Socialist Worker

Should Unison back Labour councils if they set illegal ‘needs budgets’?

Issue No. 2257

Conference debated what the union’s attitude should be to Labour councils that vote through cuts.

The service group executive backed a huge composite of anti-cuts motions—with one qualification.

Glen Williams spoke for the executive. “We cannot support local councillors who support and attempt to set illegal budgets,” he said.

“A needs-based budget will lead to more job cuts for our members—or an open invite for Eric Pickles to come in and set the budget himself.”

All motions calling for councils to set illegal budgets were ruled out of order.

Williams also suggested that the demand would split the movement.

“We must not allow others to divide and rule,” he said. “The responsibility for cutting grants to local councils rests with the Conservative-led coalition.”


Many delegates defended the Labour Party and the union’s link to it. Others pointed to the risks of this strategy.

Glasgow City delegate Brian Smith said that the union’s Scottish region already has a position calling for needs budgets. “We need to be clear that no cuts means no cuts,” he said.

In a later debate Lambeth delegate Jon Rogers used the chance to argue again for needs budgets.

“Don’t let people tell you that even thinking these dangerous thoughts could put our union somehow in legal jeopardy,” he said.

“There’s a greater jeopardy for our union—and that’s if we don’t fight to defend our services.”

Barry Walden from Camden said that if “all Labour councils refused to make the cuts… Pickles wouldn’t be able to take on every Labour council.”

Steven North of Salford City agreed, saying, “Numerous speakers have got up today and talked about the loss of lives from these cuts.

“And these councillors aren’t even prepared to take a stand?”

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