Corbyn activists call for ‘no cuts’ council budget

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with supporters in Brighton in October. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/the Guardian

What do we think of Momentum?

A group of Jeremy Corbyn supporters is to call on a local authority to decline to set a budget complying with the Treasury’s spending cuts.

In a move that could be copied in other constituencies, the Lewisham for Corbyn – Momentum group, a part of the mass movement that grew out of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, agreed to protest against its Labour council’s proposals to close libraries and community centres.

The group is also “initiating and collecting signatures on an official petition across Lewisham for a no cuts budget, trying to collect the necessary 8,000 to trigger a debate in the council”. The group wants to mobilise support also for a lobby of Labour’s local mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, and his cabinet.

The decision is only a local one but other Labour councils could find themselves coming under more pressure from Momentum groups to resist the government’s demands for further deep cuts to public spending as they draw up their budgets for next year.

Source: Corbyn activists call for ‘no cuts’ council budget | Politics | The Guardian

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11 thoughts on “Corbyn activists call for ‘no cuts’ council budget

  1. John D Turner

    A rerun of the ‘good old days’ of Militant Tendency. Momentum seems predominantly made up of people out to damage the Labour Party and, by extension, Jeremy Corbyn. May be Dave Prentis should have a chat with the people behind Momentum? After all, it takes at least two sides to engage in a bout of infighting.

    As John McDonnell said in September, “The situation the councils are now in is if they don’t set a budget, a council officer will do it for them. There is no choice for them any more.” Councils cannot, therefore, set a deficit budget. Perhaps if the likes of Richard Burgon spent less time conspiring and more time focusing on practical politics (and in his case, mastering his shadow brief), they might have noticed what McDonnell said. Corbyn repeatedly made the same point during his revivalist meetings, when asked, by the Hard Left, whether or not he would encourage councils to set deficit budgets. There was a sense they were baiting him in preparation for calling him a sell out, traitor etc.

    Momentum may attack Labour in Lewisham, because all but one Councillor, a Green, is Labour. The Council will not set a deficit budget thereby giving Momentum, in their opinion, grounds to take action against the ideologically unsound and force a few re-selections of the most extreme moderates. They may do so, reasonably safe in the knowledge that Labour will not lose control of the Council, but that they will have got elected some Momentum, sorry, Labour Councillors who are ideologically sound as a result of their machinations. Hey presto, Momentum gets a toehold in local government in London whilst helping to foster the impression that it is Labour Councillors not Tory MPs who are ultimately responsible for the cuts in local government spending …

    May be Albert Bore, leader of the Labour Group here in Birmingham, has jacked it in at the right time? Moreover, none of those in the running for the leadership of the Birmingham’s Labour Group will seemingly be to Momentum’s taste. The Birmingham Momentum branch (or franchise?) is expected to be dominated by the usual suspects, including the Socialist Workers Party. Birmingham’s total of council seats is to be reduced from 120 to 100, boundaries redrawn and all seats to be put up for election in 2018. The last thing we need in Birmingham is ‘help’ from the likes of Momentum to win those elections.

    The only people who would benefit, in the Birmingham context, from what Momentum is proposing to do in Lewisham would be the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. The Tories locally already act like they are not in power in Westminster and so any cuts are not down to their party cutting central government funding for Birmingham, but down to local Labour mismanagement etc. And, given the low regard in which politicians are held generally, that message gets quite a good hearing. And that is before we add in some Tories campaigning as ukip lite and the issue of migration.

    The vast majority of Corbyn supporters, who are in the mainstream of the Labour Party, are seemingly steering clear of Momentum. How long one wonders will it remain possible for someone to be a member of the Labour Party as well as Momentum? Currently, of course, one may be a member of Momentum without being a member of the Labour Party. Sooner or later, Labour members of Momentum campaigning against democratically elected Labour Councillors may expect to have their right to remain members of the party brought into question.

    With friends like Momentum, what need does Corbyn (and the Labour Party) have of enemies?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Just one point: Look at the trouble David Cameron has caused himself by questioning the cuts his own local authority and police service are being forced to impose, due to Cameron’s own central government policies.
      He has been told, very directly, that the council has made all the back-office cuts that are possible and there is nothing left to do but cut frontline services.
      In the light of this, the councils in Lewisham, Birmingham or anywhere else have absolutely nothing to worry about, with regard to public relations.
      All they have to say is: “Oxfordshire Council has had to tell David Cameron what his cuts mean for local services in his constituency. They’ve told him he is to blame. We say the same.”

      1. John D Turner

        “In the light of this, the councils in Lewisham, Birmingham or anywhere else have absolutely nothing to worry about, with regard to public relations.”

        What a relief! After all, we know how much attention the average voter takes of national politics. Seriously, though, are you for real? Have you ever spent much time talking with, not at, voters, who are disinterested in politics? As Winston Churchill observed, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

        Round here dog ordure, street lighting, wheelie bin collections, dropped kerbs, bus routes changed without consultation, local policing and migration are the routine order of the day. They blame the Labour run Council for the first four; the fifth too, because they are not sure who to blame, but they might as well; the sixth on Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the seventh on, go on, have a guess …

        There are actually no such things as back offices. The cutting of them has had an impact on the delivery of front-line services, but I am not surprised if a politician does not appreciate that. They make lousy managers, particularly failing to grasp that the back office and front line make the team that delivers services.

        How do we get this:

        “All they have to say is: “Oxfordshire Council has had to tell David Cameron what his cuts mean for local services in his constituency. They’ve told him he is to blame. We say the same.” ”

        across on the doorstep in a few minutes, bearing in mind a lot of voters think all politicians are the same?

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Over the last few years I’ve spent a large amount of time talking with voters – both those who are interested in politics and those who aren’t. Most are reasonable and can understand a well-structured argument.
        Your final paragraphs make my point for me. The message is compact and easy to put across: David Cameron is to blame for the cuts. It may be said in a matter of seconds. That leaves most of your few minutes to explain in detail, if the voter in question needs further information.

  2. Jenny Hambidge

    I think it as amazing phenomenon that grassroots are being galvanised into action! the anti Corbyn mob in the PLP must be squirming in their seats. I think they will end up being unelectable so we had better grow some new prospective candidates FAST

    1. John D Turner

      Grassroots! What grassroots? Momentum has, I gather, about 60,000 members, a goodly proportion of whom are not Labour members. In some cases, the non members are known to be members of the likes of the SWP and Class War. In other words, groups committed to destroying the Labour Party.

      And as for the Labour Party’s current membership, it is even more unrepresentative of the people who voted for the party on May 7th than it was then. Hence Farage’s strategy of painting Corbyn as what he is, Islington Man. Now, if more than 35% of the electorate were Guardian readers then Labour would be in with a good chance of winning elections from now until May 2020. Alas, they are not.

      “In the 1994 leadership election (won by Tony Blair) nearly 800,000 affiliated union members voted. In 2010 leadership ballot papers were circulated to 2.7 million political levy-payers including some that were already party members. At that time, less than 10% voted ie 270,000.

      This time ballot papers were only sent to political levy-payers who had been recruited to become registered party supporters by their union. A total of 148,192 ballot papers were sent out to this group but only 71,546 were returned.”

      Despite the best efforts of their union leaders, a majority of the grassroots of the labour movement did not take part in the leadership election. For the moment, they still pay the party’s bills and their leaders wield 50% of the vote at Conference. However, Corbyn’s attitude towards Trident and defence spending, in general, is causing deep disquiet amongst grassroots trades union members.

      I know the behaviour of grassroots trades unionists baffles some, because a letter writer to the i was shocked that people would be jobs before nuclear disarmament.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Labour’s current membership is indeed unrepresentative of those who supported the party on May 7 – that’s a good thing. I means Labour under Corbyn is attracting more people back to the party and therefore has a wider voter base.
        The ‘Islington Man’ nickname would be more of an insult if Corbyn had not increased his majority in his constituency at every election. Instead, it is something to make him proud.
        The Guardian is no supporter of Corbyn’s Labour. If more than 35 per cent of the electorate were readers of any national newspaper I would be very surprised.
        Don’t confuse grassroots trade unionists with grassroots Labour members. The unions are where Labour has its origins but the party has a much wider membership.

      2. John D Turner

        The Labour Party’s membership today is even more unrepresentative of the people who voted for it last May. That means that the Labour Party’s membership is not a representative sub set of the group of 9,347,304 who voted Labour on May 7th. The Labour Party’s membership is not the 9,347,304 writ small. Is that clear enough for you?

        What that means is that the membership of the party is becoming less and less likely to share the concerns of the 9,347,304. Moreover, this expanding gap is one factor that has turned voters away from Labour. Some said they had switched to the likes of ukip, because they felt Labour was no longer a party that represented them. You seem to be quite happy to see that trend continue. You seem to be confusing an increase in the size of the membership with an increase in the socio-economic diversity of the membership.

        Where is your evidence that phalanxes of shelf stackers, care assistants and waiting staff have joined the Labour Party and, thereby, not only increased the size of the membership of the party, but increased its diversity to bring it closer to those who vote for the party? The 9,347,304 form Labour’s core vote, whom the party must not lose, if it is to ever win a General Election outright, ever again. Incidentally, I am not confusing anyone with anyone, but the trades union levy payers had the right to vote in the leadership election and a majority chose not to do so. That should be a cause for concern for people who feel more working class people should be represented in politics. In addition, the trades unions, and if you were an activist you would know this, provide plenty of boots on the ground at election time in addition to paying the party’s bills.

        I need no lessons as to from whence the Labour Party came. It was a mélange of Methodism, the labour movement and middle class types like the Webbs, the founders of the Fabian Society. The original Clause IV was drafted by Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield, OM, PC. Yes, the middle class too have their part to play in Labour, but when they set policies that suit them, first and foremost, then the party suffers and loses electoral credibility. Orwell has much to say on the matter in a number of his writings.

        No, the Guardian is not a Labour paper. Why should it be? However, it is the house magazine of Islington Man and Woman. The sort of people who fret about gentrification and social cleansing whilst pricing local people out of housing markets in place like Devon and Cornwall. Or are the only people who buy holiday homes dyed in the wool Tories?

        Islington socialists, like Milne and Corbyn, are exactly the sort of people who make working class voters feel that Labour is no longer the party for them. Their hobby horses, their middle class focused policies, that have wide appeal amongst that minority of the electorate who read the Guardian, policies like scrapping Trident, renationalising that part of rail not already in public hands and free university tuition fees (for youths of mostly middle and upper class backgrounds) all show how little they understand the concerns of the average voter. True, the Tax Credits campaign is striking a chord, but the party would have managed that with or without Corbyn as its leader. And it is Labour’s leader in the Lords to whom most of the credit must go for putting the kibosh on the Government.

        To be fair, Corbyn is making much of the woes of the steel industry. Very old school, including his idea of renationalising part of the steel industry and, like the industry’s management, opting to think that the problems of the industry are mostly external to it. Alas, renationalisation will not persuade people to buy British steel at the price and quality that it is currently being offered to the market. Corbyn also spoke of rationalising the industry which is actually a euphemism for job cuts. Meanwhile, 10s of 1,000s of jobs in the renewable energy sector are being threatened solely by a change in Government policy, but still we await any intervention from Corbyn. One hopes a pv installer’s e-mailed question catches someone’s eye before this week’s PMQs.

        A week last Thursday, Abbott and Corbyn chose, in their own inimitable style, to address the migration issue, one that does concern the average voter, but rarely the archetypal Guardian readers. Abbott, a graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, said anyone who questioned the benefits of migration was a racist. Moreover, that the welcome being extended to Syrian refugees should also be extended to economic migrants from Nigeria. Corbyn chipped in with his one world, all are welcome shtick. Meanwhile, on the doorstep ‘racist’ voters are querying the benefits of migration. Guardian readers, of course, mostly like the hug a migrant line, but then they are more likely to be found in Islington North than say Birmingham Hodge Hill.

        We should build on the empathy being shown towards refugees. We should explain the benefits to all, UK residents included, of the free movement of labour within the EU. After all, many UK citizens work elsewhere in the EU and others export their benefits to other EU countries. However, I fail to see how we may make a credible case for economic migrants from outside of the EU, regardless of whether they crossed the Mediterranean in a leaky boat or flew in on a jet from New York. And that is where New, New Labour looks set to founder.

        Corbyn’s increasing his vote in a safe seat is no guide to his likely impact at national level. Liam Byrne, who represents a working class constituency, got 68.4% of the vote on May 7th as opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s 60.2%. Corbyn is voted in by a bunch of affluent, middle class lefties who get a vicarious thrill from walking on the wild side and voting for someone who has made a political career out of being at variance with mainstream opinion.

        Momentum seems to be attracting people who also like striking a pose, in preference, to engaging with ideologically unsound voters. In so doing they will split Jeremy Corbyn’s 59.5% into at least two parts. A fair few of the Labour Councillors and their supporters, whom Momentum plans to attack, voted for Corbyn. They could not do, otherwise, because, as you keep pointing out, Jeremy got 59.5% of the votes cast …

  3. roybeiley

    I think it is technically illegal for a council not to set a budget. Elected members can be held accountable. If just one council does it then this Govt will stamp down hard on it. If several hundred do it then the Govt a real problem with civil disobedience.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Nobody is suggesting that a budget shouldn’t be set.
      A ‘no cuts’ budget is one that does not impose the cuts on services that are demanded by the policies of the Conservative Government (everywhere except David Cameron’s own constituency of Witney, apparently).

      1. John D Turner

        Most local government funding comes from central government and is being reduced.

        A no cuts budget is, therefore, a deficit budget, unless one may increase Council Tax, sundry charges and/or reduce discretionary expenditure. Should such a ‘no cuts’ budget be set then control over an authority’s spending would pass to council officers who would then be required to reduce spending in line with the reductions in central government funding.

        I gather Degsy tried to rejoin the party over the summer. Thankfully, his application for membership was rejected. I really do not think reminding people of redundancy notices being delivered by taxi will do Labour any favours.

Comments are closed.