Hull councillor Gary Wareing reports on the challenges facing the Labour council.
Over the next few weeks local authorities like Hull will be setting their budgets for the coming year. The message from Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement is absolutely clear; there will be no end to cuts. Cuts this April will be followed by cuts in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 – and it won’t stop there.
Locally we have seen job losses at Comet, BAE, the local caravan industry, Seven Seas and a host of other shops and local firms. Cuts in spending are sucking the life out of northern cities like Hull.
Labour councillors are now being put on the spot. We have a choice; implement the Tories’ cuts for them – or organise a fight back. Labour MP John McDonnell and activists like Owen Jones have already called upon local Labour leaders to do more to challenge the attacks on local government and communities. Locally we have seen the tremendous response to the campaign on the NHS led by local Labour Party members.
In the past Labour councils have followed a dented shield policy, protecting services any way they could. It cannot be right to carry on implementing Tory cuts in order to stop Pickles taking control of the council. We can’t give in to this blackmail.
In Hull, Labour councillors were not elected to implement cuts. Many were elected on a programme of fighting cuts imposed by the previous Liberal Democrat administration. Labour councillors are now faced with a hard choice over the 2013/14 budget.
The unprincipled and opportunist Liberal Democrat Party will now claim to be anti-cuts, conveniently forgetting that the Tories are only in power with their support.
We need to organise the fight back. We must demand the return of money taken from the city. Labour’s leaders in the city need to organise a city-wide campaign to force the Government to provide us with the funds needed to tackle the jobs, housing and transport issues residents all face in our daily lives.