On 18th February in Leeds over 50 local residents and Labour Party activists attended a public meeting on ‘Fighting Austerity, Investment not Cuts, hosted by Chapel Allerton ward Labour Party.
Tanis Belsham-Wray, Leeds Socialist Party
Fabian Hamilton, the local MP, spoke on a programme of building 250-300k of council homes and how we can do that, as well as investment in transport and education.
It was also a breath of fresh air to hear an MP speak against Trident and condemning the position and actions of MP’s such as Hilary Benn for not coming out against it and even calling for a clamp down by Corbyn on those MP’s.
The meeting seemed quite positive until the question of People’s Budgets came out. Fabian condemned the cuts to Leeds City Council’s funding by government, which will take away 60% of its funding, and the effect it will have on citizens in Leeds
However, when the question of Labour councillors exploring setting a no-cuts budget, or even looking at starting to build council housing now and not waiting till 2020 the answer was a straight no, not even a consideration. He repeated the faslehood that to do so was against the law and said we can do nothing at all about it.
So despite it being a Labour-controlled council it is apparently ‘unthinkable’ to use any of the millions in reserve, this despite Leeds Council’s usable reserves increaisng by £65million last year.
Or regarding the bedroom tax, Fabian wouldn’t agree to support council’s increasing DHP to mean it applied to all, effectively ending the bedroom tax, a similar move to what happened in Scotland where funds were made available to negate it after significant campaigning. But in Fabian’s opinion, no there’s no point fighting it under a Tory government as they won’t repeal the bedroom tax.
I thought I was going to a meeting on fighting austerity now, but as it was before the last general election, we had the same argument put forward of waiting until will have a Labour government at the next general election, now 2020. In the meantime, it was argued, Labour councils and councillors will just need to make the cuts as they have no choice (apparently!).
Labour needs a real fighting strategy, not just wait for the elections. They need to stand up against the Tories, build up local anti-cuts groups, start refusing to implement the cuts and mobilise people behind them to exert real pressure on the Tories to concede extra funding.
I have been stuck with austerity, low wages and poor job prospects since I was 17, I don’t wait until I’m 27 just to be let down yet again by Labour.