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Key demands for the Leeds City Council Labour Group

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With the upcoming local Council elections in May 2019 Leeds LRC (LLRC) have drawn up five key demands for Leeds City Council (LCC) Labour Group. We are hoping to be able to draft an alternative manifesto for the local elections in May 2020.

LLRC’s five key demands include:

  • An end to the use of bailiffs to collect Council Tax arrears.

  • Councillors to support trade union activities, including attending picket lines with striking workers. Councillors should actively support and attend the May Day march in Leeds organised by Leeds Trades Union Council.

  • Oppose rent increases for Council housing.

  • Conduct an immediate review into all Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts, with a view to renegotiation, to reduce interest payments and use these saved funds for priority services.

  • Given that the Council cannot guarantee service quality standards for outsourced Adult Social Care bring all contracts back in house and do not outsource any further services.

While LLRC appreciates these demands are reformist in outlook, far from radical policy and omit key areas (including Children’s Services) these demands have been chosen based on evidence which LLRC currently holds. We decided that without evidenced-based policy positions it is unlikely we will be able to influence Labour Group policy for the May 2019 elections. However we plan to make much more radical demands in future.

Bailiffs….Hammersmith & Fulham Council have ended the use of bailiffs to collect Council Tax arrears and a successful campaign has also been run in Bristol (‘Boot Out Bailiffs’). LCC’s current policy shows a lack of humanity to some of the most vulnerable in society as well as failing to understand and appreciate the reasons people get into Council Tax arrears. The current approach is also not cost effective.

Trade Unions….Whilst it has been encouraging to see Councillors attending picket lines there is still a lack of outright support from the Labour Group for striking workers and the May Day march. For example the Labour Group, particularly the Executive Members, could have shown much greater support including using influence on Transport for the North in relation to the recent RMT strike action on Northern Rail.

Rents….In LCC’s budget for 2019-20 rent for Council housing, funded through PFI, is set to increase by 3.4% (Consumer Price Index plus 1% as permitted under the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act) as opposed to a 1% reduction for other Council housing. It is estimated this will raise £0.4m additional rental income. This policy will be disastrous for those in PFI housing who have already seen rent rises in prior years (despite the fact that some of the increase will be covered by housing benefit). It also divides communities which is completely at odds with Labour values which should look to unite people on middle and lower incomes against a rich and powerful elite.

PFI….LCC has a major issue with debt levels, including PFI and Lender Option Buyer Option (LOBO) loans (for further information on LOBO loans see the Debt Resistance UK website). Given that interest payments on PFI and LOBO loans are taken from the Revenue Account, which is used to pay for critical Council services, this debt burden needs to be reduced immediately. For example, if the PFI contracts for council housing could be renegotiated the money saved through reduced interest payments should mean there is no need to increase rents on PFI properties as well as allowing compensation to those that have suffered rent rises in prior years.

Adult Social Care….In Leeds, Adult Social Care amounts to 40% of total expenditure. To save costs there has been an outsourcing strategy in the belief that the private sector can deliver an equivalent level of services at a lower cost. However instead it has led to a reduction in the quality of care and terms and conditions of employment. Furthermore, a number of private sector contractors are under severe financial pressure meaning that Councils could have to take services back in house.

We are hoping to build support amongst the local membership to support these key demands. It is hoped that we can pressurise LCC to implement these policies as we also seek to build a movement for more radical change in support, for example, of the measures referred to in Martin Wicks’ article ‘Local Government Rebellion Needed’, dated December 2019, on the National LRC website.

LLRC’s key demands are included as a flyer available on LLRC’s Facebook page. Should people want further information about LLRC please email leedslrc@outlook.com.