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Monday 20 July 2015

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TUSC sets out draft policy platform for 2016 local elections

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee has agreed a draft statement of core policies for the 2016 local council elections, A councillors' revolt could stop the Tory cuts! (see below).

This will now go to the TUSC conference being held on September 26th, where local TUSC groups, constituent organisations or individuals will be able to move amendments to the statement for debate and decision. Amendments should be sent to the TUSC national agent, Clive Heemskerk, at [email protected], by Friday 18th September to be included in the conference discussion.

The platform, once it has been finalised, is the basis on which any prospective candidate can stand under the TUSC name in the elections taking place next May in 127 English councils.

There are also elections in 2016 for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly and separate policy platforms for these elections will be agreed by TUSC supporters in Scotland and Wales.

A councillors' revolt could stop the Tory cuts!

The May 2016 elections will be the first wide scale ballot box test for the Tory government's claim that it has a mandate for its 'eternal austerity' agenda.

But it won't be Labour - or any other establishment party - that will challenge austerity policies. The Labour left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has rightly made the call for local councils to stand together and refuse to implement government cuts. But with only a handful of exceptions Labour councillors, and Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green councillors too, continue to vote for cuts in the council chamber, saying there is 'nothing they can do'.

That is just not true. The National Audit Office estimates that funding for local councils will have dropped this year by 37% in real terms compared to 2010. But English councils still control budgets totalling £114 billion pounds, over one fifth of all public spending, with responsibilities for adult social care, housing, education support, transport, recycling and rubbish collection, libraries and other services. That's a powerful position from which to organise a fightback.

The previous Con-Dem government aimed to pass on responsibility for slashing local public services by 'devolving the axe' to local councils. But by giving local authorities a 'power of competence' to do "anything apart from that which is specifically prohibited", they gave councils a greater power to resist - if they would only use it.

It is a fact that if just a handful of councils used the powers they have to refuse to implement the cuts the Westminster politicians could be made to back down.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has a policy platform for local council elections (below) which could make a difference. Even one councillor in a local authority taking a stand, if they used their position in the council chamber to appeal to those outside, could give confidence to local trade unionists and community campaigners to fight. A network of rebel councillors across the country could have an even bigger impact, shifting the terms of the debate. A councillors' revolt could stop the Tory cuts!

That's why all councillors elected under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition banner will:

  • Oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions. We reject the claim that 'some cuts' are necessary to our services or that the national debt is a reason for austerity.
  • Refuse to implement the Bedroom Tax or the new attacks on housing benefit. Councils should write off all housing benefit cuts-related arrears, withdraw all court proceedings and eviction orders where they have been a factor, and call on Housing Associations to do the same.
  • Support all workers' struggles against the cuts, privatisation and government policies making ordinary people pay for the crisis caused by the bankers and the bosses. Defend the national collective bargaining arrangements for council workers.
  • Reject increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts.
  • Vote against the privatisation of council jobs and services, or the transfer of council services to 'social enterprises' or 'arms-length' management organisations, which are first steps to privatisation.
  • Oppose racism and fascism and stand up for equality for all.
  • Campaign for the immediate introduction of the TUC's policy of a ¬£10 an hour minimum wage for everyone, without age discrimination, including for council employees and those working for council contractors.
  • Say no to academies and 'free schools'. We stand for good, free education for all, under democratic local authority control.
  • Use all the legal powers available to councils to oppose both the cuts and government policies which centrally impose the transfer of public services to private bodies. This includes using councils' powers to refer local NHS decisions, initiate referenda and organise public commissions and consultations in campaigns to defend public services.
  • Oppose council re-organisation proposals which reduce local democracy or make it easier to implement cuts. We will campaign against the imposition of directly-elected mayors.
  • Vote for councils to refuse to implement the cuts. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid making cuts. But we argue that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defeat the dismantling of council services is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demands that government funding makes up the shortfall.
  • Oppose fracking. Support action against climate change and for a future where sustainability comes before profit.

This platform is the basis on which any prospective council candidate can stand under the TUSC name in the 2016 local council elections. We encourage every trade unionist, anti-cuts campaigner, community activist and all those who want to see an alternative to the establishment parties, to become a TUSC candidate. For an application form go to http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidate