Tag Archives: cuts

The election of Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

Few would argue that the actions of the police have an enormous impact on Derbyshire residents. Their role is to uphold laws agreed by Parliament on behalf of the community. To do this they are provided by a budget provided by the tax payer, partly from central government and partly from a proportion of Council tax paid directly to the Police Authority. In reflection of this budgeting arrangement, local councils are represented by elected Councillors on the Police Committees and the Home Secretary, nominally with Parliaments consent, can set a strategic framework for national policing. In the current financial climate, resources are scarce and the Coalition Government is forcing the Derbyshire Police Authority to cut 170 jobs to save £22m.

Difficult decisions will have to be made, the police can not do everything that the community might wish them to do with the budget provided. What will be cut? Funds for crime prevention? Funds for partnerships with youth agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour? How does the enforcements of traffic speeding compare with drug enforcement? Is enough attention given to pursuing corporate fraud? The list is endless.

Under a proposal brought forward by the Conservative Party and enacted by the Coalition Government, the way the police are managed is about to change. All Police Areas outside London will be voting on Thursday for a new position of Police and Crime Commissioner, an idea imported for the USA. Although operational decision will remain the prerogative of the Chief Constable the management decisions and budgeting allocations will lie with the new PCC, who will also hire and fire the Chief Constable.

The Green Party opposed the establishment of the PCC, fearing that the holder of this post, who in many cases will have been sponsored by a political party, will be more susceptible to the corporate lobbying of vested interest groups and to the populist agenda of the tabloid press than the real priorities of the people of Derbyshire. These fears have already been given substance here in the East Midlands. The Sunday Telegraph, hardly a conspiracy theory newspaper has disclosed how Mervyn Barrett, one of the “independent” candidates in Lincolnshire has flooded the county with DVDs and leaflets in a £100,000+ election campaign “secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatization” The fact that he thinks G4S, who already run most of Lincolnshire back-room operations, to be a “well run” company, is particularly alarming.

[see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9623068/The-secret-US-lobbyists-behind-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-election.html# ]

To stand in this ‘democratic’ election, a candidate needs to put down a depot of £5000, and would need to spend at least as much on publicity in order to be noticed among the slick gloss of the big money candidates like Mr Barrett. The Government has refused to fund a mailing to the electors to inform them about who is standing. By putting high finical hurdles in place for participation in these elections the coalition government have ensured that only those with considerable financial means, or support from business are able to participate and that is not democratic. When the former Police Chief Ian Blair is so concerned he tells the public not to vote you know there’s something amiss.

The Green Party will not be participating in this sham election and we advise our supporters to follow Ian Blair’s advice and not to vote. We remain committed to proper accountability and control of the police, but that can best be achieved through directly elected police boards that can properly reflect the range of interests and priorities within the County. It will not be achieved by the imposition of a police commissioner who the public do not understand, want or can afford to pay for.

Duncan Kerr & Mike Shipley

The election of Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

Few would argue that the actions of the police have an enormous impact on Derbyshire residents. Their role is to uphold laws agreed by Parliament on behalf of the community. To do this they are provided by a budget provided by the tax payer, partly from central government and partly from a proportion of Council tax paid directly to the Police Authority. In reflection of this budgeting arrangement, local councils are represented by elected Councillors on the Police Committees and the Home Secretary, nominally with Parliaments consent, can set a strategic framework for national policing. In the current financial climate, resources are scarce and the Coalition Government is forcing the Derbyshire Police Authority to cut 170 jobs to save £22m.

Difficult decisions will have to be made, the police can not do everything that the community might wish them to do with the budget provided. What will be cut? Funds for crime prevention? Funds for partnerships with youth agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour? How does the enforcements of traffic speeding compare with drug enforcement? Is enough attention given to pursuing corporate fraud? The list is endless.

Under a proposal brought forward by the Conservative Party and enacted by the Coalition Government, the way the police are managed is about to change. All Police Areas outside London will be voting on Thursday for a new position of Police and Crime Commissioner, an idea imported for the USA. Although operational decision will remain the prerogative of the Chief Constable the management decisions and budgeting allocations will lie with the new PCC, who will also hire and fire the Chief Constable.

The Green Party opposed the establishment of the PCC, fearing that the holder of this post, who in many cases will have been sponsored by a political party, will be more susceptible to the corporate lobbying of vested interest groups and to the populist agenda of the tabloid press than the real priorities of the people of Derbyshire. These fears have already been given substance here in the East Midlands. The Sunday Telegraph, hardly a conspiracy theory newspaper has disclosed how Mervyn Barrett, one of the “independent” candidates in Lincolnshire has flooded the county with DVDs and leaflets in a £100,000+ election campaign “secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatization” The fact that he thinks G4S, who already run most of Lincolnshire back-room operations, to be a “well run” company, is particularly alarming.

[see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9623068/The-secret-US-lobbyists-behind-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-election.html# ]

To stand in this ‘democratic’ election, a candidate needs to put down a depot of £5000, and would need to spend at least as much on publicity in order to be noticed among the slick gloss of the big money candidates like Mr Barrett. The Government has refused to fund a mailing to the electors to inform them about who is standing. By putting high finical hurdles in place for participation in these elections the coalition government have ensured that only those with considerable financial means, or support from business are able to participate and that is not democratic. When the former Police Chief Ian Blair is so concerned he tells the public not to vote you know there’s something amiss.

The Green Party will not be participating in this sham election and we advise our supporters to follow Ian Blair’s advice and not to vote. We remain committed to proper accountability and control of the police, but that can best be achieved through directly elected police boards that can properly reflect the range of interests and priorities within the County. It will not be achieved by the imposition of a police commissioner who the public do not understand, want or can afford to pay for.

Duncan Kerr & Mike Shipley

Greens Support TUC Demonstration

Simon Hales

Green Euro-candidate Simon Hales is encouraging as many people as possible to attend the national demonstration for “A Future That Works” called by the TUC in London on Saturday 20th October.

Mr Hales, who lives in Derby, said today: “The Green Party believes that the Coalition Government’s Austerity measures are an ideologically driven attack on the most vulnerable in society. They are using the excuse of the financial crisis, that was created by irresponsible bankers, to privatise and slash our public services. Instead the Government should do far more to tackle tax avoidance by large corporations and invest in jobs. The Green Party are campaigning for the creation of 1 Million Climate Jobs to get people back into work and take the urgent measures needed to tackle the problem of climate change.”

“I will be marching on the 20th October along with many other Green Party members including our leader Natalie Bennett who has said: `We should build alliances across the trade union movement, political organisations and campaign groups to take this government head on.` I look forward to seeing many other people from Derby on the march.”

Any member of the public needing transport to London (you don’t need to be part of a political party or Trade Union) can book places on free coaches from Derby by calling the Derby City UNISON office on (01332) 643 216/7 or emailing unison@derby.gov.uk.

Contacts:

High Peak contact:

Peter Allen: (07793) 319547 peterd.allen@btinternet.com

North East Derbyshire contact:

Councillor Duncan Kerr (07522) 116609 or (01909) 726 349

DuncanKerr@Bolsover.gov.uk or Kerr.duncan@hotmail.co.uk

Derbyshire Dales contact:

John Youatt: john@youatt.co.uk

South Derbyshire and Derby contact:

Philip Hood: philiphood51@talktalk.net

Derbyshire Green Party Press Officer:

Mike Shipley: (07791) 640 971 sue-mikeshipley@yahoo.co.uk

Simon Hales:

(01332) 898 292 or (07752) 143 607

s.hales@oldgasworks.org.uk

Despite the cuts, Green councils deliver

There is no doubt it’s not an easy time to be in local government: The Tory-led coalition are imposing massive austerity measures with councils bearing far more than their fair share of the cuts in public funding. This has been complemented by ongoing public attacks on both council officers and councillors by pugnacious Tory ministers like Eric Pickles, Bob Neil and Grant Shapps. Finally councils are being pushed and pulled between suggestions of more powers being devolved, more central direction on how to do things and massive centrally decided reforms to their funding and legal powers. Local government is a bit punch drunk.

Despite all this, councils can and should deliver. In Brighton & Hove the Green administration came to power in 2011 with a very clear manifesto which we have been working hard to implement. In less than a year, Greens have made significant changes, we have:

  1. Introduced a Living wage of £7.19 for the lowest paid council staff.  We have created a Living Wage Commission for the city that is working with the largest employers to advocate that living wage across the city.
  2. Won over £6m of new external funding for major improvements to the city’s transport infrastructure & public spaces.
  3. Protected the Children’s & Adult Social care budgets, including for carers – they will not change over two years, whilst neighbouring authorities are withdrawing care and support from many in need.
  4. We are building the city’s first new council houses in decades, and bringing more empty properties back into use.  We are also working with local squatter groups working on ‘meanwhile’ leases for empty properties awaiting development.
  5. Introduced a new approach in the council that prioritises openness, democracy & participation – as shown by our budget process, commitment to open data and plans for neighbourhood councils.

None of this would have happened without Greens taking control of the city council in Brighton & Hove.

We are also unique in how much we’ve protected in our first budget, despite incredible pressure from the government, and ill-conceived amendments from the opposition parties. The Green administration’s budget will:

  • Double capital funding for transport and the public realm.
  • Build new non-academy school places in our best schools.
  • Keep an in-house Youth Service, unlike almost every other council in the country.
  • Preserve the main grant programmes for the 3rd sector at the same level as previous years.
  • Create a new £300,000 grants programme for 3rd sector youth services, and a £150,000 fund to support capital investment in the 3rd sector.
  • Protect Staff terms and conditions.
  • Preserve parks services
  • Keep all our branch libraries remain open, with an increasing book fund.
  • Preventing Homelessness’ funding is protected and domestic violence support increased by £100,000.
  • We will be bringing forward pilots for communal recycling, food waste collection and commercial waste collection.
  • We will be piloting participatory budgeting and neighbourhood councils.
  • We will be consolidating council buildings down to a few hubs that will be upgraded to be super energy efficient, have solar panels and support mobile working and hot desking.
  • We will be pursuing a unique bid for urban UN Biosphere status.

Whilst the government’s austerity measures are forcing back to scale back in some areas, we are still able to make good progress in many important areas. For example we are going to be working towards achieving One Planet Council status in the coming months.

As Greens we’re utterly opposed to much of the coalition’s wrong-headed policies, but we have a duty to make the best of the situation for our residents. If you have elections in your area vote Green this May for more dedicated councillors fighting for fair solutions to the challenges in their areas.  Greens deliver!

[Cllr Jason Kitcat Brighton & Hove Green Party]

Business as Usual at Davos

In a statement released ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January, the leaders of the world’s major financial institutions made a remarkable ‘admission of sorts’. They recognised that the policies of austerity that they have been forcing on governments across the world carry serious risks and on their own, are not likely to work. In stead, they are calling for governments to adopt policies that will boost jobs, tackle inequality, and green the global economy.

Note who made this call, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, Robert Zoellick of the World Bank and Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation. They were joined by the heads of eight other multinational and regional organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, and the UN World Food Programme.

The people who have forced governments to adopt austerity cuts with the claim that they were necessary to ‘solve the global economic crisis’ have woken up to the fact that such cuts, unequally applied across society as they are, risk damaging social cohesion, and as they say, lead to ‘negative economic and social consequences.’ They are now calling on governments to reappraise their aggressive deficit reduction programmes appealing to them to apply what they call ‘fiscal consolidation’ in a ‘socially responsible manner.’

Of course this is not an open admission of guilt or a full recognition that the austerity packages were misguided. To do that would risk destabilising those governments that have, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, adopted such policies. Rather than execute the necessary U-turn and encourage Governments to start investing in the green economy, they want to see public-private financial partnerships to generate the investment they see as necessary to secure economic growth. In other words, they want to see private companies given access to what remains of the public coffers. Their focus remains on public sector finances and they fail to acknowledge that it was corporate and private sector debt driven by the needs of the consumer economy that precipitated the crisis. They fail to see that the private investor needs a strong ‘steer’ from Governments’ own investment programmes. They think that pious calls to all to play fair by the rules of globalisation to secure ‘growth’ will avert the bigger crisis that most new recognise is yet to come.

It would appear from reports that the World Economic Forum was itself dominated by concerns for the Euro-zone and public finances, and who was throwing the best parties. Here the real business of Davos was conducted, deals made that would make the rich richer, and projects floated that would further deplete the world stock of natural capital, and that would continue to leave millions of people desperate for the basic means of survival.

The Davos jamboree is a sham, it will not find solutions because it is a product of the problem with its exclusivity and shameful conspicuous consumerism. It has nothing new to offer and its only idea is ‘growth’ demonstrating how still economists fail to grasp the fact that the Earth is round not flat. If Christine and her colleagues are serious about equality and greening the global economy, they are wasting their time and damaging their digestive systems at Davos.

But in truth, Davos isn’t about finding solutions, despite the pious ‘statement’. It’s about power. About ensuring that the economic power that underpins political power is held firmly in private hands. It is about ensuring that by the time policy comes to the floor of democratically elected parliaments, it is already decided – like the austerity packages. Better solutions are available, and if they were implemented the economy would respond – because the economy isn’t the problem, it is the means to deliver the agreed programme. At the present, the agreed programme is private wealth and the control of global power. Davos Man may be starting to recognise that climate change, mass unemployment, water, food and energy shortages are a threat to his world, but he is not prepared to do anything effective to counter them, he prefers to fiddle with the economy while the world heats up.

Once again, it is down to us, the affected majority, to take things forward, each of us taking small steps, a myriad of small steps globally creating an unstoppable forward momentum. Once again world leadership, this time in the guise of the World Economic Forum, has failed us.

[Mike Shipley, February 2012]

GREENS CONDEMN GOVERNMENT’S SHORT SIGHTEDNESS

Derbyshire Green Party Chair urges people to install solar panels before Government slashes Feed-In Tariff payment

David Foster, Chair of Derbyshire Green Party, has urged householders to install solar panels as soon as they can. Following newspaper reports and mistakenly leaked documents, it has become clear that the Government has plans to halve the Feed-In Tariffs for solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently people can claim 43 pence for every kilowatt of electricity they generate off their roof but the government now plans to cut this to around 21p from the beginning of December, with the possibility of even deeper cuts to follow.  The feed-in tariff scheme was introduced in April 2010 and has seen over 80,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

David Foster  said,

“If people install solar panels now before the cut is due to take place in December then they will get the 43p rate for the next 25 years if they were to install them after that they would get less than half that.”

The Green Party claims that this cut will jeopardise currently planned free solar schemes for people unable to afford the upfront costs of solar panels as well as planned schemes for council properties. These are set up to be self-funding under current Feed-In Tariff arrangements but, the Greens say, they may no longer be so after the proposed cut.

Mr. Foster went on to say, “These cuts by the government are nonsensical. Over 25,000 people are employed in the solar industry and these cuts are a threat to these jobs.  The cost of the Feed-In Tariff is very small, less than 50p/year on the average fuel bill and a fraction of the cost of government subsidies of nuclear power stations.   As always, it is those on the lowest incomes who will suffer the most since they will be unable to participate in low-cost solar schemes.  As a result of this cut, it is now almost certain that the Coalition Government will miss the legally binding carbon reduction target for the UK set in the 2008 Climate Change Act.  This government’s claim to be the Greenest Government ever is looking increasingly hollow and lacking in substance.”

John Youatt, the Greens convener in Derbyshire Dales and a founder member of Sustainable Youlgrave said,

“No matter how many Ministers try to justify this cut to the renewable energy programme, it makes no sense either financially or environmentally. The Green Party is unable to understand the logic of this decision. By investing in renewable technologies, not only does the Coalition Government help combat climate change and create jobs, but also it gives Councils a further incentive to help the fuel poor as well as increasing local authority revenue. In my locality, we held a forum and people signed up for panels, but only because the rate was right at under 10 years pay back. At over 15years, people will not invest. “

March Against the Cuts

Being green is not just about environmental matters and it would do none of us any harm to involve ourselves in other campaigns as well. That’s why some of us will be attending the March Against the Cuts in London on 26 March and why we shall also be protesting about the planned benefit changes which are going to lead to the poorest people in the country becoming poorer still.

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has announced changes to the social security system which are intended to cut the amount spent on benefits by £18 billion a year from 2013. No matter how these changes are dressed up this is going to hurt. When public spending is being slashed and unemployment is rising it will mean sharing fewer resources among more people and only a fool will believe that increased poverty is not going to result, among the unemployed (which could include any of us at any time) the disabled (ditto), children and elderly citizens.

It isn’t necessary to wait till 2013 for cuts to bite however. From April this year changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), designed to make it even harder to show that someone is incapable of work through illness or disability, will take effect. The aim of this measure is to take money off the poor in order to help pay for the excesses of the rich, whose unregulated greed led to the crisis of capitalism which got us into this financial pickle in the first place.

One particular example of how the rules work illustrates very clearly the inhumane nature of the new test. Currently a person who is registered blind is exempt from the WCA. This exemption ends in April and blind people will have to score 15 points on the test just like everyone else if they are to keep their entitlement to Employment & Support Allowance. The rule now is that if you are blind and possess a guide dog, and you can walk across a road with your dog and without the need for another person’s assistance, you do not score the necessary 15 points. To you or me this sounds very much like testing the dog rather than the claimant, and we might also ask what this particular challenge has to do with a working situation. Indeed, those of us who work in this field will be asking that very question when these cases come up for appeal, as they
inevitably will do so, from this Spring onwards.

If you are wondering why I am commenting on this on a green website, the reason is as follows. Even if we were indifferent to the injustices involved, which we certainly are not, it’s clear that as poverty increases local businesses will take a huge hit. With their
high overheads they cannot fairly compete with the supermarkets who use food items as loss leaders. There will be reduced demand for organic food, which is more expensive than the stuff flown in from overseas, and people will have less or no money available to take the costly steps required to make their houses more fuel-efficient, so these are issues which going to affect us all.

by Chris Connolly

Cuts To Our Democracy

The 7% cut being made to Derbyshire services is not just a blow to public services, it’s a strike made directly at those with the least amount of power to fight back. The £1.4 million cut to the local Library service is a shock to the system, and many feel that it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Once the quality of services begins to dwindle, the customers and investment will inevitably follow. Many people rely on the services provided by the Council and their Libraries to do things most of us take for granted. Not everyone in Derby can afford internet access, so the Library has it for free. Not everyone can afford books, clubs or ‘how to lessons’, so they are provided for free. Taking away these services is taking away the voice of those who struggle most in society.

In the light of these cuts the Lib Dem pledge to save the libraries starts to look a bit hollow – once you examine how they plan to cut jobs and automate the service, rather than retaining knowledgeable staff. Many local residents in the city rely on the facilities of the local Library, especially young people, parents of young children, older residents and disabled people. This policy has the same ConDem trade mark as the Education Bill, a plan to reform schools into Academies. Speaking about this Bill, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP said

“We should be improving the quality of every local school for all children, rather than accelerating Labour’s programme of academies to deepen divisions between schools.”

The National Union of Teachers has described the bill as an “attack on the very existence of democratic accountability, free state comprehensive education.” Only a hand-full of Derbyshire schools have applied for Academy status so far, but the real worry is this change in mindset. Once we start to accept that privatisation is a part of our culture then we are giving away our rights to democratic representation.

The access to education is not something to be reserved for ‘more privileged’ children, and the same goes for the right to access basic services like our Libraries. Derbyshire will to loose out on £39.9 million in the coming budget; £23.6 million is going from child and adult services. It looks like we are entering into a time where Democracy is reserved for the rich and able, and Academic elitism is set to ruin the dream for countless young people.

Tom Reading

Our Forests are Not for Sale

With an irony that will be lost on the ideologues of the ConDem Government, 2011 is the International Year of Forests. The UK’s response to this UN led drive to raise awareness among people of the importance of woodland will be to sell off England’s publicly owned woodland. [The sell-off proposals only apply to England, thankfully for the other British Nations this is a devolved function]

England is no longer a well-wooded country, with only 9% of its land area designated as forest. A long history of clearances and the depredations of the industrial revolution denuded the once lush natural woodland cover that would, if left to nature, cover much of the land area. By the end of the first Word War, cover was down to less than 5% and our strategic reserves of timber reaching crisis point. Blockaded, the UK had come close to defeat through a lack of pit props, which threatened our ability to mine the coal desperately needed for the war effort.   In 1919, the Liberal-Tory coalition of Lloyd-George responded to this by establishing the Forestry Commission, giving it the task of replanting and managing our Forests as a strategic reserve. It is with further irony that the present alliance of these Parties is set to emasculate the Commission.

How Lloyd George, Liberal father of the welfare state, must be turning in his grave!

The English Public Forest Estate [PFE] is made up of over 1000 woods covering 258,000 hectares, 18% of English woodland. Of this area, 24% is ancient woodland and 10% classified as priority conservation areas. 45% of the woodland is in the National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and 26% are Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These figures demonstrate the heritage and ecological value of publicly owned woodland. To add to its public value, 90% of the Forestry Commissions free holding is open to public access. In Derbyshire, there are 3154 ha of Commission woodland, from the Heritage woods of Ladybower to part of the new National Forest in South Derbyshire.

In simple monetary terms, the PFE is currently valued at around £700 million, a mere drop in the ocean of the National Debt of £950 billion. In 2007-8, the net cost of managing the estate was £15 million, after accounting for profits of about £60 million. This is about 30p per person in England. Put this in perspective. The official cost of the Bank bailout, agreed by the Treasury, was £850 billion of public money. This is £13,755 per UK resident. At least Caroline Spelman, Minister charged with the job of overseeing the sale, admitted that this was not a revenue generating exercise by a cash-strapped Government. What she would not admit was this is ideologically driven – that the Tory landowners want this land under their control.

One of the first acts of the Thatcher administration in the 1980’s was to enable the sale of public woodland through the 1981 Forest Act, resulting in the sale of thousands of acres of public land. The Labour Government reined in this policy after 1997, with about 10,000 ha of ‘surplus’ land being sold over the next decade. This was land considered marginal to the Forestry Commission’s core business. On coming to power, the Tories once again lined up this publicly owned land for sale, immediately planning to sell 40,000 ha, and planning to change the law to allow the disposal of most of the rest.

What is their motivation? Spelman says it is not primarily economic. When fully worked out – that is when all values are based on the restrictive covenants that the Tories are promising – it is likely that there will be no net gain to the Treasury from their policy. She claims that one of the main motives for a sale was the need to ‘enhance biodiversity.’ Other’s claim that sale to the private sector will enhance ‘public enjoyment of woodland’. These claims do not stand up to analysis and are frankly laughable. Certainly, there are well-managed private woodlands with excellent public facilities. Most of these facilities are charged for, and, reading the small print you will find that access is concessionary and not a public right ‘in perpetuity’ as with present Forestry Commission owned land.

Since the Norman invasion, land ownership has underpinned the power structure of this country. The Conqueror awarded his loyal lieutenants rich country estates and there after, crowned heads continued to buy loyalty with gifts of land. All this built on the presumption that the land area of the British Islands belonged to the monarch. The ordinary British people did not quite see it this way and fought to keep traditional common rights of use and passage. But the greed of their Lordships knew no bounds; they excluded the people, denied common rights, hung them, flogged them, and transported them if they had the effrontery to try to exercise these rights by taking small animals for the stew pot or wood with which to heat it. Land ownership was the clear line in the sand that divided the ruled from the rulers – and that is the way the descendents of the Norman Barons want to keep it.

History aside, there is another reason for the sell-off that fits in with the right wing agenda of this Government, tax avoidance. Investors who buy woodland can benefit from a range of grants and tax incentives and tax avoidance loopholes designed to encourage private ownership of woodlands in the UK. The income and profits from timber sales in woodlands managed commercially are free from both Income and Corporation Tax and after two years of ownership, woodland is not subject to inheritance tax. With a shortage of such investment woodland on the market, the Tories, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, are offering public land as tax-free investments to their loyal and rich supporters. So once the land is sold, it will provide zero return for the taxpayer.

No matter what Spelman says, incorporating this private landholding in to a strategic plan for biodiversity, for watershed management, for erosion control, as a reserve of a vital resource, as a managed carbon sink and as a national recreational asset will be all the more difficult for being split up and managed according to different criteria.  Forging agreements that will last hundreds of years, across a wide range of different interests, many with a commercial imperative as the bottom line will be expensive. The private players will want and expect public subsidy if they are to act in the public interest. This policy therefore has a price tag that we will have to pay. The Tories are selling an asset that could at the very least is revenue neutral, and are creating a liability, the scale of which they have no clue.

What can you do? Look at the Defra consultation, which is open until 21st April 2011.http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm.

Support the Woodland Trust that has a petition and a response to the consultation.http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/Pages/default.aspx

Sign the petition by 38 Degrees opposing the sale, and join in their campaign. http://38degrees.org.uk/

Write to your MP stating clearly your views and seeking his or her position. Publicise both through letters to the papers. Make your voice loud and clear, ‘Our Forests are Not for Sale.’

[Mike Shipley, 30 January2011]

What the papers won’t be saying about benefits.

Once again this week, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, alluded to the “dependency culture” which he claims to believe is preventing many welfare benefit claimants from looking for work. He also announced plans whereby claimants who refuse an offer of work from a Jobcentre will face the sanction of losing their benefit for three months. As a welfare-rights worker of 20 years’ experience I think I know what I am talking about on the subject of Jobseeker’s Allowance and, to bring a bit of balance to the subject, I’d like to make some observations.

The idea that claimants are offered jobs when they visit the Jobcentre is a myth. There are simply far too many claimants and too few jobs to make this a reality. The overwhelming majority of unemployed claimants (and there are sure to be many more of us joining their ranks in the next year or two), would jump at the chance to work. This is why most of them have already performed voluntary work or taken up work experience already, without having to be bullied into doing so by the threat of sanctions. The Coalition Government, like the Labour administration before it, has successfully demonised the unemployed in the media by implying that the unemployed must be at fault for not having a job. Like Norman Tebbit before him, Iain Duncan Smith has said that if a job is not available in someone’s backyard, they should get out and look for one. While Norman Tebbit referred to his dad getting on his bike to find work, IDS reckons the unemployed should hop onto the bus. The example he gave – that if there is nothing in Merthyr Tydfil then the townsfolk should take a ride to Cardiff where there is work a-plenty, will have come as quite as a surprise to those in Cardiff’s own queues down at the dole office.

Let‘s look at some figures now, and see what the allegedly work-shy are “dependant” upon. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in order to achieve a decent standard of living a single person in the UK should have an annual income of at least £14,400. The current basic weekly rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance is £65.45 for a single person aged between 25 and 60, or £51.85 if between 18 and 24. These weekly figures represent annual benefit income of, respectively, £3403.40 and £2696.20. Multi-millionaire IDS has not explained to us why or how anyone would be crazy enough to consciously choose to try to manage their daily lives on such meagre amounts. £65 is nowhere near enough to pay for a weekly food shop plus a fuel and phone bill and a TV license, let alone for such small luxuries as an occasional night out, a bus ride to the town centre (or from Merthyr to Cardiff!), a trip to a football match or a cup of coffee and a bun in a café.

People who are too sick to work, meanwhile, through physical or mental illness or a combination of the two, presently receive £91.40 a week in Employment & Support Allowance, providing they can get through the increasingly inhumane Work Capability Assessment. Labour’s last Secretary of State, Yvette Cooper, was so proud of the toughness of the WCA that she boasted, in the House of Commons, of the number of claimants who had failed to get through it. This year I have had to represent, at independent tribunals, claimants who have been found fit for work (and thereby not entitled to their £91.40, or £4752.80 a year if you prefer), despite having conditions including a broken leg in plaster, diabetes-associated blindness and agoraphobia to name but three.

That the Tories, traditionally the “nasty party”, should take a harsh attitude to the most vulnerable people in UK society is appalling but maybe only to be expected. That the Liberal Democrats should jettison their liberalism by supporting them is shocking, but that Labour, once the party of Clem Attlee and Nye Bevan, should acquiesce in robbing the sick and the poor of their already miserable benefits should make every one of their supporters hang his or her head in shame.

The unemployed people of the UK are the victims rather than the creators of the country’s financial crisis, which resulted not from benefit payouts but from the excesses of unbridled capitalism, and yet it is they, together with workers in the public sector, who are first in line to pay the price. If the descendants of the party that invented the Welfare State are no longer prepared to support claimants’ standards of living then there is a vacancy to be filled by a compassionate party that will do so, and promote “fairness” in its true (rather than its Cleggist) sense.

[Chris Connolley, 12 November 2010]

The Green view of Higher Education

The Green Party views education as a right and an entitlement that should be free at the point of delivery to people of all ages. Education at all levels represents an investment in the future of the country and we all benefit from that investment. It is reasonable for society to pay for that investment through general taxation.

Higher and continuing education is essential in developing a civilized society. We should continue to treat it as a process and not a product, as this government does. Greens aim to democratise knowledge and skills, making them available to anyone who wants to study, regardless of their age or background.

The ConDems approach assumes that higher education is of value only to the individual, not to society or the economy. They fail to recognise the contributions that our students will make to science, medicine, engineering and the arts and therefore to wider society. To shift the responsibility of funding these widely enjoyed benefits to students and their families is manifestly unfair.

The LibDems, faced with a rebellion in their own ranks, desperately claim the new measures are ‘progressive’. They aren’t, and the key flaw is that a low-income household won’t trust the huge ‘pay later’ package, given the way politicians constantly fiddle with it and break promises. Pressure will mount for the threshold for repayment to be lowered. Also in this country, access to the best-paid jobs remains skewed towards those from privileged backgrounds and the private education sector.

The government’s vision is for our universities to become businesses, offering a product to consumers, a product that only the moneyed elite will be able to afford. It wants to wash its hands of responsibility for the education of our young people, leaving this to market forces and private institutions. It fails to recognise that the talents and abilities of our young people represent our hope for a better society in the future, and that government, acting on behalf of its people, should take a lead in fostering and nurturing this talent.

Commenting on the student demonstration that took place in Westminster, Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
“This Government’s assault on education funding and future generations of students seems to know no bounds. The recession has already had a disproportionate effect on young people’s lives, with rapidly disappearing university places and increasing youth unemployment. Now it’s clear that they will be amongst those hardest hit by the ConDem cuts, with the Educational Maintenance Allowance being scrapped, college funding slashed, and the huge hikes in university fees. I fully support the action being taken by our students today.”

The University and College Union, representing many lecturers have voiced their own opposition to the Government proposals. “If implemented, the government’s plans will completely change the landscape of further and higher education. They would represent the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of a degree for thousands of people.”

And what future for the arts and humanities in this Government’s vision for education? Under government proposals, teaching grants are to be restricted to certain science courses. We can presume that these will be those courses that lead to a quick commercial output and a quick profit for UK plc. Other courses will have to fight for funding from student fees – those designed to foster enquiry, creativity and imagination. Under the new business models that our universities are being required to adopt, many of these will close as ‘unprofitable’, so narrowing educational choice, reducing it to vocational training. The purpose of higher education will be simply to fit its cleaver customers in to the highly paid jobs that they are going to expect from their investment. So we lose the creativity and rigorous analysis of history and society that a wide diversity of courses provides. In the ConDems ‘Brave New World’, our culture becomes poorer and, starved of new ideas and information, our democracy weaker.

[Mike Shipley. 11 November2010]

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!

The Least Green Government Ever?

At a time when the effects of climate change are beginning to hit home around the globe, and even the US Government is beginning to acknowledge its seriousness, it is unfortunate to say the least that the British public has elected such a climate sceptic Parliament. This is what the corporate owned popular media intended when they focused public attention on the economic crisis which, they lead people to believe, was caused by the Labour Government’s wasteful social and welfare policies and not on the irresponsible behaviour of the financial institutions. Corporate finance and big business is not interested in climate change, it does not see enough profit in it, it thinks that it can weather the storm and come out of the crisis in total control of the planet, its governments, and its remaining assets.

David Cameron has tried to mask the climate scepticism of his party by labeling his government ‘the greenest ever.’ Empty words we might suspect. The early actions of this ‘greenest government’ show the influence of scepticism and denial.  On taking office, it abolished the Sustainable Development Commission, even though this body was able to save government more than it cost. The Environment Agency is at risk, the Environmental Transformation Fund, which supports the development of low carbon technologies, has had its budget cut by 22% to £120 million. The Low Carbon Building Programme, which provided grants for renewable energy instalations, has been scrapped. A pledge to incorporate pioneer installers of solar power into the new Feed In Tarrifs [FIT’s] has been dumped. Energy Minister Charles Hendry has even hinted that the FIT payments will be slashed.

Not looking so green, but here’s todays victory for the deniers. The idea of scrapping the Department of Energy and Climate Change [Decc] is now being floated as a ‘cost saving’ measure. Decc provides the strategic overview of the UK’s commitments to both Climate Change and to renewable energy policy, ensuring that our international obligations are met. Already Decc has had its modest budget of £3.2 billion cut by £85 million. The irony is that half of its funding, £1.7 billion, goes to the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, a subsidy to the nuclear industry of which Chris Hune, LD Minister incharge, must be unaware, since he proclaims that a new generation of nuclear power stations can be built without subsidy.

So, the fledgling dedicated Department charged with preparing and implementing our countries response to the biggest crisis the world has faced since the ice sheets started advancing, must get by on £1.5 billion per year; and its very existence together with the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust, is under threat.

In response to this threat, Caroline Lucas said, “nobody who undestands the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis could even contemplate decimating the department that leads the effort to deal with it.”  John Sauven, head of Greenpeace described the proposal as “sheer insanity.”

Just to put this £1.5 billion budget for implementing energy and climate policy into context, total Government spending for 2010 will be £661 billion. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is planning to write off £1.5 billion of tax revenue owed over the last 2 years. Reward the tax evaders, penalise the planet.

Gives some idea of the priorities of this ‘greenest government ever.’

The Green New Deal

The Green Party Manifesto offered the electorate an economic programme that would reduce our national debt without cutting vital public services.  This programme is the Green New Deal. It is a response to the triple crisis that the world now faces:

  • A financial crisis caused by the uncontrolled speculation of international bankers, including many based in the City of London, interested in quick profits, rather than sustainable development, creating a financial bubble, which was bound to burst and did.
  • An energy crisis as the supply of oil peaks, and remaining reserves become more damaging and dangerous and expensive to extract.
  • A climate crisis driven by burning fossil fuels, resulting in increased global temperatures, threatening the very survival of humanity.

The Green New Deal proposed a major investment in energy conservation and renewable energy, creating thousands of sustainable jobs.  It proposed the serious regulation of the financial sector to prevent the reckless behaviour that led to the financial crisis, while ensuring that low cost finance was available for the construction of a low carbon economy.

The Green Party showed in its manifesto that it is possible to reduce our deficit while putting more people to work, protecting public services, and ensuring that the tax burden falls on those who can afford to pay.

Caroline Lucas, newly elected Green Party MP in Brighton, has spoken out against the economic destruction threatened by the ConDem government’s budget:

Cuts are not an economic inevitability.  They are an ideological choice. Politicians of all parties are now sharpening their axes to slash public spending, forcing those on lower incomes, who depend on public services the most, to pay the highest price for the recent excesses of the bankers.

That’s the challenge I’m issuing: for that political choice to be made.  It must be clearly asserted that we are not “all in this together”: that some had more responsibility for this crisis than others, and some benefited more from the boom that preceded it. Those who enjoyed the largest benefits must pay up now.  There is a choice.  We should ask those best able to pay to foot the bill through fairer taxation.  For that to happen, fair taxes, not cuts, must become the new big idea to replace today’s callous and uncaring cuts fanaticism.”

Only The Green Party has the policies and principles required to address the problems facing Britain and the world in these dangerous times. Please consider joining the Green Party or making a donation.

Cuts “destructive and unnecessary” says Green Party leader

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP will this week tell the coalition government there is “no good reason for any cuts in public expenditure during the life of this parliament.”

On Monday 21 June Britain’s first Green MP is to issue a new report – Cuts: the callous con trick (1) – in which she will make the case that cuts are unnecessary “because the economy could instead be rebalanced using additional tax revenues.”

The report, written jointly with tax expert Richard Murphy and Colin Hines of Finance for the Future, condemns the government “for failing to put to the electorate the option of fair tax instead of cuts,” and accuses ministers of increasing the likelihood of a double-dip recession.

Cuts “are not an economic inevitability but an ideological choice”

Caroline Lucas said today:

“Cuts are not an economic inevitability. They are an ideological choice. Politicians of all parties are now sharpening their axes to slash public spending, forcing those on lower incomes, who depend on public services the most, to pay the highest price for the recent excesses of the bankers.

“There is a choice. We should ask those best able to pay to foot the bill through fairer taxation. That’s the challenge I’m issuing: for that political choice to be made. It must be clearly asserted that we are not all in this together: that some had more responsibility for this crisis than others, and some benefited more from the boom that preceded it. Those who enjoyed the largest benefits must pay up now. For that to happen, fair taxes, not cuts, must become the new big idea to replace today’s callous and uncaring cuts fanaticism.”

Tax avoidance and evasion “truly staggering” – could be as high as £100bn a year

The Brighton Pavilion MP continued:

“The UK is currently one of the most unequal societies in Europe. But the financial crisis offers us an opportunity to rebalance the tax system. We could do it, for example, by applying the 50% tax rate to incomes above £100,000, abolishing the upper limit for national insurance contributions, raising capital gains tax to the recipient’s highest income tax rate, and helping lower earners by reintroducing the 10% tax band.

“Moreover, the huge extent of tax avoidance, tax evasion and unpaid tax in the UK economy is truly staggering.  HM Revenue & Customs themselves admit that tax evasion and avoidance together come to at least £40 billion a year, whilst in November 2009 they also admitted there was £28 billion of unpaid tax owing to them. Shocking as these numbers are, some experts have suggested that tax evasion – that’s deliberately breaking the law to not pay tax – might be as high as £70 billion a year, and tax avoidance – in other words, exploiting loopholes in tax law – might be £25 billion a year. That would take the total target for necessary action to collect tax due and owing to more than £100 billion a year”

Cut tax abuse, not tax-collectors’ jobs

Caroline Lucas continued:

“Whilst these appalling losses to the nation’s coffers are occurring, HM Revenue & Customs are pursuing a programme of job cuts which will ultimately reduce their own staff by 20,000 – close to one quarter of the total. This makes absolutely no sense.  This programme should be reversed, staff re-employed, and local tax offices re-opened in order to tackle tax abuse. It has been calculated that at least £15 billion of extra tax could be collected each year as a result.  That could prevent a massive range of cuts.”

Richard Murphy, tax expert, chartered accountant and co-author of the report said:

“Our report sets out a range of additional options for changing the tax rules for the UK so that more than £40 billion of additional taxes could be raised each year by the end of the life of this parliament. That, together with the tax collecting efficiency savings already noted, would together deliver more than £60 billion of tax revenues for the UK – so preventing the need for any cuts at all.”

Richard Murphy added:

“A government really can spend to save the economy when in a recession. During this one, borrowing has been smaller and unemployment lower than forecast because of the measures taken by the last government to stimulate the economy. This report argues that a Green New Deal involving public and private investment in a massive labour intensive UK wide energy saving programme and a rapid shift to renewables should be the basis for continuing that programme of support for our economy. This would ensure that we come out of the recession better equipped for the future we’re going to face.”

Caroline Lucas concluded:

“Fairer tax not cuts must become the real battleground of this new Parliament. It is the debate the Coalition and Labour alike must embrace. As the full ghastliness and unfairness of the cuts become ever clearer, the public clamour for fairer taxes rather than cuts can only grow.”

Note
1.    The report can be read at: http://www.financeforthefuture.com/TaxBriefing.pdf

Green Party Opposes Derby City Council Cuts

The intention of Derby City Council to cut approximately 465 jobs is indicative of the recent feeding frenzy and panic by all 3 main parties to drastically cut everything — which we condemn.

When unemployment has already reached 2.5 million, now is not the time for such action, which is bound to affect many frontline services.

Scrapping Trident, ID cards, and expensive PFI contracts would be a better approach.

Voters wishing to cast a positive vote now have one clear choice — the Green Party.