Wednesday, 18 November 2015


You couldn't make it up! 
David Cameron, Tory MP for West Oxfordshire, recently wrote a letter to the Oxfordshire Tory council leader, berating his local authority for (to quote his epistle) "cuts to frontline services - from elderly day centres to libraries to museums. This is in addition to the unwelcome and counter-productive proposals to close children's centres across the county." 
The MP, claiming "shock and outrage", goes on to demand why the council leader hasn't looked at "back-office savings" - a euphemism for sacking council staff.

Tory Tit-for-Tat 
The Tory council leader replies to the Tory MP that his council has already sacked 2,800 staff, that the cuts they now plan are the only ones left to make, and caustically corrects Cameron's claims in his letter by stating:
"I cannot accept your description of a drop in funding of £72million, or 37% of our budget, as 'a slight fall'."
And of course David Cameron, the Tory MP desperate to express feigned concern at cuts to frontline services, is the same David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister, whose hatchet-wielding Westminster government has hacked the 37% off the local council in the area where he needs to curry favour with voters. 

Tory Axe Maniacs 
Cameron, and his companion in crimes against working class communities, George Osborne, are swinging the axe like maniacs. Osborne's Autumn Spending Review on spending plans for the next three years looms large and ugly. On top of the £35billion cuts last July, it's likely to detail the target of cuts to departmental budgets averaging 30%, a mind-boggling horror story for millions of people who depend on the public sector either for a job, a vital service, or both.

Block Grant Butchery 
One of the multiple cuts the Tories will impose is that to the Scottish block grant. And that comes on top of successive years of budget cuts. In the words of SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney, "since 2010 Scotland's overall budget has been cut by 9%, and its capital budget by 25%."
The crunch question that follows this savagery is stark: what will John Swinney and the SNP government do about it? 
Will they just do the equivalent of writing a letter of complaint before passing on the cuts, delegating the dirty work to further education college boards, Scotland's 32 local councils, and similar public sector services? 
Or will they kick up a storm of resistance, uniting workers, communities and students in a mass movement to stop the Westminster Tory butchery?

Passing On Cuts 
Past experience of the SNP government's reaction is not encouraging. They've rightly condemned Westminster cuts every year, but then meekly passed them on, to the tune of well over £3billion over four years. 
This year, they've even delayed the Scottish government's Spending Review from its usual September slot to the dead of December or early January, claiming this is because they won't know the amount in Scotland's block grant from Westminster until Osborne's pronouncement on 25 November. 
Some people suspect it's also an attempt to hide the consequential cuts to jobs and vital services from intense public scrutiny and organised opposition, made harder to build in the deep mid-winter.

Set a No Cuts Budget at Holyrood! 
If the SNP government seriously wanted to carry out its mandate, showing in deeds what they claimed in words about being 'anti-austerity', they could even take advantage of Osborne's timetable, by setting out their budget for Scotland early, without a penny cut to jobs, pay, capital investment or services, and then mount a full-frontal campaign of the Scottish people to demand sufficient funding off Westminster to balance the books.

It's been done before! 
It can be done. It has been done. I was at the heart of the struggle by the socialist council in Liverpool in the mid-'80s, when we organised mass meetings of council workers, communities and college students, called demos of up to 50,000, organised regional 24-hour general strikes - all to pound the hard-faced government of Maggie Thatcher into conceding the funds to build thousands of council houses, jobs and expanded services. 
We won back over £60million in 1984, through the defiance and mass struggle of one city, led by socialists and socialist councillors. Imagine that method applied to a whole nation - led by a government with a sweeping mandate to 'stand up for Scotland', as the SNP promised to do during elections?

For No Cuts Defiance Budgets
The same points apply to every local council in the land. They face a stark choice: defy the cuts or destroy the services and jobs of hundreds of thousands of people who elected them to oppose the Tories.
Labour and SNP councils alike are declaring mass butchery of jobs and frontline services, in a shameful refusal to stand up for the working class who elected them. 
Trade unionists, user groups, workers and students should pound these politicians to find a collective backbone, set No Cuts Defiance Budgets, and join in a massive movement to 'win back our stolen £millions', off Holyrood and Westminster. 

Pound the Politicians  
All five council workers' unions in Glasgow city council have adopted the fighting policy of setting a No Cuts budget. Union branches across Scotland should emulate this. And socialists in the SSP will stand four-square with council staff, the trade union movement, user groups and other anti-cuts campaigners in demanding that councillors choose defiance rather than destruction. 
Labour councillors have been advised by their party leader Jeremy Corbyn to 'resist Tory cuts'. The SNP won a landslide by claiming to be 'anti-austerity'. In both cases, let's see the colour of their money. 

Stand Up - or Stand Aside!
Empty talk won't save jobs or protect services. But a serious campaign to win back some of the £billions robbed off Scotland, and the £millions stolen off local councils and colleges, would ignite a movement of hope and determination to change the way we live, on a par with the enthusiastic Yes movement during the Referendum. 
Defiance or destruction: that's the choice facing MSPs and councillors. 
The SSP knows which side we are on. Join the battle to make the politicians in power fight the Tories - or stand aside for those of us prepared to do so. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment. Comments are moderated, so be nice.