No Mr Clegg, this is not ‘Fair’

Cameron and Clegg have defended their Government’s austerity cuts as ‘Fair’. We beg to disagree.

The Treasury’s own figures recognise that less well off people will be affected more than the affluent. People whose income is in the bottom 60% of earnings will be hit harder than those in the top 40% – these are the people who can easily afford the reductions.  People in the north affected more than those in the south; urban areas affected more than the Tory shires. Women affected more than men. Benefit payments are cut by £7 billion; bankers get £7 billion in bonuses. No, we are not all in this together.

Peter Allen was the Green Party candidate in High Peak in the General Election. Peter is a benefits advisor in Manchester. He is well aware of the hardships that ordinary people are already facing. This is his reaction.

“This is not my idea of fairness. The least able to pay are having to pay for the recklessness of some of the richest people in society. £850 billion of our money has been committed to bailing out the banks. Fraud and tax evasion are costing the country £30 billion a year; billions of past taxes are uncollected and written off. But, as always, it is the rest of us who have to pay up. Is that fair?”

In Derbyshire, the Conservative controlled County Council were already drawing up plans to cut spending and increase charges even before last week’s Public Spending Review. The previous Labour Government warned them that they too would require massive spending cuts. Their plans include cutting the financial support for the bus services that many low-income residents in Derbyshire rely on, make charges for  those who need home care and axing the Derbyshire Welfare Rights Service.

This proposal is indicative of the mean-mindedness at the heart of this government. Not satisfied with cutting benefits, they are ensuring that many people remain unaware of their entitlement. The right-wing press lead their gullible readership to believe that there are legions of scroungers out there, greedily taking money from hard-working taxpayers. There is benefit fraud, it costs £1 billion a year, and it needs stamping out. There is also tax evasion that the right-wing press actually encourage. George Osborne has a £4 million offshore trust fund; by this means, he can have tax-free financial security. Tax evasion costs the economy £15 billion a year. That needs stamping out as well.

Closing down the Welfare Rights Service will make it more difficult for people to claim benefits. Since last year alone the Service helped Derbyshire residents claim over £11 million of benefits to which they were entitled, as well as preventing the unjust removal of benefit payments. ‘A good thing too!’ scream the tabloid headlines. Good for who? Benefits are a good mechanism for the redistribution of wealth, a concept that is an anathema to right-wing politicians. The £11 million of extra income secured by DWRS and spent in the local economy has benefited local traders and businesses. The £18 billion in welfare cuts so far announced by the ConDem coalition is money taken out of local economies. Its loss will affect local businesses, many of which will be tipped over the edge by this loss of income. A high percentage of top incomes are spent or invested abroad. Over the winter we will see many independent retailers and small businesses, the bedrock of the local economy, go to the wall.

The Government acknowledges that the Comprehensive Spending Review will lead to the loss of half a million jobs, mostly in the public sector. But this is not the end of the story. Many businesses are reliant on their contracts with public bodies like the Councils.  Many contracts will be cancelled, resulting in an estimated further half million job losses. The Times has predicted that unemployment will top 3 million be the end of the year. [The Times made this claim in January, to embarrass the then Labour Government.]

If this Government was fair, it would lead a drive to create jobs, but it is not, it is simply assuming that the private sector will take up the slack. This is not happening. Ian Duncan Smith is telling people on benefit to ‘get on the bus’ and find work. Another great idea from IDS, but wait: they are cutting the bus services as well! So, it’s back to Norman Tebbit’s bike! This again shows the sheer callousness of the ConDem coalition, resorting to putting the blame onto the victim. What the Minister for Work and Pensions cannot recognise is that the jobs are not there. Nationally, there are more than four people chasing every vacancy. The further north you go the higher this figure becomes, over seven per vacancy in the High Peak; over 10 in the northeast.

And what of the human side of rising unemployment and welfare cuts?

A new report by the independent Policy Studies Institute [Youth Unemployment, Labour Market Programmes and Health], looks at the relationship between unemployment and health problems among young people. Its key findings are that unemployed young people experience more health problems than those in work, including lower levels of general health, more anxiety and depression, higher rates of smoking and higher suicide rates. Attempted suicide rates in unemployed young men are 9.5 to 25 times higher than in employed young men.

The screaming tabloids are wrong. Most people want to work, but they want real jobs, not meaningless schemes. Work for the dole was tried by Thatcher’s government in the 1980s with detrimental effect. Poorly paid work and temporary schemes are seen as demeaning, a ‘punishment’ for daring to claim benefit, no more than a sop to the chattering classes.

The fair answer, recognised by Professor Danny Dorling and reported in the British Medical Journal is ‘good quality apprenticeships, permanent public funded jobs, and more highly valued education’. The most highly valued education among young people being a University education. So what is the fair ConDem response to Professor Dorling? Cut education spending, raise tuition fees to prohibitive levels, cut public investment, deregulate the labour market, or as they put it, cut red tape. Once again, they see unemployment as a ‘price worth paying’ as Thatcher said in the 1980’s. What price, remember ‘Brassed Off’? Watch it again – it will make you weep to think that we are back there again. Who pays the price and for how long? Not those people with offshore Trust Funds, or with wives resident in tax havens.

[Mike Shipley 31st October 2010]

Who’s to Blame?

The ConDem Government is rewriting history. To protect the guilty, they are attacking the innocent. To protect the comforts of the affluent elite that secured their victory, they are planning to attack the most vulnerable in society.

We are being led to believe that feckless spending on welfare and social projects by the Labour government caused the current economic crisis, the crisis they use as justification for a crippling round of public service cuts. The shrill and deceitful voices of the popular press are telling us there is an army of scroungers out there, who have stripped the cupboard bare.

Is our collective memory really so short that we have forgotten the events of 2008? Have we forgotten already about the collapse of Lehman Brothers, of Bear-Stearns? Forgotten about top financiers’ outrageous bonuses? That is what Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, and Mr Clegg would like us to do, as they stand poised to slash our public services in order to shore up our ailing economy.

Let us take a very short step back into history. To quote Wikipedia: “The late-2000s recession [or the Great Recession] was an economic recession that began in the United States in December 2007.” The recession that has dragged the word economy down began in the land of the free market, minimum regulation, private social provision, minimum government. In other words, the political and economic model that the ConDems want to emulate here caused the global financial meltdown – not government spending on social projects or poverty relief.

Those economists who have not swallowed ‘free market’ dogma completely agree that the roots of the crisis lay in too easy credit leading to a boom in demand, leading in turn to a rapid rise in asset values, including housing. This asset inflation supported more borrowing and credit to produce more consumption and a further round of asset inflation, an economic house of cards.

The crisis was not inevitable. It was driven by US ideology, a belief that resources were inexhaustible, that the world could and would underwrite American debt, that debt could be turned into an asset to create more wealth and consumption, that unfettered market forces solved all problems. As former BBC economics editor Evan Davies said, “It was a result of a system heavily grounded in bad theories, bad statistics, misunderstanding of probability and, ultimately, greed.”

We do remember what happened. The markets panicked, asset values fell, un-payable debt [“toxic assets” – remember debt had been turned into an asset!] grew and led to major company collapses. Banks began to fail. Small ones were allowed to go to the wall, but when the big boys felt the chill, they panicked governments into believing that they were too big to fail. So with a speed that deceived the eye, governments across the developed world bailed out their banks. Public money was used to prop up private business, business that had been, to say the least, imprudent. The lead to bail out was set in the home of the ‘free market’. As Paul Reynolds, BBC World Affairs correspondent observed after the events of 2008, “The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated.”

Still the free-marketeers resist financial regulations. The ConDems promptly proposed scrapping the Financial Services Authority. They are turning a deaf ear to calls for windfall taxes on Bankers’ bonuses. There is no discussion on a financial transaction tax [Tobin Tax]. They lead us to believe that it is we, the people who use social services like health and education, who are to blame.

We must not accept the blame – we must ensure that blame is laid and remains at the door of those responsible. Joseph Stiglitz is in no doubt where the blame lies, and he is well qualified to know, better qualified than the proprietors or editors of the right wing media, or our puppet politicians: he holds the Nobel Prize for Economics. This is his observation:

“This band of greedy oligarchs have used their economic power to persuade themselves and most others that we will all be better off if they are in no way restrained—and if they cannot persuade, they have used that same economic power to override any opposition. The economic arguments in favor of free markets are no more than a fig leaf for this self-serving doctrine of self-aggrandizement.

Worse still, much of the money flowing into the banks to recapitalize them so that they could resume lending has been flowing out in the form of bonus payments and dividends.”

Joseph Stiglitz, Fear and loathing in Davos, The Guardian, February 6, 2009

No, do not accept the blame. Fight the cuts!

Who's to Blame?

The ConDem Government is rewriting history. To protect the guilty, they are attacking the innocent. To protect the comforts of the affluent elite that secured their victory, they are planning to attack the most vulnerable in society.

We are being led to believe that feckless spending on welfare and social projects by the Labour government caused the current economic crisis, the crisis they use as justification for a crippling round of public service cuts. The shrill and deceitful voices of the popular press are telling us there is an army of scroungers out there, who have stripped the cupboard bare.

Is our collective memory really so short that we have forgotten the events of 2008? Have we forgotten already about the collapse of Lehman Brothers, of Bear-Stearns? Forgotten about top financiers’ outrageous bonuses? That is what Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, and Mr Clegg would like us to do, as they stand poised to slash our public services in order to shore up our ailing economy.

Let us take a very short step back into history. To quote Wikipedia: “The late-2000s recession [or the Great Recession] was an economic recession that began in the United States in December 2007.” The recession that has dragged the word economy down began in the land of the free market, minimum regulation, private social provision, minimum government. In other words, the political and economic model that the ConDems want to emulate here caused the global financial meltdown – not government spending on social projects or poverty relief.

Those economists who have not swallowed ‘free market’ dogma completely agree that the roots of the crisis lay in too easy credit leading to a boom in demand, leading in turn to a rapid rise in asset values, including housing. This asset inflation supported more borrowing and credit to produce more consumption and a further round of asset inflation, an economic house of cards.

The crisis was not inevitable. It was driven by US ideology, a belief that resources were inexhaustible, that the world could and would underwrite American debt, that debt could be turned into an asset to create more wealth and consumption, that unfettered market forces solved all problems. As former BBC economics editor Evan Davies said, “It was a result of a system heavily grounded in bad theories, bad statistics, misunderstanding of probability and, ultimately, greed.”

We do remember what happened. The markets panicked, asset values fell, un-payable debt [“toxic assets” – remember debt had been turned into an asset!] grew and led to major company collapses. Banks began to fail. Small ones were allowed to go to the wall, but when the big boys felt the chill, they panicked governments into believing that they were too big to fail. So with a speed that deceived the eye, governments across the developed world bailed out their banks. Public money was used to prop up private business, business that had been, to say the least, imprudent. The lead to bail out was set in the home of the ‘free market’. As Paul Reynolds, BBC World Affairs correspondent observed after the events of 2008, “The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated.”

Still the free-marketeers resist financial regulations. The ConDems promptly proposed scrapping the Financial Services Authority. They are turning a deaf ear to calls for windfall taxes on Bankers’ bonuses. There is no discussion on a financial transaction tax [Tobin Tax]. They lead us to believe that it is we, the people who use social services like health and education, who are to blame.

We must not accept the blame – we must ensure that blame is laid and remains at the door of those responsible. Joseph Stiglitz is in no doubt where the blame lies, and he is well qualified to know, better qualified than the proprietors or editors of the right wing media, or our puppet politicians: he holds the Nobel Prize for Economics. This is his observation:

“This band of greedy oligarchs have used their economic power to persuade themselves and most others that we will all be better off if they are in no way restrained—and if they cannot persuade, they have used that same economic power to override any opposition. The economic arguments in favor of free markets are no more than a fig leaf for this self-serving doctrine of self-aggrandizement.

Worse still, much of the money flowing into the banks to recapitalize them so that they could resume lending has been flowing out in the form of bonus payments and dividends.”

Joseph Stiglitz, Fear and loathing in Davos, The Guardian, February 6, 2009

No, do not accept the blame. Fight the cuts!

Who’s to Blame?

The ConDem Government is rewriting history. To protect the guilty, they are attacking the innocent. To protect the comforts of the affluent elite that secured their victory, they are planning to attack the most vulnerable in society.

We are being led to believe that feckless spending on welfare and social projects by the Labour government caused the current economic crisis, the crisis they use as justification for a crippling round of public service cuts. The shrill and deceitful voices of the popular press are telling us there is an army of scroungers out there, who have stripped the cupboard bare.

Is our collective memory really so short that we have forgotten the events of 2008? Have we forgotten already about the collapse of Lehman Brothers, of Bear-Stearns? Forgotten about top financiers’ outrageous bonuses? That is what Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, and Mr Clegg would like us to do, as they stand poised to slash our public services in order to shore up our ailing economy.

Let us take a very short step back into history. To quote Wikipedia: “The late-2000s recession [or the Great Recession] was an economic recession that began in the United States in December 2007.” The recession that has dragged the word economy down began in the land of the free market, minimum regulation, private social provision, minimum government. In other words, the political and economic model that the ConDems want to emulate here caused the global financial meltdown – not government spending on social projects or poverty relief.

Those economists who have not swallowed ‘free market’ dogma completely agree that the roots of the crisis lay in too easy credit leading to a boom in demand, leading in turn to a rapid rise in asset values, including housing. This asset inflation supported more borrowing and credit to produce more consumption and a further round of asset inflation, an economic house of cards.

The crisis was not inevitable. It was driven by US ideology, a belief that resources were inexhaustible, that the world could and would underwrite American debt, that debt could be turned into an asset to create more wealth and consumption, that unfettered market forces solved all problems. As former BBC economics editor Evan Davies said, “It was a result of a system heavily grounded in bad theories, bad statistics, misunderstanding of probability and, ultimately, greed.”

We do remember what happened. The markets panicked, asset values fell, un-payable debt [“toxic assets” – remember debt had been turned into an asset!] grew and led to major company collapses. Banks began to fail. Small ones were allowed to go to the wall, but when the big boys felt the chill, they panicked governments into believing that they were too big to fail. So with a speed that deceived the eye, governments across the developed world bailed out their banks. Public money was used to prop up private business, business that had been, to say the least, imprudent. The lead to bail out was set in the home of the ‘free market’. As Paul Reynolds, BBC World Affairs correspondent observed after the events of 2008, “The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated.”

Still the free-marketeers resist financial regulations. The ConDems promptly proposed scrapping the Financial Services Authority. They are turning a deaf ear to calls for windfall taxes on Bankers’ bonuses. There is no discussion on a financial transaction tax [Tobin Tax]. They lead us to believe that it is we, the people who use social services like health and education, who are to blame.

We must not accept the blame – we must ensure that blame is laid and remains at the door of those responsible. Joseph Stiglitz is in no doubt where the blame lies, and he is well qualified to know, better qualified than the proprietors or editors of the right wing media, or our puppet politicians: he holds the Nobel Prize for Economics. This is his observation:

“This band of greedy oligarchs have used their economic power to persuade themselves and most others that we will all be better off if they are in no way restrained—and if they cannot persuade, they have used that same economic power to override any opposition. The economic arguments in favor of free markets are no more than a fig leaf for this self-serving doctrine of self-aggrandizement.

Worse still, much of the money flowing into the banks to recapitalize them so that they could resume lending has been flowing out in the form of bonus payments and dividends.”

Joseph Stiglitz, Fear and loathing in Davos, The Guardian, February 6, 2009

No, do not accept the blame. Fight the cuts!

Greens To Campaign For A Publicly-Owned Royal Mail

Green Party autumn conference has passed an emergency motion today, stating the party’s opposition to the proposed privatisation of Royal Mail by Business Secretary Vince Cable. (1)

Adrian Ramsay, the party’s newly re-elected Deputy Leader, said the Greens were opposed to the privatisation of such an essential public service. He stressed “the fundamental importance of a strong, modern, publicly owned Royal Mail, which is available to all.” Ramsay highlighted that although many people today prefer to use alternative forms of communication, the postal service remains of vital importance to small businesses and rural communities.

During a panel at autumn conference yesterday, Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, also emphasised the opposition of both communication workers and the public to the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Notes

1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/10/cable-total-privatisation-royal-mail

2) The emergency motion passed today instructs GPEx (the executive of the Green Party) to join a broad campaign for a publicly owned Royal Mail as a positive alternative to the cuts and privatisation of our vital public services.

Conference notes:

The commitment this week to privatising the Royal Mail by the coalition government’s Business Secretary Vincent Cable.

The Green Party reasserts:

The fundamental importance of a strong, modern and publically owned Royal Mail. The opposition to the privatisation of the postal service by the Communication Workers Union and the public.

Conference instructs:

GPEx to campaign for a modern, publically owned Royal Mail as a positive alternative to coalition cuts and privatisation of our public services.

Proposed by: Kieran Anderson
Seconded by: Nicola Watson and 45 others

Greens Oppose Threats To Council Tenants

Derbyshire Green Party has added its voice to the criticism that has met David Cameron’s proposal to end security of tenure for council house tenants.

“Following the cuts, this is another attack on ordinary people by the ConDem Government,” said Peter Allen, the Green Party’s candidate in High Peak in the last election. “I recognise that there is a shortage of affordable housing and rentable accommodation across Derbyshire, but this proposal will do nothing to increase supply.”

Figures produced by the housing charity ‘Shelter’ show that there are over 4,000 on the council house waiting list in High Peak. In 2009 only 500 families were housed from this list. The Green Party has called for more resources to be put in to renovation and conversion of existing properties as an affordable alternative to new-build.

Peter Allen explained that the Greens do not oppose new housing where their environmental impact is acceptable, but pointed out that there are often alternatives.

“Figures produced by the Empty Homes Agency show that there are 16,000 homes standing empty in Derbyshire, largely owned by private landlords. Nearly 800 of these are in High Peak. These can be made available for occupation at relatively little cost. We urge Councils to use the powers they have to bring these properties in to occupation. If the Government was really serious about doing something about the housing crisis, it would direct resources at Councils Re-homing Officers, enabling to quickly negotiate these empty properties in to occupation”

Notes

Shelter is the UK leading charity campaigning for the homeless
http://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_issues/waiting_lists#content

The Empty Homes Agency is a charity who’s aim is to bring empty residential property in to occupation
http://www.emptyhomes.com/index.html

High Peak and Derbyshire Dales share an Empty Housing Officer, who is Laura Kirk, appointed in 2007.
http://www.highpeak.gov.uk/news/press/2007mar1094.asp

For more information on Green Party policy on housing contact: Peter Allen, peter.allen@derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk

How The Greens Would Help Students

Students of the University of Derby submitted these questions to candidates in the Derby and High Peak constituencies:

1.  As the economy is moving towards recovery, how would the economic policies of your party help those looking for graduate employment?

The Green New Deal, which we have adopted, envisages the creation of one million green jobs, including investment in renewable energy technology, public transport and social housing. All of these initiatives will provide opportunities for graduates with technical and people/project management skills. We will seek to promote leadership opportunities for women in particular, requiring 40% of board members of larger companies to be female within 5 years. (For more information see http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/green-new-deal)

2.  The average student debt is approximately £27,000 upon graduating.  How would you reduce the cost of higher education without lowering standards?

The Green Party manifesto has a carefully costed pledge to abolish tuition fees. The cost of higher education is to be funded out of general taxation, maintaining current spending and standards:

Norwich Green Councillors Call For The Abolition Of University Tuition Fees
Norwich City Council on 2nd March, resolved to support the Union of UEA Students’ Higher Education funding campaign and write to the Government opposing an increase in tuition fees.  Green Party Councillors asked the Council to call for fees to be abolished altogether, but this proposal was voted down by Labour and Conservative councilors, who supported retaining the current fees of up to £3,000 per year for students.  Green Councillor Adrian Ramsay, who will be making a submission to the Browne Inquiry in to Tuition Fees on behalf of the Green Party, commented: “I am pleased to be joining the student demonstration against tuition fees. If I replace Charles Clarke as MP I will fight for tuition fees to be replaced by a fairer funding system involving a return to grants for students so that talented young people can go to university regardless of their background.”

3.  Building upon this; how would you maintain the quality of public services, in particular universities, in an atmosphere of public funding cuts?

We do not intend to cut public spending as a whole although we would reduce spending in certain areas, (defence, road building, expanding prisons for example), and save £2.5 billion by not introducing ID cards. We believe that we should pay for public services with a taxation system that promotes fairness and rewards behaviour that’s good for society and good for the environment. This will mean raising taxation for high earners, many of whom will be graduates, who thus will be repaying the cost of their education.

4.  As local councils provide much of the services that students use, how much responsibility would you like to see local councils have?

The Green Party manifesto calls for the revival of local government, with the introduction of proportional representation to encourage a grassroots democracy in smaller community and district councils. Such authorities should have enhanced powers over those areas of policy best settled at the local level including housing, education and the promotion of wellbeing by supporting cultural and sporting activity. Eventually this reinvigorated local democracy would have new tax raising powers delegated from central government.

5.  Given a finite pot of money in the Treasury, which would be your priority – returning those to work who could or supporting those who could not work?

This is a false and cruel dichotomy. All who are able to work must have the option to do so. Unemployment should not be used as either an economic or a political instrument. It represents a waste of our most valuable resource, human talent and aspiration. To squander this resource is gross mismanagement. Any person is at risk of suffering unemployment, may be through redundancy, injury, illness or because family circumstances. People in this situation should not be stigmatised. In many cases, they continue to make contributions to society. The humane and civilised society, to which we aspire, would continue to count all people as its members and beneficiaries, regardless of employment status.

6.  What are your views on how to combat Climate Change?

The failure of the Copenhagen Conference makes it more obvious than ever that finding a global solution to climate change must involve global justice. Rich countries need to reduce their emissions drastically, we think by 90% from 1990 levels by 2030, starting now! Our manifesto refers to the new three Rs: Remove, Reduce, Replace. Remove demand where possible, reduce demand through for example, energy efficiency measures, and recycling and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. The lead must come from government, both through direct investment and through enacting the necessary legislation and tax regimes for a sustainable low carbon economy.

For more information and policy detail go to http://www.greenparty.org.uk/