Following the publication on Labourlist of the letter to Keir Starmer signed by 30 Notingham City councillors (now 31) calling for Labour to campaign for debt cancellation, Labourlist included in one of its regular surveys of readers’ opinion, the question, “Should Labour support cancellation of local authority debt?” Labourlist readers consist of around 80% Labour Party members and probably the rest are Labour supporters. With more than 7,000 responses these surveys are as wide a reflection of Labour membership opinions as you are likely to find anywhere.
The response to the question on cancellation of local authority debt was:
Yes 5,864 (81.5%)
Don’t know 943 (13.1%)
No 390 (5.4%)
The survey also asked in Question 10 what of the various policies in Labour’s 2019 Manifesto Labour should now support. The only one which scored a higher vote than debt cancellation was “Cut the substantial majority of carbon emissions by 2030”, which scored 5,904 votes, 82%.
The level of support for cancellation of local authority debt was even more interesting when you consider the weight of opinion in response to the question on the new leadership – “Are you happy with Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party since his election?”
Very unhappy – 34.3% (2,472)
Very happy – 33.8% (2,429)
Fairly happy – 16% (1,155)
Fairly unhappy – 13.8% (990)
Don’t know – 2.1% (151)
In other words those who voted were more or less equally divided. So the vote of 81% in support of debt cancellation suggests that there is support for the policy across the political spectrum of Labour members, including some who are happy with the new leadership. This probably reflects recognition of the scale of the crisis facing local government.
In terms of the numbers who voted in favour of Labour supporting debt cancellation, 5,864 is an impressive figure. It may well indicate that many of the Labourlist readers have read the material on the issue that has been included on Labourlist for some time now. It certainly gives us encouragement to continue to press the issue and to seek to pressure Labour to demand of the government cancellation of local authority debt as one of the measures which is necessary in order to prevent a new phase of austerity in local government.
So the next phase of our effort to win over Labour to this policy, is the statement/letter below which we are asking Labour councillors to sign, directed at the Leadership. We think it’s critical that Labour councillors collectively demand of the Leadership that Labour presses the government to provide the funding necessary for councils to deal with the pandemic and prevent a new round of cuts of jobs and services.
As the latest government U-turn on exam results shows, this is a weak and shambolic government which can be forced to back down.
Councils are now being asked to organise track and trace at the local level. However, as with other things it has had to do in dealing with the pandemic, it requires the funding to be able to pay for it. The four points in the letter below would begin the process of funding councils according to need, and providing socially useful economic stimulus to help emerge from the pandemic.
If you are a Labour councillors please let us know if you would like your name added in support of the statement. If you are not a councillor please forward this email to councillors in you area and ask them to support it.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary, Labour Campaign for Council Housing
National campaign for funding of local government to prevent a new phase of austerity
Dear Keir and Angela
As Labour councillors who are opposed to a new phase of austerity we believe that unless there is a national campaign to press the government to fund local authorities sufficiently then Labour councils will implement cuts which, after 10 years of austerity, will have disastrous social consequences.
If Labour leaves each local authority to its own devices then the very people we should be supporting will suffer the consequences of job and service cuts. Some key workers who have played such a critical role in the pandemic will receive their thanks via redundancy notices and more people whose quality of life is dependent on social services will not receive them.
We therefore strongly believe that Labour should be opposing this new phase of austerity with a national campaign bringing together the Party with Labour councillors, local government (and other) unions and service users, to press the government to:
- Honour its commitment to fund councils fully for the extra costs of dealing with the pandemic, and the losses of revenue resulting from lock-down.
- Cancel local authority debt held by the Public Works Loan Board as an emergency measure which would provide councils with an extra £4.5 billion spending power a year, and help to stabilise their finances. The government itself set a precedent when it cancelled NHS debt.
- Begin urgent discussions on a funding system based on an annual assessment of social needs in each locality.
- Provide £10 billion annual grant to fund building 100,000 council homes a year, which is necessary not only to address the acute housing crisis, but will provide economic stimulus as we come out the pandemic, putting people back to work.
The government has been pressured into a number of U-turns. They can be forced into another one on local authority finances. We must demand the finances necessary to prevent a new phase of austerity in local government.