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Friday 29 July 2016

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TUSC makes call on Labour councillors, 'fight the Tories not Jeremy Corbyn'

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) responded to the letter published this week from over 500 Labour councillors backing Owen Smith's leadership challenge by calling on them to 'fight the Tories not Jeremy Corbyn' and actually carry out an anti-austerity policy.

Dave Nellist, TUSC's national chair and a former backbench Labour colleague of Jeremy Corbyn, and a Coventry councillor for 14 years, slammed the anti-Corbyn councillors for sabotaging the Labour leader's anti-austerity message by meekly passing on Tory government cuts to local council jobs and services - and now having the cheek to say they are backing Smith in order to 'stop the damage being done to our communities'!

"Over 11,000 workers are losing their jobs as a result of the collapse of BHS, which MPs have rightly denounced as 'the unacceptable face of capitalism'", said Dave. "But Labour councillors across the country will this year alone sack three times as many workers because they refuse to stand up to the Tories' austerity agenda.

Defy the Tories

"Now over 500 of them have the cheek to blame Jeremy Corbyn for not 'putting a stop to the immense damage the Tories are doing to our communities' - the reason they've given for backing Owen Smith - when they themselves have the power to not implement Tory cuts or, for example, the new Housing and Planning Act".

There has been growing trade union support for TUSC's position that Labour councils should use their reserves and borrowing powers to avoid cuts to jobs and services, as a first step to a concerted campaign to restore government cuts to local council funding.

The GMB union at its conference in Bournemouth (5th-9th June) joined the Wales TUC and the local government national committees of UNISON and UNITE in adopting this stance (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17274/01-06-2016/wales-tuc-support-for-council-no-cuts-budgets-a-boost-for-anti-austerity-fightback for a report of the Wales TUC decision).

Start building council homes NOW

Dave added: "With interest rates at an historic low, Labour-controlled councils are ideally placed to begin implementing John McDonnell's recent call for 'shovel-ready projects to combat the economic slowdown', for example by using their borrowing powers to start an immediate council house-building programme.

"Over the last year councils have built a pathetic 1,500 homes in England even though, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, they have £2.5bn in housing account reserves.

"TUSC's own research from last year on just 58 Labour-controlled councils (there are over one hundred Labour councils), showed that they alone had sufficient housing reserves to legally support borrowing to start building 100,000 homes now (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/350.pdf).

Fight austerity, or stand aside

"But it is clear that a big majority of Labour councillors are opposed to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell's leadership. In addition to the 500 presently declared backers of Owen Smith, an Anglia Ruskin University survey of Labour councillors in 250 marginal constituencies found that 60% of them supported his challenge, with just 28% prepared to back Jeremy.

"There is no point trying to appease councillors who have shown in practise that they are no more than Tory-lite cutters of council jobs and services.

"If Jeremy is re-elected he must use his renewed mandate to compel Labour councillors to either fight the Tories or stand aside for those who will - and TUSC will back him all the way".