Support Edinburgh and Liverpool!
Liverpool and Edinburgh councils are now moving towards a decisive confrontation with the Tories.
Liverpool has set an unbalanced budget. In line with Liverpool Labour's manifesto commitment to no cuts and no massive rate rises, the budget proposes to spend far more than foreseeable income. Only £30 million extra grant from central government, plus restoration of £88 million penalties, could balance it.
Council shop stewards are pledged to strike when the government or the banks move decisively against Liverpool. This will at latest be September or October, when the council runs out of money.
Edinburgh is refusing government instructions to cut its rates and raise its rents.
A major showdown is now certain.
With mass mobilisation of the labour movement nationally, Liverpool and Edinburgh can win. But they have been left to fight alone by other Labour councils, who after months of loud rhetoric about fighting the government, have capitulated. Until now, the defiance of local government to the Tory Rates Act has proved to be a fiasco.
The struggle to defend the rebel councils must be linked with the broader struggle for local democracy and local services.
As soon as rebel councils are prevented from functioning - by surcharges, by court or government action, or by banks cutting off credit - there must be industrial action from local authority workers.
Trade unionists outside the rebel councils should also fight for solidarity action at whatever time the workers in those councils strike.
In every Labour authority, trade unionists and councillors should work out a programme of strike action, trade union occupation of Town Halls and administration of emergency services, and stopping debt payments, to spread the confrontation.
Campaign committees must be built - uniting Labour councils, council trade unions, other local trade unions, Labour Parties, tenants' associations and community groups. Policy should be decided through such committees, and not handed down by council leaders.
These campaigns must decide on an overall strategy; and the lessons of past failures show that the necessary strategy is unbalanced budgets, based on no cuts, no rent rises, and no rate rises, followed by strikes, occupations, rent strikes and a block on debt payments when the courts, the government, or the banks stop the council functioning.
And we must demand full restoration of central government grant. We must demand full restoration of central government grant; continuation of the metropolitan authorities; repeal of the penalties system; the Rates Act and similar legislation in Scotland; and a facility for councils to borrow at low rates of interest so that services are not crippled by payments to moneylenders.
Greenwich Labour Party has proposed that councils be forced not to set a rate for 1986-7 until after the May elections (for London boroughs, Scottish regions, and one third of the seats on metropolitan districts, so that reselection of councillors can have its full effect on next year's budget. Councillors not prepared to fight must be replaced with new ones who are.
Liverpool and Edinburgh are in the front line against the Tories. Despite the collapse of other councils, it is still possible to mobilise a mass campaign behind them. Every labour movement activist must see that as the priority over the coming weeks.