Principled stand by five councillors – including former mayor Joe Anderson’s daughter – set to rock Labour and could lead to de facto independent opposition group as party threatens ‘severe disciplinary action’
Six Liverpool councillors have issued a statement today that they cannot and will not vote for the cuts in the city’s budget mandated by the Labour party and Tory-appointed commissioners when they go to a vote of councillors this week.
The statement, signed by Councillors Alison Clarke, Alan Gibbons, Rona Heron, Alfie Hincks, Lindsay Melia and Joanne Calvert – daughter of former city mayor Joe Anderson – says:
We can’t and won’t vote for cuts.
As a matter of personal conscience and political judgement, we have come to the decision that we have no choice but to vote against this year’s Liverpool City Council budget on 2nd March.
We have supported attempts to draw up proposals that would amount to a no-cuts alternative. All these efforts have been rejected. The main elements of the budget are largely unchanged since the beginning of the consultation process.
We can’t accept that the recommended level of funds held in reserve for 2022/3 should rise by £10.7m when the city faces brutal cuts.
We can’t accept cuts such as those to social care and transport for children with special needs and disabilities, services that are vital to the families who rely on them. We oppose the failure to secure community-run libraries, mainly in the north of the city, which will be put at risk by an uncertain bidding process.
We oppose the green bins charge, a retrograde step at a time of environmental crisis.
The budget does not have the strong elements of investment the people of Liverpool deserve and amounts to a conventional cost-cutting exercise and a significant council tax rise at a time when there is a cost-of-living crisis and people are increasingly dependent on vital services. At the same time, the commissioners receive a backdated pay rise of 50% and expenses. This is so wrong.
We have been advised that voting against the budget will result in severe disciplinary action by the Labour Party, but we are prepared to accept the consequences of our decision. We were not elected to make life harder for the people we represent.
We understand the difficult situation that Tory cuts have forced on us, and we have no wish to undermine colleagues. Ultimately, we are responsible to our conscience and our communities.
The Labour Party should be leading efforts to expose the Tories’ twelve-year war on local government.
There has to be an alternative to Labour councils implementing Tory cuts.
Labour’s attempt to browbeat the councillors into submission with threats of ‘severe disciplinary action’ looks set to split off at least five councillors into what is likely to become the de facto official opposition group on the council if they continue to stand as a group they will form the official opposition on the council. Especially if, as is likely, they join forces with former Labour councillor Sam Gorst, already unjustly expelled by the party, and Cllr Sarah Morton and former Lord Mayor Anna Rothery, who quit the party in disgust at the leadership’s conduct.
And greater still if the long-rumoured caucus of other Labour councillors joins them.
The principled stand against cuts echoes that of ‘the 47’, the still-legendary group of Liverpool Labour councillors expelled from office for saying they would rather ‘break the law [against an unbalanced budget] than break the poor’ – except now they face persecution by the hollow shell of their own party instead of a Tory-run state.
Note, this article originally named five councillors. A sixth, Lindsay Melia, has now joined the group.
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