Liverpool ’84: Socialists Remember Landmark Council Budget

It is the 40th anniversary of the landmark Liverpool City Council budget meeting of 29 March 1984, where socialist councillors and organised workers faced down Tory cuts and privatisation.

During the one-day regional general strike, some 50,000 workers rallied outside Liverpool Town Hall in support of the council’s stand against the government of Margaret Thatcher.

Socialist councillors had refused to pass years of Conservative cuts to council funding onto working-class communities in the form of job losses, service cuts and tax hikes. Instead they stopped job cuts, invested in building 5,000 council houses, froze rents, raised wages for the lowest paid council workers, cut the working week without loss of pay, and strengthened the powers of trade unions.

The Tory government had stolen some £270 million from Liverpool since 1979. In response, socialist councillors, trade unions, and working-class communities organised a mass campaign to demand that the stolen millions were returned – a campaign that won national support, and had the backing of working-class Merseysiders in the streets, the workplaces, and the polling places.

They won significant victories and concessions, and faced down the Tory government and the right-wing of the Labour Party.

The Scottish Socialist Party calls for a No Cuts Budget across Scotland in defiance of cuts and closures, with a mass movement to win back the billions that have been stolen from our communities, our public services, and our pay packets by discredited austerity in Holyrood and Westminster.

As councils across Scotland carry out savage cuts, the lived experience of the socialist Liverpool council is a timely reminder that there is an alternative road to travel. We can and must defy the discredited austerity agenda of the Tory government and incoming right-wing Labour government, not comply with the robbery and destruction of working-class communities.

SSP Workplace Organiser Richie Venton was Militant’s Merseyside Area Secretary and a prominent figure in the battles in Liverpool against Thatcher’s Tory government in the 1980s. He shares his first-hand accounts of the struggles of that period, and what we have to learn from them today: