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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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 council meets on 18 November in the next round of council budget consultations. Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) supporters will be lobbying the council to defend jobs and services and back Jeremy Corbyn’s call to stop cuts.
Services currently under threat include six libraries in the city. Just £250,000 would keep them open and protect librarians’ jobs. NHS walk-in services in Bitterne have recently closed, despite a five-year long TUSC campaign. Just £120,000 would fund the nursing staff to re-open services there.
While these essential services suffer, Southampton council has found £2 million to complete its corporate arts centre project, now home to a new Nandos restaurant.
The council actually held £19.9 million in its ‘General Fund reserves’ at the end of the 2014-2015 financial year. It also has £62.8 million in ‘earmarked GF reserves’ which, however, can still be used to support services. Councillors make choices – why can’t they find the money for the libraries and walk-in services?
Over £90 million cuts have been carried through since 2010 in Southampton, devastating jobs and services.
After winning a majority on the council in the 2012 local elections, Labour has continued voting though Tory cuts and losing council seats along the way, while anti-cuts councillors Don Thomas and Keith Morrell (a member of the TUSC national steering committee) have been re-elected with huge majorities.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn has boosted support for the anti-austerity movement. During the Labour leadership he spoke in Southampton to close to a thousand people who cheered his call to end council cuts.
To build support for such a stand TUSC is organising a Southampton People’s Budget conference to identify what the city needs and how we can fight for it.
A call for an end to austerity, from Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Southampton on 25 August, was met with a standing ovation and cheers from a near 1,000-strong audience. They were enthused by his unapologetic attack on austerity.
From the chair, Unite national political officer Jenny Formby welcomed everyone “to a meeting of socialists.”
Once again the huge turnout nailed the lie that there is no support for an alternative to austerity or a willingness to fight back. Corbyn’s calls for a £10 an hour minimum wage, affordable council housing and an end to cuts to local government were met with cheers.
In a limited discussion he gave backing to calls from the floor for opposition to fracking and support for council care homes and free national childcare.
The demand to defend local government and provide funding and borrowing powers for councils to tackle the housing crisis raises questions of what Labour councils and especially councillors who are backing Corbyn’s campaign, should do to stop the cuts.
Southampton Labour councillor Cathy McEwing, speaking from the platform, said the fightback had to start now. This is in the face of further cuts to council services in Southampton of £40 million in next year’s budget.
What should councillors do to build this fight back?
Does this mean that councillor McEwing and others supporting Corbyn will now refuse to vote for further cuts? Opposition to cuts must include mobilising support in the trade unions and community to set needs-based budgets. If they do, Socialist Party members will give our full support, to build on the successful stand and re-election of Southampton Councillors Against Cuts, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas.
However last week, councillor McEwing and the Southampton Labour cabinet voted through £9 million of cuts, including cutting funding to five libraries. If this continues, Labour will continue to lose support and open the possibility of a return of the Tory council which was defeated by the strike action of council workers in 2011.
This support for Corbyn must be translated into a call for Labour councils to refuse to implement further cuts. However, those councillors who continue to say there is nothing they can do, who continue to vote for cuts, will need to be challenged again by anti-cuts candidates standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.