COUNCILS should dip into cash reserves to avoid cutting services, Unite’s policy conference ruled yesterday.
The general union passed a motion saying councillors should challenge officers’ definitions of “adequate” reserves and call a national conference of Labour councils to launch a “co-ordinated campaign” to fight cuts.
Some council workers at the conference said it was possible for councils to set “legal no-cuts budgets” by using cash reserves and “borrowing prudentially.”
Greenwich council rep Danny Hogan said: “It’s six years since the Tories came in … and started the austerity we’re all suffering from.
“They understand what a war is, they understand who they’re attacking, and they’re ruthless about it.”
Former Lambeth council leader Ted Knight, a key figure in the rates rebellions of the 1980s, said cuts had been “carried out — yes with tears in their eyes — but by Labour councils.”
He told the conference: “We said at the time we had been elected to defend our communities not to carry out Tory cuts.
“I’m not asking [Labour councillors] to go to jail. I’m not asking them to do what I did, to be surcharged and banned from office, that’s not an option anymore.
“I’m just asking them to work with the trade unions.”
But delegate Dick Banks said the figures presented in the motion calling for no-cuts budgets within the law were “misleading” when it came to the levels of cash reserves.
And he warned: “Any money obtained through prudential borrowing can only be used for capital projects.”
North-west young members’ committee member Damian Bailey said: “Labour councillors do not make cuts. They spend the money they are allocated, and Labour councils get hit hardest by this sham of a government.
“This motion calls for the spending of reserves. For most councils, their reserves would not even cover a single year of a so-called needs budget.”
Delegates voted to support the executive’s call for a more “creative” and flexible approach to reserves and borrowing.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the statement “lays out a blueprint to spearhead the fight back against the scandalous onslaught on local council services.”