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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Councillors against austerity

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has led to new speculation about a wave of councils and councillors leading a resistance campaign against government cuts by refusing to vote through balanced budgets.  Some Green Party members have, indeed, criticised the minority Green administration in Brighton for failing to be the vanguard of such a wave, in the past.

In Liverpool, the Green council group has, previously, rejected such a path as not being in the interests of the people of Liverpool and having a vanishingly small chance of a successful outcome.

What would Jeremy do?

But some people are expecting or hoping for Jeremy Corbyn to back such a strategy.  As far as I can find out, Jeremy Corbyn as a local MP for Islington has held back from criticising his local Labour council when they have voted through balanced budgets which take account of cuts to the money that central government has taken from the council's bank account. 
I would expect him to be consistent with that and to agree that it is central government - and only central government - that is responsible for the vicious austerity regime from which we are all suffering.

At the AGM of Liverpool Green Party on 23rd September, we debated this issue and passed the following resolution which, for the time being, informs our campaigning up to the mayoral and council elections in May.  The door remains open to further debate, however.
Liverpool Green Party needs to decide on its position on how to campaign against cuts to council services.

Up till now, we have taken the position that the responsibility for cuts to services lies with the national government which is cutting the funding to the city council.  Each year, the Green group on the council has proposed budget amendments which have sought to mitigate the cuts to services, for example by proposing council tax increases, and to argue for some different spending priorities.

Because we have not seen any way in which the council can force government to restore the money it has taken away from the council's bank account, we have not proposed any budget amendment which would spend money which the council does not have.  If our amendments had been accepted, the budget would still have balanced.

Also, we have moderated our criticism of the local Labour administration.  To be fair to them - even though this fairness is seldom reciprocated - we have not blamed them for trying to manage with depleted resources and making cuts.  Our campaign against cuts has been targeted on central government.

There is an alternative position, advocated by parties such as TUSC, which does place blame on local councils for passing on the spending cuts that follow from cuts to government funding.

This meeting requests the Green Party council group to continue to hold the position of mitigating cuts locally and resolves to continue to campaign against national government cuts to local authorities.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

New perspectives

I'm very happy to see the new Green Party team on the City Council settle down following my successful replacement by Cllr Anna Key.  Anna made her maiden speech and gained cross party support for her council motion on Wednesday.

To have a proper (possibly permanent) break from positions of responsibility, I've shed my roles on Green Party national executive, chair of the Association of Green Councillors, leader of Liverpool Green Party, St Michaels ward councillor and, finally, as a school governor.

With this new freedom, I can devote some time to writing, such as this blog, without worrying about taking time away from urgent work directly helping people.

Corbyn and the New Politics

The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is interesting and very hopeful.  It is part of a shake up of politics showing that the politics of the future does not have to be like the politics of the past.

There is a lot of convergence between Green Party policy and Corbyn's platform, but there are important differences too.  One of the most hopeful signs is his wish to engage positively with opponents and debate ideas.  Much more to be said on this.

But same old politics in Liverpool City Council

I hesitate before suggesting people look at the video of last week's Council meeting.  Corbyn culture has not yet taken hold in Liverpool Labour. For example, instead of engaging with the Green proposals on recycling we hear a repeat of the falsehood that "Greens opposed fortnightly bin collections".  They know we didn't, but if a brazen falsehood is repeated often enough it sometimes sticks.   (For the true record on Greens and fortnightly collection see here.)

Nine minutes into the Council meeting we have a classic example of the Mayor's response to scrutiny and criticism - a 15 minute rant against his evil accusers, particularly in the form of LibDem councillor Richard Kemp.  According to the judge in Anderson's Employment Appeal Tribunal, which dismissed his appeal, the Mayor's conduct "can reasonably be regarded as culpable or blameworthy".

The judge had also said "It is unclear to me why the legal department of Liverpool should have been acting on behalf of the Claimant in his private capacity." and that has encouraged some people to demand the Mayor pays back the £89k legal fees that Liverpool council tax payers have stumped up.

For me, the most troubling aspect of his behaviour in calling his critics "liars" is that he appears totally sincere about it and unshakable in his self belief.  To avoid any dissenting voices being heard, he would not permit any questions as if there is only one true point of view that should be heard.

From my reading of that Tribunal judgement, I think the Mayor is seriously misinforming himself.  Also the press and local BBC coverage has so far failed to drill down into the essentials of this case.  I hope to do that drilling down in a future blog post.