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Wednesday 11 August 2021

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New edition of the Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget briefing launched

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) All-Britain Steering Committee has republished the Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget briefing document we first produced in January 2016.

This follows the call made by the steering committee at its June meeting for all local TUSC groups, individual members, TUSC supporters and affiliated organisations in areas where they are active, to lay plans for the year ahead - focusing on local People's Budget campaigns.

As society continues to move on from a Covid-crisis footing, a local People's Budget campaign could play a central role in bringing together trade union branches, campaign groups and community organisations to fight at a council level for what communities will need in the 'new normal' - not the cuts to public services that Tory policies will inevitably demand. The new updated briefing document, available as a PDF at https://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/450.pdf, will be a crucial facilitator of such campaigns.

The 2016 context and today

The context for the original briefing was shaped by the new situation that had been created by Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the Labour Party leadership contest in September 2015.

Jeremy's election as Labour leader was warmly welcomed by all the component parts of the TUSC coalition. Here was a chance to realise TUSC's founding goal of establishing a political vehicle for the working class. But this opportunity had arrived, unexpectedly after the experience of the New Labour years, through the possibility of transforming the Labour Party rather than a new formation - if Jeremy's unanticipated victory could be followed up with fundamental changes to the party's policies and organisation inherited from Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

Councils, in the frontline in delivering local public services, would be a vital arena for this battle. Labour councils under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership would have a chance to show anti-austerity socialist policies in action by refusing to implement the Tories' cuts and privatisation agenda. As the introduction to the 2016 edition says, the examples of alternative budget-making recorded in Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget, provide "in many ways a model of how councillors could play a vital role in developing the opposition to austerity" under David Cameron's then new majority Tory government.

But sadly it was not to be. Council Labour Groups were strongholds of the right-wing. Out of more than 7,000 Labour councillors only 400 or so had supported Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid. The architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, at the time praised "Labour's legions in local government [as] a bigger force for sense in the party than at any time in the recent past" (The Guardian, 1 January 2016).

The resulting continued experience over the next four years of cuts made by allegedly 'Labour' councils allowed the town hall Blairites to undermine Jeremy's anti-austerity message, particularly amongst working class voters in 'left behind' Labour constituencies.

Now Sir Keir Starmer is reviving Tony Blair's New Labour and once again working class voters face being effectively disenfranchised. Against the background of the deep economic, health and social crisis the Covid pandemic will leave behind, this will have serious consequences for our communities. The crisis of local public services has not gone away and the need for a fighting alternative is even greater. That is why the TUSC steering committee is re-publishing the 2016 TUSC briefing, new and updated, as a contribution to building that alternative.

Election planning appeal

Developing and promoting a local People's Budget could form the basis of a vibrant electoral challenge in the council elections scheduled for May 2022. There are over 200 councils with elections then, which will be all-up contests for every council seat in Scotland, Wales, the London boroughs and Birmingham, and with a third of councillors up for election in most of the rest (see the TUSC directory of the 2022 elections at https://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/448.pdf). But that requires election planning too.

To encourage early planning the steering committee is asking local TUSC groups to agree an election agent (or agents) for next year's contests by October 1st, even if this is a provisional appointment. A national zoom briefing for TUSC agents will then be organised for later in 2021.

Details of agents appointed should be sent to the TUSC National Election Agent, Clive Heemskerk, at [email protected]