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Tuesday 12 January 2016

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Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget - new briefing pack available from TUSC

What can councils do in the face of government cuts to funding for local public services? Actually, they could do a lot to throw back the Tories' austerity agenda - if councillors had the determination to fight.

A new briefing pack has been produced by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) drawing together notes, documents, transcripts of speeches, etc of four cases where rebel councillors showed how it would be possible for councils to fight back and not implement the Tory cuts.

Under the title, Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget, the 43-page pack is available as a downloadable PDF at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/355.pdf

The pack will be useful for anti-cuts campaigners as councils meet in February or March to set their budgets for the 2016-2017 financial year. And now it will be especially so as the Unite union's National Industrial Sector Committee for Local Government has issued a call for councils to set no cuts budgets.

It can be done

This collection of documents provides some guidance on how alternative budgets can be drafted to avoid making cuts at least in the short term, as the first step to a mass campaign.

It includes the budget amendments TUSC-supporting rebel councillors in Southampton, Leicester and Hull moved and some of the correspondence they had with council officials - anonymised where necessary - in order to be able to present their proposals at the full council meetings. It also includes similar material from 2008 before the formation of TUSC - co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow - when two socialist councillors in Lewisham moved an alternative budget, showing that it was possible to do so.

It is completed by the text of the TUSC model letter to Labour councillors, produced after Jeremy Corbyn's leadership election victory, asking them to discuss the possibilities in the new political situation of preparing no cuts budgets.

First steps are important

The briefing pack doesn't claim to answer all the questions there are about the law and council budget-making. It also clearly recognises that defiance would, at some point, inevitably be met by the Tories attacking the alleged 'illegality' of the council's budget and that there is no clever 'legal tactic' that will avoid the need for struggle.

But as the materials in the pack show, it is possible to produce 'legally balanced' budgets that avoid an immediate legal confrontation, that avoid cuts in the short term, and that provide a breathing space to build the struggle. And while first steps are indeed only first steps, they are important at that.