Will Welsh Labour oversee the end to public services as we know them?
12th October 2014
In an article that would be attacked by our opponents as exaggeration and scaremongering if written by a Socialist Party Wales member, chief reporter for Wales Online, Martin Shipton, writes, “The local government settlement announced by the Welsh Government will mark the beginning of the end of council services as we have come to know them”.
In his article he repeats fears being expressed by the Welsh Local Government Association that the £145 million less that Welsh Local Authorities will get in 2015-16 represents a watershed for council services. Next year will be the year that councils across Wales will not be able to maintain even statutory essential services. “It won’t simply be a question of deciding whether a local leisure centre can survive, but whether there will be enough money available to provide credible social services.”
Wholesale cuts to council services have been relatively delayed up until now, in Wales when compared to England – partly because the Welsh Government’s decision not to ring-fence NHS funding in the early days of Con-Dem austerity meant that the NHS bore the brunt of cuts in Wales.
The Labour Welsh Government hasn’t baulked at passing on Con-Dem cuts – they’ve just divvied them up slightly differently to the way they’ve been parcelled out in England. As the consequences of disproportionately cutting NHS funding has become obvious, in the “black hole” in Welsh NHS finances, identified by the BMA, the Welsh Government has reversed its previous position. Now it’s taking money from councils and education to try and plug the gaps underfunding has created in the NHS.
This is the problem with Welsh Labour – all they can offer is a different way of making the same level of Tory cuts as the Con-Dems in Westminster because they are unwilling or unable to fight for the funding that services in Wales need. This year’s council budget-setting meeting in Swansea provided a local example of just how small the differences between Labour and the Con-Dems are – the ruling Labour Group taunted the Liberal Democrat-led opposition that they had gone to the bother of putting together an opposition budget and the only difference was that they wanted to charge £1 less a week council tax than Labour!
Welsh Labour councils have put up no fight at all to these cuts handed down by their party colleagues in the Assembly. Not one Swansea Labour councillor voted against passing the budget of £26 million cuts in the current year, £45 million over 3 years. This soon proved an underestimate and has since risen to £70 million over 3 years, even before the latest draft Welsh Government budget.
There are no planned council elections in Wales until at least 2017. Socialist Party Wales members in Swansea therefore think that it is vital that we utilise the up-coming council by-election in Uplands Ward to stand a Trades Unionists and Socialist Coalition candidate on a platform of opposing and voting against all cuts to jobs and services. We call on all trade unionists, socialists and everybody who values council services to join with us and show that there is an alternative to the Tory-Liberal-Labour cuts consensus.