s Trade Union Bill attacking the rights of workers to organise effectively to defend their jobs, terms and conditions.

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Southampton Council lobby

But it also discussed the new round of cuts it is planning to make to Southampton’s local public services.

Consequently Southampton’s two rebel anti-cuts councillors Don Thomas and Keith Morrell (a member of the TUSC national steering committee), while backing the Labour Group’s motion against the Trade Union Bill, called for the council to further support working class people by not implementing cuts to council services.

Below are the remarks made by Don Thomas in the debate:

“We see this motion with our amendment to it as an opportunity for this Labour council to act in accordance with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign pledge to start a real fight-back against the government’s austerity agenda.

“When Jeremy Corbyn came down to the Ageas Bowl in the summer and spoke to over a thousand Labour Party members and supporters he said very clearly ‘cuts to services must stop’.

“And as councillor McEwing rightly said on the very same stage, ‘the fight-back starts now’. Cathy is someone I think highly of and I could not agree more.

“It is good the Labour Group are taking up the trade union cause, and of course we showed full support for that.

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Anti-cuts councillors Don Thomas and Keith Morrell

“But here’s the rub. Will you now – the Labour Group – do the same by taking up the cause for our Southampton residents, and our council staff?

“This amendment would start that process, by saying we will not close down any more facilities or lay off any more staff.

“Make no mistake. Rather than being thrown out of office next May residents will thank you, and will show their appreciation through the ballot box.

“Leader of the Council [Simon Letts], you have said on at least one public occasion – I believe it was at the Overview and Scrutiny committee – that you were nearing the point of throwing the keys back to the government because you were running out of things to cut.

“Can I suggest Simon, rather than contemplating handing the keys back, that you follow your leader Jeremy Corbyn’s stance and start a fight-back? Right here, right now, in Southampton.

“We are the fifth richest country on the planet. When the government needed to find the money for the bankers there was absolutely no problem.

“I’m sure that no one in the Labour Group came into politics to carry out this government’s dirty work, with cuts after cuts after cuts, year after year. I was in the Labour Party myself for thirty plus years, this tells me that must be so.

“And if anyone in the Labour Group believes that they still have ‘no choice’ then I say you must ask yourself, what are you doing being in politics?

“As your very own Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said, ‘austerity is a political choice’. Never has a truer word been spoken”.