Solidarity co-convenor Pat Lee today denounced his fellow councillors on South Lanarkshire Council for unnecessarily passing a budget involving jobs and service cuts.
Cllr Lee put forward an alternative course of action, based on comprehensively researched advice from the trade union Unison, which would have avoided any cuts whatsoever but kept the council on the right side of the law.
In his speech, he reminded elected members that they made the decisions, not the council officials, whose role was solely to give advice.
Despite his impassioned speech, not one councillor voted against the budget cuts totalling £18 million and involving job losses.
Cllr Lee said: “My suggestion went unsupported by a single councillor, which I consider a dereliction of the duty to protect our Constituents, our employees and our communities from callous and cruel cuts.
“I firmly believe that it is sometimes justified to break an unjust law for the greater good. It is better to break the poor than to break the law. However, the measures I recommended to South Lanarkshire Council today were all completely legitimate. I wasn’t asking members to take any risks: just to exhaust every option available to us before cutting a single job or service.”
Cllr Lee ‘s address to council may be read below, followed by the advice from Unison.
Cllr Pat Lee: Address to South Lanarkshire Council 16/2/17.
So here we are again. Exactly one year on from another assault on our ability to serve our communities.
We are visiting massive cuts on our staff and constituents.
Solidarity asks ALL ELECTED Members to oppose these callous and cruel cuts.
Because that is what these savings are.
We are told by the officers we are unable to set needs-based budgets. With respect to the officers, they don’t set the budget, WE do.
But there are mechanisms we can use to set balanced no-cuts budgets, and stop the attack on our constituents and services to pay for the crisis created by the bankers and super-rich.
More than £3 Billion has been stolen from Public Spending in Scotland since the Tories came to power.
And we can expect many billions more in the future.
I will ask again: when is enough, enough?
We as Councillors and our MSPs and MPs are not powerless to face these cuts head on.
We can refuse to set cuts budgets, by using ALL mechanisms available to us.
Under the rules Councils have a duty to set balanced budgets.
If we have the political will to set a no-cuts balanced budget using reserves, re-negotiating our huge historic PFI/PPP debt repayments, exploiting our budget under-spends and pushing the Scottish Government to use its enhanced tax powers, then these could all be used to set no-cuts budgets.
I understand the actions I put forward are short-term measures, as we cannot continually use reserves and borrowing to mitigate Tory attacks on public service provision and on our employees.
On this basis, I call on all members to take a stand and refuse to make any cuts, I move against accepting this budget.
Advice from Unison:
UNISON Glasgow demands of Glasgow City Council-Defy Tory austerity – Set no-cuts budgets Defend Jobs and Services
All Scottish councils and the Scottish government are drawing up budgets that threaten devastating cuts to jobs and services over the next two to three years. At least £1 billion is being slashed from council budgets in 2016 and 2017 alone. The consequences will be tens of thousands of job losses, attacks on staff conditions and ruinous attacks on community services. Glasgow City Council have recently produced a ‘budget consultation’ document entitled ‘a world class city, focused on economic growth and tackling poverty and inequality’ which explains Glasgow’s budget and the £133 million of cuts being demanded by Tory and SNP government’. Also contained in the publication is an outline of a cuts plan. In this article the trade union addresses this document and outlines what elected councillors and MSPs should be doing to defend the services in the city rather than carrying-out Tory cuts.
- Glasgow Council and Scottish Government politicians claim they can do nothing to stop the cuts as budgets have been slashed by the Tories. Is this true?It’s certainly true that the Tories have stolen more than £3 billion from public spending in Scotland since the austerity offensive began in the summer of 2010. Austerity, we should remember, is an attempt by many politicians to make ordinary people pay for the economic crisis of the bankers and super-rich, particularly acute since the crash of finance capitalism in 2007/2008.
But that does not mean MSPs and councillors are powerless to do anything about it. Collectively, the Scottish parliament and councils have real powers to begin a campaign of defiance and a refusal to implement any more cuts.
- So how can councillors and MSPs refuse to make the cuts?Trade unions representing tens of thousands of council workers in Glasgow and Dundee are calling on councillors to refuse to make the cuts and set ‘balanced’ ‘no-cuts’ budgets. As they have explained, “politicians have a choice: make the Tory cuts or stand up and defend local jobs and services. We call on elected politicians to use all available financial mechanisms to hold off further cuts whilst leading a fight to win more money”
- What are these “financial mechanisms”?Under the rules and as stated in the GCC document, councils have a legal duty to set a “balanced” budget. The no-cuts budgets would meet those rules. No-cuts budgets can be set by a combination of drawing on council reserves, using the borrowing powers that councils have as well as “creative accountancy”, for example capitalisation. In addition, negotiation over huge historic PFI/PPP debt repayments could also help, albeit temporarily, to allow the setting of a no cuts balanced budget. The Scottish parliament now has borrowing powers, regular under-spends and will also have enhanced tax powers from 2017. These could all be used to set no-cuts budgets.
- Would finance officers not refuse to support such a strategy?No-cuts budgets would certainly be described by officers as “unorthodox”, and they would be unlikely to recommend them. However, and this is the crucial point, it is the councillors and MSPs that take the decisions – not the finance officers – as to what budget is passed. All that is required is the political will to use the powers the councils have to refuse to make the cuts.
- OK, but this is surely only a short-term tactic. You can’t keep using borrowing powers and reserves to set no-cuts budgets?Yes, that’s true. But the setting of a ‘balanced’ no-cuts budget by a council or the Scottish government would allow time and space for the building of a national campaign to win the money required to fully fund jobs and public services. This would involve mass protests, demonstrations, strike action by councils and other public sector workers in support of a ‘no-cuts’ policy.
- But I’ve been told by Glasgow Council and Scottish Government politicians that it’s illegal and that they could be removed from office for setting a no-cuts budget?As explained previously, it is not illegal to set a ‘balanced’ no-cuts budget and there are no sanctions that can be used against those who back such a position. If a council or the Scottish government set a deficit, “unbalanced” budget, then there are potential consequences, but the sanctions no longer involve the threat of jail, nor do they involve the surcharging of councillors.
- What do I need to do as a trade union member working for Glasgow City Council?The Glasgow City UNISON branch along with EIS, Unite the Union, GMB, UCATT unions is involved in joint campaigning against the cuts through the ‘Defend Glasgow Services Campaign’ and has produced an alternative ‘balanced no-cuts budget’ strategy as outlined previously. As a union member we need you to engage with UNISON by attending workplace meetings and reading material on this crucial issue produced by the branch. If you do not have a local steward then please consider becoming one. This campaign could ultimately involve members of the council’s trade unions taking industrial action to defend jobs, services and staff conditions of service.
If you are resident in the Glasgow area we urge you to visit the Glasgow City Council website where the Council are consulting the citizens of the city on what services they want cut….see link below. We urge you to select the option that GCC do not do the Tories’ ‘dirty work’, but instead set a legal ‘No Cuts Budget’ for 2016/17 and launch a mass campaign to win more money for our city as outlined previously.
Glasgow citizens can vote for the trade unions “Legal No Cuts Budget” idea by visiting https://glasgowcc.dialogue-app.com/ideas