By Dave Reid (Secretary, Socialist Party Wales)
The Welsh government’s budget continues Welsh Labour’s policy of meekly passing on the Tories’ public service cuts and inflicting them on some of the most deprived communities in western Europe.
The Welsh government is slamming another nail into the coffin of council services. There will be a further cut of 3.5% to council spending next year if the government budget proposals are allowed to go through. We are reaching the point of no-return. Nearly 20% has been cut from devolved public services in Wales already.
If cuts to council funding continue some services will disappear for good. And even statutory services will be severely impacted. Already the child protection unit of at least one Welsh council refuses to respond unless the child is within 72 hours of harm.
And council workers pay and conditions are under threat as councils take the cheap and easy option of outsourcing council services to private companies who cut staffing, hours and pay.
Welsh finance minister, Mark Drakeford highlighted the increase on NHS spending of 2.5% but this does not even keep up with health inflation which is higher than the average inflation rate, let alone make up for last year’s cuts.
Its no good for the Welsh government just to wring its hands and blame the Tories. Nor is it acceptable for Welsh councils to pretend that they are ‘improving’ services while they cut and privatise them.
Their strategy of humanely implementing Tory cuts has failed. Between them they have implemented the managed decline of public services in Wales towards oblivion.
Instead a council of war should be called in Wales bringing together the Welsh government, councils, trade unions and community organisations to declare “enough is enough!” and prepare a plan of action to defy the Tories:
- Pool together council reserves
- Combine Welsh government and council borrowing powers to set no-cuts needs budgets for Welsh government and local government
- Begin a mass campaign of protests, strike action and civil disobedience to demand sufficient funding to maintain public services at an adequate level
The Wales TUC has pointed the way, passing a motion initiated by Socialist Party members calling for no cuts budgets. It called “on councils of all parties in Wales that claim to be against austerity to set legal no-cuts budgets” echoing the decisions of the UNISON Local Government conference and the national local government committee of UNITE.
All these motions represent the growing realisation that we cannot continue as we have done previously. A stand must be made against the cuts.
The Tory UK government is very weak and divided. Already it has been forced into eight major U-turns since being elected.
And even they have been forced to accept that investment needs to be pumped into the ailing British economy.
So now is the time to strike. The Welsh government needs to pass a no cuts budget and the TUC should be preparing a 24 hour general strike to end the cuts.
The alternative is just too bad to contemplate.