by Berkay Kartav, South London Socialist Party organiser
Despite opposition from local people, Croydon council, led by the newly elected Tory mayor, passed a budget that would increase council tax by 15% and make a further £27 million of cuts. Shamefully, all Labour councillors abstained, effectively enabling the budget to pass.
Normally councils are required to hold a referendum if they want to increase council tax by more than 5%, but in this case they were given permission from the Tory government to do so.
These attacks come after a decade of cuts to the funding of jobs and services in Croydon, where both the Tories and Labour have implemented a programme of austerity.
Rather than fighting for the resources we need and setting a no-cuts needs budget, previous Labour administrations obediently passed on Tory cuts and got involved in private housing projects to make up for lack of funding, projects which subsequently lost millions of pounds. With a £36 million shortfall between income and expenditure, the council received a section 114 notice over two years ago, providing only statutory services since.
Over the last decade, hundreds of council workers have lost their jobs, children’s centres and libraries were shut down, and vital services were cut to the bone.
Reports indicate that Croydon has lost 50% of its funding in the last ten years or so. Both Tories and Labour have chosen to make the working class pay through brutal cuts.
This is in stark contrast to what Militant, predecessor to the Socialist Party, did in Liverpool in the 1980s when we led a tenacious mass campaign with the trade unions against Thatcher to win the funding Liverpool needed.
Ordinary working-class people are already being forced to pay for extortionate rents and energy bills and now face a 15% council tax rise. Residents will be paying much more – on average an extra £285 annually – for much less. Undoubtedly, many working-class people in Croydon will struggle to pay their council tax and fall into arrears. The council and debt agencies will penalise those who can’t afford to pay the bills.
A mass campaign needs to be built by trade unions and the local community to defend non-payers against persecution, and to fight against the 15% council tax hike and for the resources that Croydon needs.
It is crystal clear that neither Labour nor another pro-austerity party will fight council cuts. Ordinary working-class people need our own political party, armed with a fighting socialist programme, who will stand up for us. The Socialist Party has stood in previous council elections in Croydon and elsewhere as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). We fight for needs budgets which refuse to implement Tory cuts and fight for campaigns based on the trade unions and local communities to win back the funding we need.