A group of Jeremy Corbyn supporters is to call on a local authority to decline to set a budget complying with the Treasury’s spending cuts.
In a move that could be copied in other constituencies, the Lewisham for Corbyn – Momentum group, a part of the mass movement that grew out of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, agreed to protest against its Labour council’s proposals to close libraries and community centres.
The group is also “initiating and collecting signatures on an official petition across Lewisham for a no cuts budget, trying to collect the necessary 8,000 to trigger a debate in the council”. The group wants to mobilise support also for a lobby of Labour’s local mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, and his cabinet.
The decision is only a local one but other Labour councils could find themselves coming under more pressure from Momentum groups to resist the government’s demands for further deep cuts to public spending as they draw up their budgets for next year.
James Schneider, a spokesman for Momentum nationally, said: “What Lewisham Momentum are trying to do is collect signatures on an official “no cuts budget” petition. If they get 8,000, it will be debated in the council. This has been decided by Momentum supporters in Lewisham meeting locally. It is not a national decision but if it is seen as a positive and successful course of action then it could be replicated elsewhere.”
There was “lots of discussion going on in different groups about ways to protect, enhance and improve services”, he said.
He added: “There are the traditional means such as petitions and campaigning directly against the council. There are others looking at focusing more on the government, which is basically passing down the cuts to many councils. And then there are more creative things being discussed in different groups, like demonstrating the worth of particular services so they are not able to be cut.”
A spokesman for the Lewisham for Corbyn – Momentum group said the point of the action was to put pressure on councillors to take a stand against the cuts they are being asked to implement. He said he hoped it would lead to a groundswell of support that would embolden radical councillors across the country. He said it was key to winning the argument with Labour, trade unions and the wider community that refusing to carry out cuts was necessary.
However, Labour-led councils tend to say they have to work with what they are given by central government and are powerless to resist the lower budget settlements.
McDonnell said in September: “The situation the councils are now in is if they don’t set a budget, a council officer will do it for them. There is no choice for them any more.”
Lewisham council’s website says the government’s summer budget in July 2015 made it clear that local councils would continue to face big cuts and that the authority would need to cut a further £83m by 2020.
Some Labour MPs have criticised Momentum, concerned that it is a parallel organisation overlapping with the party, that it allows members of other parties to be involved, and that it could even lead to purges of MPs.
However, Momentum has dismissed these concerns, saying the movement is about bringing in new members and energy as well as increasing support for Labour.
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th November 2015 18.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010