Graham Norwood, Lambeth Labour Councillor
London Labour Briefing No. 47, March 1985
Lambeth’s Labour Council is on-course for confrontation with the Government in the wake of public support picked up at a massive number of public meetings held throughout the borough in the lead-up to March 7th. By the evening of no-rate-making, more than 250 individual user-groups will have been consulted in meetings addressed by the relevant committee chairs and local councillors. Twenty ward public meetings will have been held, each addressed by the leader of the council and members of the administration, each spelling out the needs of the borough.
Organisations as diverse as the Streatham Ratepayers – a Conservative ‘front’ organisation with a long history of 0pposition to Labour spending on working class people – and individual tenants’ associations will have been contacted, along with a series of discussions with the grant-aided bodies which will be hit if Lambeth is rate-capped.
The ‘Lambeth Bridge’ body of joint trade unions – representing the GMBU, UCATT, AUEW, NUPE, TGWU and NALGO – has organised a comprehensive set of workplace meetings to ensure all union members throughout the council’s 10,000 workforce hear the message that the Labour council will make no cuts and set no rate under the existing Tory legislation. In addition the joint unions are setting up their own contingency plans for emergency services and for the fight to defend jobs after March 7th.
The Labour Group – with a majority of just four – is united in its opposition to the Tory rate capping laws and in its refusal to comply. Over the past six months five members of the Group have resigned to make way for comrades selected and elected on a ticket of noncompliance; in addition, on a dramatic pro-Labour swing, we picked up an additional councillor from the Liberals.
On March 7th there is no excuse for councillors ducking out of a fight we have been discussing throughout the parties, unions, community and council for a year. Any member not supporting the Labour line will be just as much a traitor to the movement as those who have never supported the miners’ strike. In Lambeth we are confident there will not be any such betrayal.
Public support is strong; labour movement unity within Lambeth and linking up with other areas is at an unprecedented level. The backing for the no-rate position in Lambeth will be made clear on March 7th inside the council chamber and – more importantly – outside. It will thereafter be chiefly the work of the unions and the community to stop the Tories demolishing Lambeth’s services and sacking 1,500 people. And they will be stopped.