by Oscar Parry, South East London Socialist Party
Workers and young people in Croydon are angry. Around 30 people attended a public meeting hosted by the Socialist Party on 6 April, including Croydon residents and members of the Croydon Trades Council.
Speakers from the platform, Deji Olayinka, CWU member, and April Ashley, Unison NEC member speaking in a personal capacity, outlined how 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. Despite opposition from local people, all Labour councillors abstained, effectively enabling the budget to pass.
These latest 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 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. This has led to hundreds losing their jobs, children’s centres and libraries shutting down, and vital services being cut to the bone.
This austerity programme was compared to what Militant, predecessor to the Socialist Party, did in Liverpool in the 1980s. There we led a tenacious mass campaign with the trade unions against Thatcher to win the funding Liverpool needed.
The meeting ended with the agreement that a mass campaign needs to be built to defend non-payers against persecution and to continue to fight against the 15% council tax hike, involving local community members and trade unions.
It is crystal clear that neither Labour nor any other pro-austerity party will fight council cuts. Working-class people need our own political party, armed with a fighting socialist programme, that 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 councils to refuse to implement Tory cuts, and campaign to bring back the funding that our communities desperately need.