Southampton City Council have voted through a budget for this coming
financial year which will involve a combination of 130 job cuts alongside a
massive hike (18-56%) in council tax bills.
The budget was presented by the ruling Labour group but was only passed on
the Tory Mayor’s casting vote after Bitterne ward Labour councillor and
supporter of Socialist Appeal, Perry McMillan, broke ranks and refused to
support the proposals for job cuts.
He is now likely to have the Labour whip withdrawn as a result of his
principled stand. The budget was actually pushed through thanks to a squalid
deal being concocted between the Labour group and the Tories who agreed to
abstain in return for minor concessions.
Southampton City Council is just one of many councils, mainly in the South,
to have responded to the government’s reduced grant settlements by raising
council taxes and cutting services. Rather than making a stand against these
cuts, which are being used by the government to pay for tax perks to big
business, funding for PFI scams and the coming war with Iraq, they have elected
to carry out pseudo-Tory measures to balance the books. Sadly this is one of the
reasons why many Labour councils are now facing electoral disaster in the coming
May local elections despite the ongoing unpopularity of the Tories. The
Southampton Labour group should have refused to cut jobs and services and thrown
the ball back into the government’s court, demanding that they make up the
shortfall and provide proper funding. If the Tory/Liberal groups wanted cuts
then they would have had to have voted them through themselves and face the
consequences in May. As things stand in Southampton the Labour group will end up
taking the blame for failing to defend the interests of working people.
Southampton councillors walked past a demonstration of local trade unionists
and council workers protesting against the cuts in order to vote through the
budget. Only Councillor McMillan stayed to speak to them, his stand against the
budget gaining loud support from those present. UNISON is already operating a
work-to-rule policy and, after calling a one-day strike on the day of the vote,
are now set to continue the campaign.
A petition has been launched in support of Cllr McMillan which states: "We
the undersigned recognise the courageous stand of Councillor Perry McMillan
against redundancies and cuts in Council services and against a massive council
tax rise of 19%. We urge Southampton Labour Party and Labour Group to recognise
that Councillor McMillan has been a loyal member of the Group and has abided by
Party policy and Group decisions. We realise that this was a vote of conscience
from someone who has been made redundant many times in the past. Therefore, we
further urge that Councillor McMillan is not debarred from fighting his seat in
Bitterne Ward for the Labour Party in May."
Those who have signed the petition are in good company as it has already been
signed by: Billy Bragg, John McGhee National strike organiser FBU,
Andy Frampton Southern Regional Secretary T&GWU, Geoff Martin
London Convenor UNISON. It has also been signed by local trades unionists,
Labour Party activists and members of the public. Labour movement activists up
and down the country should be cheering Perry McMillan’s stand against the
position of support for cuts in services being taken by many Labour groups at
present. Pressure should be put on Southampton Labour group not to take action
against Perry but rather to remember why they were elected in the first place
and who they are supposed to be serving.
Perry McMillan’s statement at the lobby organized by the unions
Councillor Perry McMillan read a statement from the steps of the Civic Centre
detailing his reasons, as follows: "As somebody born and bred in
Southampton, I am extremely proud to represent the people of Bitterne Ward as a
Labour Councillor. I believe that in my day-to-day work with individuals,
community associations, groups and other agencies, I have always acted in the
interests of ordinary working people and as such, I cannot vote for the budget
as presented by the Labour Group.
I have been made redundant 10 times in my life and it is an awful experience
for workers to undergo. The reality is that local authorities are being forced
to do the government’s dirty work whilst billions of pounds are being diverted
from western economies to be spent on a war that the vast majority of people
As a socialist I have to stand on the principle that workers’ jobs and
interests must be defended by the Labour Party, not attacked in the current
manner. I remain fully and utterly committed to the workers and ordinary people
who voted for me and intend to continue as a Labour councillor for Bitterne
This is a vote of conscience and I ask the people of Southampton and
Southampton Labour Party to acknowledge and respect that."
Messages of support for Perry’s stand are most welcome and can be emailed to him at: