On Wednesday 27th February there really wasn’t any debate about whether or not Bradford’s Labour councillors were going to refuse to do Pickles’ dirty work, the only real debate was centred on how and what was going to be cut. The main point of contention was Labour’s decision to increase council tax by 1.99%.
Again, Labour treated the people of Bradford to the usual words of regret over the cutting of the budget and the further job losses and cuts to frontline services that will be the inevitable result.
However, it was obvious from the budget that they put forward that mere words were as far as their opposition was going to stretch.
Councillor Green of the Labour group however made a startling comment that the people of Bradford couldn’t rely on central government to work in their best interests regardless of who was in power! Doesn’t seem like he has much faith in his own party; who could blame him?
Respect merely abstains
Those expecting a valiant and well thought out anti-cuts stance from the five Respect councillors were about to be sorely disappointed.
Only three turned up and only one spoke; councillor Karmani. His speech started off well, about how the rhetoric of cuts had become an almost universally accepted ideology amongst the mainstream parties despite the fact this stance is clearly not working and had only served to increase the deficit.
He pointed to Italy and said that the election results there showed that “most people see austerity as flawed.”
He stated that Respect was not going to accept the Tory amendment or the Labour austerity budget put forward and they were going to abstain on the passing of any austerity budget.
The chance was there to put forward calls to throw out the budget and set a needs-based budget like the Liverpool socialist-led Labour council did under Thatcher in the 1980s.
Sadly, Karmani basically made it clear he didn’t actually know what the solution was and just called for a watered-down austerity programme, appealing to try to find a ‘middle ground’.
He even resorted to the rhetoric of the cuts himself, stating that “unpopular choices have to be made”.
The damning of austerity on one hand but failing to be able to put forward an alternative plan on the other made them easy pickings for Labour and Conservative councillors who made them look inept.
Labour have 44 out of the 90 councillors in Bradford, so with the three Green councillors voting with them and half of the Lib Dems, they had a majority, but Respect should still have voted against rather than abstaining.
The Conservative amendment was defeated and the Labour Party budget pledging to cut £82 million out of the budget over the next three years was passed.
Matt Leek, Bradford Socialist Party