TUSC steering committee sets timetable for 2014 local elections campaign
AS GEORGE Osborne announced a further 10% cut in council funding for 2015-16 in this summer's public spending review, Tory Party chairman, Grant Shapps, ridiculed councillors for the 'good work' they were doing in "cutting their cloth more intelligently".
"When we said [in 2010] we would reduce their budgets by 26% over four years, we were told councils would be going bust by this stage" but they haven't, he mocked. "I think they can do another 10%". (The Guardian, 26 June 2013) There couldn't be a clearer answer to the idea that councils should accept the cuts in the hope that things will get better in the future. The dismantling of local public services will continue in the age of austerity unless we have trade unionists, socialists and working class community campaigners as councillors who are prepared to fight back.
Shapps' claim that council services aren't really 'cash-strapped' is, of course, completely untrue. Recent research from the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity shows that six out of ten councils are now commissioning 15-minute maximum home care visits for elderly and disabled people, with the number of such visits rising by 15% since 2008. Meanwhile the number of people who got any council-funded support in their own homes fell from 958,000 in 2009-10 to 802,000 in 2011-12.
Other services have been equally drastically affected. Of the 3,500 Sure Start centres open in 2010, 558 have been shut and of those remaining only 500 still offer any childcare after the obligation to do so was removed. One in thirteen libraries - 347 - have closed in the past two years. These services could have been saved. Councils, and councillors, have the power to make a difference - but only if they are prepared to fight.
That is the theme of the 2014 local elections campaign launched by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee at its meeting last week. Next May will see elections in 160 local councils in England, a total of 4,156 seats. Labour controls 77 of these councils - with 53 Tory-controlled, 22 under no overall control, and eight Lib Dem-led - which will all be attempting to push through a fourth round of austerity budgets. The case for the widest possible challenge around TUSC's 'don't implement the cuts' anti-austerity platform couldn't be clearer.
The steering committee agreed to organise a national conference for TUSC candidates and campaign organisers for February 1. Before then applications to be a TUSC local election candidate will be accepted as prospective candidates, to avoid triggering the period when, being formally declared, all election expenses have to be recorded. This 'pre-election period' will end after the February conference.
During March the BBC, on behalf of all broadcasting authorities, will be preparing its local elections coverage guidelines. To guarantee receiving what they call 'balanced media coverage', parties need to contest 15% of the seats up for election - 624 in the 2014 local elections. The TUSC steering committee needs a clear idea of candidate numbers by March so that we can then enter into negotiations with the BBC.
In its three years existence over 100,000 votes have been cast for TUSC candidates. The 2014 local elections will be a chance to build on this still modest but not insignificant start to developing an alternative to the pro-austerity establishment parties.
November 2013-January 2014 - The TUSC national Steering Committee meetings during this period will discuss applications to be local election candidates in the May elections and approve them as prospective candidates at this stage. To apply to be a TUSC local election candidate in 2014, complete the form on the TUSC website available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidates.php
February 1 - The national TUSC candidates and agents conference.
February 2014-April 2014 - After the TUSC conference previously agreed prospective candidates shall be confirmed as candidates and the legally necessary Certificates of Authorisation issued. New applications for unfilled seats received after February 1 will be discussed by the Steering Committee as they arrive and, where approved, Certificates issued.
March - During March the BBC, on behalf of all broadcasting authorities, will be preparing its local elections coverage guidelines. The aim will be to achieve a clear idea of candidate numbers by mid-March so that TUSC can then enter into negotiations with the BBC.
April 11 - The official Notice of Election
April 23 - The deadline for receipt of nominations by local council returning officers
May 22 - Polling day
This timetable has been devised to fulfil TUSC's remit to give every opportunity for trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to appear on the ballot paper using the TUSC name. But, once they have contacted the national Steering Committee, prospective candidates should not wait for the 'second stage' of formal authorisation in February before they get out there campaigning.