A BBC survey of councils has made the extent of cuts threatening local services clear. The first batch of councils which answered the survey reported job cuts of at least 25,000 in the next three to five years. The BBC calculates that, translated across the board, this could mean 180,000 job being slashed.
Such cuts would, obviously, be a disaster for both council workers and “service users”, i.e., workers and working-class communities more generally. One third of councils said their children’s services faced cuts; the figure for adult services was half.
Cuts of 10–15% were the most common estimate. Eight councils said they planned to cut 1,000 or more jobs. (Birmingham, which did not reply to the survey, is planning to sack 2,000 workers!) The deepest cuts will be made in the deeply-deprived BNP strongholds of Stoke-on-Trent (20–25%) and Barking and Dagenham (25–30%!), providing more fuel for the fascists’ populist fire.
Both local government leaders and the government have made a lot of noise about protecting “front line services”. But you can be sure that they will be cutting back workers and services deemed most expendable, not fat-cat managers, bureaucrats and consultants.
The response to these cuts from local government union Unison and from the TUC can be roughly summarised as “Blah, blah, blah”.
There is massive public hostility to these cuts; some opinion polls suggest that, despite the absence of a “mainstream” political option expressing this view, a majority opposes all cuts. Socialists and trade unionists must provide a coherent voice for that majority, and build a movement around it.
No cuts in services. The unions must fight every job loss, and build real campaigning unity with service users and anti-cuts campaigns. The only sackings and pay cuts should be for highly paid managers and consultants.
Councils, particularly Labour councils, should refuse to make cuts. They should work with unions and activists to demand more money from the government. Opposition to council tax rises is not a principle, but any significant rises simply pass on cuts to working-class living standards by the back door and should be resisted.
Government should tax the rich and big business to fund our services!