A Labour Party mayor has said his council will refuse to implement any more cuts—raising the prospect of a fight with the Tory government.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson—not a left winger—said last week, “I will refuse to make any further cuts to our budget because we are now at the stage where doing so will mean closing down vital services.”
He added, “This will put us on a collision course with the government.”
Anderson spoke out after the Local Government Association predicted that the Tories’ council funding formula would force a £27 million cut to Liverpool’s budget.
The Tories have already cut £436 million from Liverpool’s funding since 2010.
If councils refuse to set “legal” or “balanced” budgets, the government can send administrators to take over the council.
Councils and union leaders would then have to step up the resistance, or accept cuts.
The announcement has sparked debates.
At a meeting for Labour deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon in Haringey on Monday, councillor Mike Hakata said councils had to make cuts.
The north London council was hailed as a “left” council after activists replaced several right wing Labour councillors in 2018.
Yet Hakata said it was “pretty much accepted” among all the Labour councillors that they couldn’t refuse to pass on cuts.
He even said that rules on which services are “statutory” meant the council had to cut services such as adult social care.
Yet some Labour activists in the room said the cuts could be resisted.
One argued, “If all the Labour councils together passed illegal budgets, they wouldn’t have enough commissioners to send in to every single council.”
Burgon didn’t call for councils to pass no-cuts budgets.
He presented himself as the best deputy leadership candidate to defend the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet left activists worry that party members are pulled by the argument that the next leader must be more right wing to win elections.
Party nominations and some polls suggest the right wing Keir Starmer has more support among members than left leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey.
And Burgon is lagging behind the more right wing deputy leader candidate Angela Rayner.
Haringey councillor Emina Ibrahim said that “people who without a doubt would have backed Jeremy Corbyn” were considering backing candidates to his right.
And one activist, James, told Socialist Worker, “We hear that people who voted Corbyn in 2015 and 2016 might be swayed to Keir Starmer. He’s the more establishment candidate—the man in the suit.”
Right wing arguments about “electability” and running councils “responsibly” are pulling Labour to the right.