The newsletters that follow provide a real time journey through the campaigns of Liverpool NALGO during the 1985 council budget crisis. It’s a period that is now the subject of many lies and disinformation. Now you can look at contemporary documents and make your own mind up.
’Our City. Our Fight’ was the slogan devised by Liverpool NALGO during the Liverpool City
Council‘s budget crisis from 1983 - 1986. It became our emblem in our fight to protect Liverpool’s public services and jobs from the savage cuts imposed by the Tory Government
of Margaret Thatcher.
The slogan appeared on thousands of stickers, posters, badges, placards and most importantly on the masthead of NALGOs Campaign News, which the branch used to inform and mobilise local government worker’s throughout the crisis. For most of the period the branch stood alongside Liverpool Labour Council’s campaign for jobs and services.
However, when the Council began to diverge from its pledges, culminating in the infamous ’tactic’ of issuing all of its employees with redundancy notice, NALGO took a different path.
This compilation of Campaign News - and a copy of those redundancy notices - shows what really happened, written at the time without the benefit of hindsight, exposing ’Militant‘ myths.
The first issue of Campaign News appeared in December 1983 but here we focus on the
more controversial period from from January to November 1985, and include copy of the official branch newspaper, ‘ NALGO Herald’, which contains a detailed analysis of the final legal budget agreed by the Council.
In their book ‘Liverpool, a city that dared to fight’ Peter Taafe and Tony Mulhearn call Liverpool NALGO’s branch officers opponents of ‘Militant’ who were ‘compelled’ against their will to support the City Council’s campaign. Here they show their contempt for the role of trade union activists whose primary role is, when necessary, to act independently of their employers to defend the jobs of their members, not to slavishly follow the manoeuvres of a political sect.
We have provided a timeline and guide to the documents. Now read on and make you own mind up.
NOTE: there are some gaps here and we believe that some other documents are held in the Central Library which is temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If, when libraries open again, we find more evidence we will report that. Also, if you lived through these tumultuous events, in particular if you were a member of Liverpool NALGO, please let’s us know and we will publish your views.
‘Campaign News’ - a reader’s guide.
January 1985 - Campaign News sets the scene for the 1985 budget crisis. The branch plans a series of workplace meetings, courses and a publicity campaign.
21st January, - Liverpool Joint Shop Stewards Committee (JSSC) calls for a mass lobby of the City Council on the 30th January 1985.
February - a detailed analysis of the plight faced by the City Council. One conclusion is - ‘The government is not just attacking rate capped authorities. Its attack on public services is to be extended via ‘deregulation’ and privatisation of bus services; its attack on local democracy is to continue via the proposed abolition of the Metropolitan County Councils and the GLC; and of course ............the miners are still on strike to defend jobs and pits.’
15th February- ‘All Out on 7th March’. The Branch Executive Council ( shop stewards ) has voted unanimously to call for a strike on the day of the Council Budget Meeting. The strike was called by the City Council Joint Shop Stewards Committee.
April - reports the formation of National Local Authority Shop Stewards Organisation. The Branch is represented at the first meeting.
June 20th - Council faces legal challenge with 6,000 jobs at risk
24 July - Campaign News debunks ‘rumours’ that the Council has printed redundancy notices for all its staff. ‘Like most rumours this is complete nonsense’ . Council Finance Chair Tony Byrne has said on 22 July that ‘ this authority will not issue redundancy notices to any member of staff now or at any time in the future’. The bulletin scorns the Liberals‘ letter to all staff.
12 September- NALGO ponders what will happen when the Council runs out of money.
‘ Under no circumstances’ will NALGO accept sackings - ‘whatever they are called’. The bulletin reports that councillors have received notice of surcharge and disqualification for ‘delaying making a rate‘ A branch meeting to be called to discuss a one day strike to support the councillors.
19th September- Another "Echo exclusive".
27 September - The City Council issues redundancy notices to all staff. In an accompanying letter Council Leader John Hamilton and his Deputy Derek Hatton say that the notices will be withdrawn........’if the Government recognises it’s responsibility’ . This is Margaret Thatcher’s government we are talking about ...... The redundancy notices at a stroke make the budget legal by eliminating the deficit and transferring the risk from councillors to employees. Councillors are never surcharged for the so called ‘deficit budget’.
1st October - reports of spontaneous walk out by NALGO members after redundancy notices were ‘trailed round offices by a rag bag of non-trade unionists
and scabs’ The Branch still supports a deficit budget strategy.
17 October - reports that the time when we are to be re-employed has been brought forward to 28 January 1986. Employees are still to be made redundant.
’This marks the end of the deficit budget strategy undertaken by the Council on
the 14 June’ says Campaign News. Seven unions representing 17,000 of the Council workforce express complete opposition to the redundancy notices.
21st October - Council forced to agree to withdraw redundancy notices
6th November- a report commissioned by the national general secretaries of the
main trade unions (the ‘Stonefrost Report’) has suggested a solution to the budget crisis that involves no cuts in jobs or services and no cuts in the capital programme.
11 December - the Branch Newspaper, NALGO Herald, declares ‘Branch line vindicated’ as the Council agrees a budget that involves:
No further cuts in jobs or services
No reduction in the capital programme
No additional money from central government
No additional increase in rents, rates, or charges
It goes on to ‘nail the lies’ told about the branch by the supporters of ‘Militant’.
Reflecting on the Council’s assurances back in July that no redundancy notices would be issued, the Herald wryly concludes ‘Well you live and learn’