Militant returns to demand Liverpool council leader Joe Anderson defy the coalition
Last month I posted a blog about Liverpool looking back to the 1980s with trade unionists demanding the council defy the coalition.
Today we find ourselves reporting that Tony Mulhearn, former president of the Liverpool district Labour party and Militant member, has written to Liverpool council leader Joe Anderson with more of the same.
Once more Cllr Anderson totally rejects the idea in a strongly worded response.
Here are the letter, signed by Mr Mulhearn and six others of the 47 councillors that were surcharged, and Cllr Anderson's response:
An open letter to Joe Anderson, leader Liverpool City Council from members of the 47 group of surcharged councillors (1983-87)
We note in your declarations that you claim there is nothing the council can do other than implement the ConDem cuts more humanely than government commissioners. Workers and their families will not notice the difference between you and Tory commissioners, the effect will be the same.
We would suggest that there are several steps you could take as part of a strategy to fight the cuts.
You claim that, in addition to the projected shortfall of ÃÂ£120million, the government proposes to cut up to a billion pounds over the next four years. We reject the notion that cuts of such magnitude can be managed without savaging the incomes, employment and living standards of workers.
The alternative strategy we propose is a bold campaigning one, which the city council of 1983-1987 pursued.
The first step should be to use the council's budget reserve, reported in the Echo as ÃÂ£80million, to maintain current funding levels in areas which the Con-Dem alliance is cutting. This would buy time for more decisive measures to defeat the cuts. We understand that your figures for reserves may differ, if so then please explain the situation according to council figures.
In addition you could take Liverpool Direct back in-house thus saving a reported ÃÂ£29million a year.
Then, as we did in 83-87, you should work out how much is required to fund the existing council services in 2011 and pass a budget in line with inflation. This would no doubt produce a short-fall in the council's income. The amount of the shortfall could be identified, say ÃÂ£50million. A campaign could then be launched to oppose the cuts with the specific demand that ÃÂ£50million be restored to the Liverpool City Council as a means of defending jobs and services.
You could issue a call for all local authorities to embrace the same strategy, and call for support from the local authority trade unions and the wider Labour movement, in concert with community organisations which are planning to resist any cuts in their own localities.
If Liverpool makes a courageous stand, this could act as a beacon to other local authorities and campaigning organisations to join the campaign. If a number of the main local authorities adopted this strategy of refusing to cut jobs and services to compensate for Tory cuts, backed up by a campaign of mass demonstrations and industrial action, the Tories would be compelled to retreat.
Already the magnificent action of the students has created chaos in the ranks of the LibDem wing of the government which, let us remember, is ruling without a popular mandate.
We call on the Labour group to totally reject the cuts and to join, not with the Libdems, but with the trade union and labour movement in defending the mass of Liverpool's working people.
It was such a campaigning strategy which resulted in the Thatcher government releasing funds to the city worth some ÃÂ£60million which allowed us to carry out our electoral promises.
The alternative is a programme of cuts which will devastate the jobs and services which thousands of working families rely on, and signal a return to the dark days which we inherited in 1983.
Those dark days resulted from a catastrophic 65% collapse in the Liverpool economy between the mid-seventies and 1983, made worse by the ÃÂ£30million which the Tory government cut from Liverpool's rate support grant.
If the ConDem cuts are implemented in Liverpool we will see a return of those dark days which we should all campaign to avoid.
Signed: Paul Astbury, Harry Smith, Tony Mulhearn, Alan Fogg, Felicity Dowling, Frank Mills, Tony Rimmer
Joe Anderson's response
One of the first things I said when Labour won the council election in May was that I would not shirk from my resposibilities as Leader - no matter how tough things got. Liverpool is facing the biggest ever cut in government grants for 50 years - ÃÂ£100million over the next two years - and the city needs a Labour Council to make the right decisions and defend Liverpool people from the worst of the Con-Dem cuts. We will protect the most vulnerable and needy and try to keep job losses to a minimum.
I am meeting all staff early in the new year to explain just how unjust the government settlement is for us. We have had a grant cut more than any other city and we're the second worst affected counci in the country. Liverpool has some of the poorest areas than anywhere else in Britain, yet we face massive government cuts while the richest councils get an increase. That is the obscenty and unfairness of these Government cuts. ÃÂ We are facing some extremely tough decisions - and I want to listen to our staff on how best we can all pull together to get through this.
If the solutions proposed by Mr Mulhearn were that easy, I would have jumped at them. We don't have ÃÂ£80M of reserves sitting in the bank - we have by law to cover contract and other liabilities and cannot use them for anything else. A lot of this is not actual cash - but simply a facility to borrow should an emergency arise. The so-called huge savings by cancelling the LDL contract is a myth.
This is not some theoretical political debate about whether we should make this cut or that. The government has slashed our income by millions which means facing up to real problems in the real world. If we refuse deal with it - the money would soon run out - and we'd have nothing in the bank to pay wages and services would shudder to a halt. Is that what Mr Mulhearn wants? Wholesale sackings of staff and the disabled and vulnerable children being left to fend for themselves?
I am more than happy to meet Mr Mulhearn and the few of the 47 group who signed his letter. But refusing to set a legal budget is not, and never will be an option. It didn't work in 1987 - and would only make matters even worse today. If Mr Mulhearn wants to relive the glorious defeats of 25 years ago - that's up to him. The people of Liverpool expect me to do my level best to tackle the huge problems we face today - and that is what I fully intend to do - no matter how tough and difficult it gets.