By Dave Reid
Islwyn Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has passed a motion calling on Labour-led Caerphilly Borough Council to pass a no-cuts budget. The motion from Maesycymmer ward calls for “all its serving Caerphilly Councillors to plan for a 2019/20 Council budget that will protect services and employment, not cut them.”
The motion was passed shortly after a march of hundreds of local people against the threatened closure of leisure facilities in the area.
Left Labour activists who have spearheaded the campaign to defend Pontllanfraith leisure centre and Cefn Fforest swimming pool have felt betrayed by Labour councillors who have voted to allow the council’s leisure strategy to go ahead even though, if unamended, it would mean the closure of the centres. Some councillors who participated on the march against the closures voted for the strategy to close them!
The leader of the council and all the other right wing councillors boycotted the CLP meeting except for the mayor who stormed out of the meeting after the motion was passed.
The motion explicitly demands an end to cuts as part of the campaign against austerity: “We demand that our Labour Councillors do not vote for any council proposals that may result in service cuts, job losses or privatization, and instead that they demand that the Welsh Government truly mobilize the public to ensure the Westminster Government provide them with the money needed to adequately provide services.”
The motion calls upon the councillors “to force the council to use its significant financial reserves and borrowing powers and if necessary to consider the drastic steps such as deleting the post of Chief Executive, in order to stave off making any cuts while building a campaign.” Caerphilly council has been embroiled in a scandal costing more than £3 million in which the previous chief executive was accused of using underhand methods to inflate his salary.
Campaigners are also moving the motion in Caerphilly CLP, the other constituency in the borough.
The adoption of a no-cuts budget by a constituency Labour Party is a huge step forward in the campaign to fight austerity in Wales.
If the existing councillors continue to implement the cuts then local ward parties should prepare to replace them as Labour candidates for future council elections. But the campaign cannot wait until the 2022 elections. The campaign to stop leisure cuts must be built into a mass campaign to force the council to step back from the cuts.
And candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 must give an unequivocal commitment to support a no cuts budget by the Welsh government in line with the policy agreed by the Wales TUC in 2016.