Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Local government is in revolt over the cuts. With £6.5 billion of cuts this year alone, front line services, from community centres to libraries and social care are being slashed. Anyone with the slightest interest in local politics, who reads local papers, belongs to a voluntary organisation, or use their local library, bus services or youth centre knows there is growing public anger and dismay about the depth and ruthless nature of the cuts.
Just to give one example. On Feb 15th Birmingham City Council announced £320 million of cuts by 2014/15 with the loss of 2500 jobs, , including £15 million of grants to voluntary organisations providing “Big Society” services to care for older people and £11 million from children services.
But at last there is growing evidence that local authorities (at least some of them) are not taking this lying down, in spite of the fact that the majority are Tory controlled.
Six local authorities (one Tory) have made a successful challenge to Gove’s decision to cut the Building Schools for the Future programme. Plans to rebuild 58 schools abruptly cancelled by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in July 2010, will now have to be reviewed by his department. Although Gove has the final word on the rebuilding plans (and is unlikely to reinstate them), this challenge is a legal shot across the bows of Central Government. The heavy handed and some say amateurish approach to shrinking the state by the Coalition, pushing responsibility for huge cuts onto local government, is now under serious legal scrutiny.
Liverpool City Council, one of four Big Society “vanguard” authorities has pulled out saying it’s a cover for cuts.
Another important development revealing the widening splits in local government between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats was the letter from 90 Liberal Democrat councillors to the Times on Feb 10th complaining about the way that Eric Pickles, the Local Government Minister, has taken a gung ho, even celebratory approach to cuts on local government. Though feebly supporting the Coalition cuts strategy, the Lib Dem councillors complained that Pickles need not have done it this way (i.e. front loaded the cuts). Even the Tory led local Government Association (LGA) has objected to front loading, and is openly critical of the fact that local government is being blamed by the Government for making cuts to the voluntary sector (the underpinning for the Big Society).
Why is local government (at last) waking up to what is happening to local services? The sound of local protest combined with the sight of local elections just 10 weeks away on May 5th is concentrating minds wonderfully. The elections are particularly critical for the Liberal Democrats that have a strong local government base built, ironically, upon local action, often about public services, over many years. This base could be all but obliterated. LD strongholds are in District Councils (over 1000 councillors) and to an extent in Metropolitan Borough Councils (514 councillors) and in and Unitary Authorities (671 councillors). Over a 1/3 of all these seats will come up or election in May.
The Liberal Democrats are particularly vulnerable to criticism that the belated Liberal Democrat protest about cuts is a cynical attempt to save seats; trying to absolve themselves of the responsibility for what is going on.
Meanwhile the Tories whose stronghold is in the County Councils in England do not come up for election in 2011. This is significant, and might explain the front loading, since it is precisely these authorities in the shire counties that are cutting severely libraries, transport, social care and youth centres.
An indication of whether the Tory vote has been hit elsewhere will come from results in are the 36 Metropolitan Borough Council where about 1/3 of seats are coming up for election in May. These authorities are mainly Labour controlled but Liberal Democrats and Tories have 25% of the sets each. Also the Welsh Assembly elections that also take place in May (where the Tories currently hold 10 seats and LDs 8), will be an important indicator.
Underlying the upsurge in anger is the unequal impact of the cuts. Recent research by the University of Newcastle for Middlesborough BC show that Northern towns and cities are taking the largest cuts for two reasons. First they receive the largest amount of government rate support grant because they have the highest levels of deprivation and under the rate support formula they get more head. At the same time, they receive more discretionary grant for example for regeneration which is being sharply reduced. These authorities are squeezed as well because they are suffering the highest level of public sector job losses.
These are early days. Many more cuts and redundancies are to come over the next 12 months. May 5th will be an important marker. A key question is whether local authorities will step further off the political fence and come out fighting WITH the growing numbers of local campaigns against the cuts. It could then get interesting.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun