Joe Anderson has pledged not to introduce any more cuts. Ritchie Hunter asks if we can believe him.
The reversal of the Tory pre-election pledge to end austerity will mean £27m more in cuts from Liverpool’s resources.1 Since 2010 Liverpool has lost over 60 per cent of the income from the Government, and the city council has £436 million less to spend each year.
Liverpool City Council has been running a consultation on this year’s budget proposals, although it claims to have reduced a £57.6 million cut to £30 million, through various measures including: economic growth and investments, council tax rises, and a deal with the government over the cost of adult social care. These “would see the books balanced through a mix of cutting the costs of services, reducing demand and increasing income.”2 The public are now being asked what they would do, or more specifically what they would cut.
The City’s Mayor, Joe Anderson, has responded to the news of the further cuts with:
“If the government want to impose this they will have to come here and try and do it themselves – but they will have a hell of a fight on their hands.”3
But Anderson’s words are ‘smoke and mirrors’, a bit of ‘grandstanding’ for his election in May. Further cuts in funding are terrible news, but Anderson has overseen the drastic cuts since 2010, that have:
- reduced the council workforce by 7,000;
- seen services such as Day Centres and Sure Starts hollowed out or privatised;
- promoted PFI schemes such as for the failed Royal Hospital.
His disingenuous words about saving libraries have been shown to be false. Walton Library for instance, that was ‘saved’ by Anderson, is no longer a public library.
Anderson has never led a fight back, and he is not trusted to do so now. He is wedded to Blairite expansionist policies, in league with big companies such as Peel Holdings, and he has given the go-ahead to massive expansion programmes for John Lennon Airport and a new ferry terminal.
It is true that the Council have mitigated some of the cuts by growing Liverpool’s economy and attracting visitors to the city. Anderson is fond of saying this is the “Only Game in Town”. His plan is to save services by this ‘growth’, “Nearly doubling the size of the Economy to £50billion by 20404, which is at odds with the City Councils Climate Emergency declaration to become a net-zero carbon city by 2030.5
Liverpool City Council, run by Anderson, have got themselves into a right bind with their trickle down economics. Their refusal to lead any fight back against Tory cuts has led them to embracing the market system. They see no other way to maintain any semblance of public services, other than to work within government plans.
But trying to play the system by fast-tracking building projects,6 or by setting up private limited companies7, is undermining the social fabric of the city. And the Government keep moving the goal posts anyway; as with the latest round of austerity cuts, or by the raising the government loan interest rate.8
What should we do?
First there is no expectation that councillors will refuse to go along with Anderson’s budget. He runs this council through a cabinet system, where he appoints the members. Dissenting voices will be isolated and disciplined.
Any chance of a council fightback disappeared two years ago with John McDonnell’s letter calling on councils not to break the law, and to wait for an elected Labour Government. This was used as a justification to vote down motions to set a ‘Needs’ budget.
The fightback must come from the bottom up. We need to link into local campaigns and rank and file trade union actions, to co-ordinate these across areas and cities – on the lines of the ‘Poll Tax’ offensive – with community meetings which build on local opposition to cuts, and with the aim of setting up Community Councils to defend services.
We need to think differently. We can’t go on trying to use Tory establishment rules to fight back. Community Councils should not be just defensive organisations. They should map out and encourage alternatives to the Anderson ‘Growth’ culture and suggest ways of tackling the ‘Climate Emergency’. They should encourage education and co-ordinate a ‘grass-roots’ building of Socialism.
The actual figure of £27m comes from The Guardian of 25 Jan “Northern councils will lose millions to Tory south in funding rejig”
- Scottie Press: http://www.scottiepress.org.uk/
- https://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/housing/joe-anderson-redefines-what-a-council-house-is/ and Joe Halewood Blog: https://speyejoe2.wordpress.com/
- PWLB rate hike sends shockwaves through council finance sector https://www.room151.co.uk/treasury/pwlb-rate-hike-sends-shockwaves-through-council-finance-sector/