by Deji Olayinka, South West London Socialist Party
In March, Croydon Council passed a shocking 15% council tax hike in a budget proposed by their Tory Mayor that included a further £27 million of cuts to services. If Labour councillors had voted against the budget and organised against the threatened government commissioners, they could have stopped it. Instead they abstained, allowing Tory attacks on the working class to pass.
The Tory central government has cut around 50% of funding to Croydon council over the last decade. Previous Labour-controlled councils facilitated these attacks by cutting jobs and services. They also ‘gambled’ money on property speculation while doing nothing to address the housing crisis. All of this led to the council’s section 114 notice two years ago, providing only statutory services since.
The new council tax bills have already arrived, but the truth is many people simply can’t afford to pay it in this cost-of-living crisis. A mass campaign needs to be built by trade unions and the local community to defend non-payers from bailiffs, to fight against the 15% council tax hike, and get the resources that Croydon needs. The council must set a no-cuts needs budget based on ending austerity, fully funding our services and giving our young people a future.
The Tories knew that the people of Croydon would never vote for this tax hike, so the government granted special permission to allow a council tax rise above 5% without a referendum. The betrayal by Labour councillors enabled this but it could have been very different if fighting working-class representatives were in those council chambers. In Liverpool in the 1980s led by Militant, the predecessor to the Socialist Party, councillors refused to pass through cuts and led a campaign alongside unions against Thatcher, that won funding for services and built thousands of council homes.
We need workers fighting for socialist policies that will challenge pro-austerity politicians and stand up for ordinary working-class people at elections. We need trade unionists, socialists and other activists to stand with that kind of programme in Croydon. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) exists to bring this kind of electoral challenge together. Socialist Party members will be fighting for such a stand in Croydon’s next council elections. We support the protest outside the council meeting on Wednesday 17 May.