Liverpool Town Hall where next week we will be debating a call from our Labour Mayor to have a demomonstration in London
When I last did a blog some 10 days ago about the Mayor of Liverpool’s call for a lottery, following hard on the heels of a suggestion about a 10% council tax increase I warned that in Liverpool daft ideas come in threes. Boy was I right. Joe Anderson’s latest idea is to have a mass demonstration in London.
The resolution, appended in full below, calls for the Mayor to write to all political party leaders asking them to call a national demonstration in London in May about cuts to social care budgets and to ask fellow Council Leaders to support this. I understand that originally Mayor Anderson wanted to ask Jeremy Corbyn to lead it but this suggestion has been removed in favour of an approach to all Party Leaders. I am not at all sure that the Prime Minister will support a demonstration against her own government! It also calls on the Chief Executive to write to the Local Government Association to ask them to support a national campaign to provide fair funding for social care including a national lobby of parliament.
There is no doubt that there are huge problems in Liverpool and elsewhere caused by both cuts in the money available for social care and also the growth in the number of frail elderly. Successive governments for the past two decades have refused to recognize and act upon this clearly visible demographic time bomb. However, demonstrations which are led by Liverpool will only weaken the case for the money that we need. The Government is currently considering the reallocation of parts of the Better Care Fund to more deprived areas. This move is even being supported by the Tories at the LGA. I have had detailed meetings with Ministers about the needs of northern urban areas and it does seem to me that there is at least a little understanding of the acute problems we face. They are also aware that the increasing of council tax for the specific purpose of social care is not very effective in places like our own city where there is a low tax base.
It is noticeable that every council including places like Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham are facing similar pressures and are being dealt with by the Labour Leaders of those cities in a much more practical and joined up way. Not one of them is asking for national demonstrations but are using available channels such as the Local Government Association and the Core Cities Group to lobby for more funds and in their localities are effectively establishing new methodologies to maximize what can be done with the reduced resources. Manchester, in particular, is showing what can be done as it leads changes in the huge £4.5 billion Health and Social Care budget which is available to them in the Manchester City Region.
Mayor Anderson sits on two national bodies, the Cities Board of the LGA and the Core Cities Group which are supposed to be working on these issues with little apparent effect. I believe that he has not moved resolutions in these important bodies dominated by Labour Council Leaders like Sir Richard Leese from Manchester and Nick Forbes from Newcastle (also the LGA Labour Leader) because he knows that they will not support his calls.
The Local Government Association has already been lobbying central government and as I said above has had some success on an all-Party basis for moving resources to the North in the next three financial years. But the LGA has never ‘picketed Parliament’ which is the heart of Mayor Anderson’s proposal. Lobbying only works when people can meet quietly and out of the headlights. When people trust (but by no means like) each other and where movement can be achieved without victory being claimed. The ability of the LGA to work with the Government (any Government) would be seriously curtailed if it were to work in an overtly political, mass demonstration way.
This resolution from Liverpool, if anyone else were prepared to act on it, would re-awaken in the minds of public and private investors alike the reputation for militancy which Liverpool hand which both Labour and Liberal Democrat administrations have done so much to remove. It will not achieve anything except one thing. It will hold off from Labour Councillors, most of whom are decent people, the specter of Momentum or Militant as we used to call it in the 1980s. Don’t they love their demonstrations? We saw their success in getting 10s of thousands of people into mass demos and rallies during both of Corbyn’s election wins. But that does not equate to votes. Interestingly in Richmond Park the deposit losing Labour candidate got less votes than the number of Labour members in the Constituency. The Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership has no chance of winning the next General Election. With no firm and consistent views on anything it cannot even provide a half-baked opposition never mind an effective one.
At the council next week we will seek to move an amendment which suggests some limited ways forward for the council to deal with the pressures accurately described in Anderson’s motion. We believe that the Council as a whole needs outside support to enable it to cope with the challenges it faces. We believe that it needs to accept that it will no longer be the pre-eminent council in the City Region when a City Region Mayor is elected in May and will become just one out of 6 councils. We think there should be an external review of how the Council is run by a Peer review team of expert councillors and officials from similar authorities.
We will not seek to amend that section of the motion which once again looks backward to the first part of the decade. Only Labour People and a few of their supporters think that what happened pre May 2015 is relevant. Liberal Democrats will be concentrating our thoughts and actions on the problems that have arisen post June 2016 which is where most people’s concerns now lie.
The ways forward that have been suggested by Liverpool’s Labour Mayor will take us back to the 80s. They will be bad for Liverpool. The latest suggestion for big demos in London which will not be hugely supported by the rest of the Labour Party in local government will help neither us nor anyone else. It’s a vampire kiss from Joe Anderson to re-awaken Militant which will do far more harm than good.
Motion from Mayor Anderson to City Council on 18th January 2017
Council notes that it is the responsibility of local government to provide a social care service for both adults and children for residents of the city. Social Care is a service for the most vulnerable people in our society, provided to help those who will otherwise struggle to interact fully with the world around them and to act as an enabler so they are able to overcome the challenge of any number of conditions, physically and mentally.
Council believes that the ability to provide care for those who need it is the symbolic reflection of our compassion as a society, and the hallmark of any great civilisation.
Council also notes the hard work of our staff to provide social care, especially against a backdrop of ever increasing workload.
Council especially notes the expectations by all citizens that care will be available to support them should they need it, but that as a function provided by local government, not a national service, Social Care is increasingly affected by changes to local government finance.
Council is reminded that since 2010 when the Coalition Government, and particularly Danny Alexander as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, introduced austerity Liverpool City Council has had a 58% real terms cut to our funding. In cash terms this means £524m down to £268m today. As a result spending on Adult Social Care has gone from
2020 (projected): £130m
Council notes there are also a significant level of demographic pressures on social care, increasing the costs, worth £44m.
Council is shocked by the Government’s response to this funding crisis in Social Care, and particularly the refusal to provide extra funds for social care and allow councils to raise Council Tax by an extra 1%, which in Liverpool would raise very little.
Council also notes Government’s intention to remove the Revenue Support Grant by 2020 leaving Social Care funding reliant on money from the local taxpayer, and therefore at severe risk of being underfunded.
Council believes a national campaign is required to force the government to provide fair funding for adult social care.
- Asks the Mayor to write to all political leaders asking them to call a national demonstration in London in May and to ask fellow Council Leaders to support this;
- Asks the Joint Trade Union Committee to support the campaign and ask their trades unions and the TUC to support;
- Calls on the Chief Executive to write to the LGA to ask them to support a national campaign to provide fair funding for social care including a national lobby of parliament;
- Resolves to launch a petition calling for fair funding for social care; and
Asks Councillors to campaign at ward level for fair funding for social care including collecting signatures for the petition, identifying and publicising the impact of the cuts on vulnerable people and organise transport and mobilizing support for the demonstration when it is called.