Haringey: “the first Corbyn Labour council”

Submitted by SJW on 6 June, 2018 - 2:49 Author: Kirsten Hearn, Labour Party councillor in Stroud Green, Haringey, London, spoke to Solidarity

We do face a challenge with the budget. We have lost about 53% of our budget since 2010 and it’s not going to get any better.

We have a lot of people in temporary housing, we have a lot of people waiting for council housing and it’s not good enough.

We have changed direction on housing, and our policies are now more in line with the current Labour Party Leader and the 2017 [General Election] manifesto. People are going to watch us as “the first Corbyn council”, to expect us to fail and will perceive anything we might see as a setback as a failure.

I don’t blame parts of the Party for feeling anxious about that and I think all the councillors know what we are here to do. In the previous administration, things were done in our name that we hadn’t had input into.

S: What should local governments do about the cuts, and what should the national government do if Labour wins power?

KH: Firstly, must always make a legal budget. We make sure we’re using the money we’ve been allocated appropriately. And we should look at what money we can raise and look at raising council tax. The poorest people in society should be 100% exempted.

And we should go for a referendum to put up council tax for some people with a relief scheme in place for those that may be asset rich but income poor. Raising council tax is a way we can do quite a lot.

There isn’t enough money to go around. We have to make choices in the way that we allocate budgets that are more sustainable. For example, cutting the repairs budget for council housing will store up problems in the long run. Sometimes you need to be able to do the repairs and we haven’t through Homes for Haringey. I would like us to bring Homes for Haringey back in house.

We should make strong recommendations to government about how the cuts are affecting us locally. Older and Disabled people are two of the groups worst affected by cuts. We should provide the evidence to the government about how badly it’s affecting us and what they should do – give us more money, basically!

S: If we win the next general election, should we reverse all government cuts since 2010, what should our programme be in national government with regard to local government?

KH: We can’t reverse all the cuts because some of the services are no longer there. But we should do a fast assessment of what we need to fund. And some things might have changed. I think it’s unrealistic to say that we’ll reverse the cuts. But I think we will invest in our services to ensure the come to the standards that we want them to be at – health, social care, education et cetera?

S: Could we put funding back to the same levels as where it was?

KH: We’d have to find some more money. It would be good to have a better taxation system to help us to do that. It would be very good to bring back in-house services run by private companies, I can’t believe they are cost effective or that it’s as valuable a service.

The benefit cuts aren’t cost effective, because people are going through appeals, you then discover actually they were entitled to this, so their payments have to be backdated, and we’ve wasted all this time and money in the process. That’s the effect of the policies of the Tories since 2010.

Restoring budgets is well and good, but we need to have a thoroughgoing review of how best to spend that money, we can’t just chuck money at it.

Prisons are a good example. They cut the prison budget hugely, thinking ‘That’s alright, they can manage’, what they thought money was being spent on I don’t know. People’s circumstances have become terrible in prison, we’ve had lots of suicides, we’ve had lots of break-outs, people not getting rehabilitated into work so they come out of prison without those risks being met, they go back into a crime cycle, that they needn’t have gotten into in the first place. If they’d been properly treated while they were in prison perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten into this cycle.

We should look into raising more money. I like the model of land tax but there are other ways that make it possible to raise more income. We’re going to spend the next few years dealing with Brexit which is going to cost a lot of money.

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