Tag Archives: public sector cuts

Don’t Be Bored By The TUC, There’s More Than Just A March Happening In London Tomorrow

I can’t get to this tomorrow due to work commitments, but Johnny Void reminds us that the TUC isn’t the only game in town.

the void

poor-doors-flyer

Tomorrow lots of people will be marching through London on the TUC’s Britain Needs A Pay Rise demonstration.  Sadly this slogan does not apply to those on TUC backed work experience schemes or Traineeships on which people don’t get paid at all.

Still many will wish to march anyway to show their disgust at the current austerity policies that are destroying so many lives.  But if you’re coming into  central London for the march why not make a day of it.  Instead and standing around at the end listening to a bunch of boring old bastards making speeches about action that will never materialise, jump on the tube over to East London where the annual Anarchist Bookfair will be taking place.

As well as lots of books, and other info stalls, many groups will be holding meetings and workshops, including Boycott Workfare at 2pm and the Focus E15 Mothers along…

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Scapegoats and brickbats: the government’s assault on the public sector

The Tories need a scapegoat. They always need scapegoats. In the 1980’s the scapegoats were Labour-controlled local authorities (dubbed ‘Loony Left’ by the Tory press), the trade unions, gays, lesbians and ethnic minorities. These days, the scapegoats are public sector workers and the public sector generally. Trade unions still come in for flak from the Tories. This morning they were unwittingly helped by Labour’s Ed Balls, who chipped in by urging (if that’s the right word) the unions not to walk into the government’s “trap”.  The Labour Party clearly hasn’t learned the lessons of the 1980’s and when Balls produces nonsense like this,  it’s easy to see why Labour are out of power (hands up, who wants Blue Labour?). What Balls has done is to express cowardice. Rather than face down the government, Balls and the rest of the front bench try to avoid confrontation and in doing so, make themselves look weak and pathetic. Anyone would think that they didn’t want the votes of trade unionists.

The government and its allies in the media have been quite keen to misrepresent public sector workers. Perhaps the most popular myth in circulation is the one that claims that all public sector workers are well-paid and will get extremely generous pensions when they retire. The fact of the matter is that, as with most other wages, public sector pay has been stagnant for years. Forget what you’ve heard about council chief executives’ salaries, those who do all the dirty work on the frontline are being paid a fraction of that. Many public sector workers are on the National Minimum Wage and can expect to recieve pensions of around £4,000 and yet this government wants these people to pay more towards their pensions (which will decrease in real terms). Why? Because they need someone to blame. They need to hammer the public sector so that they can press ahead with their plan to privatize those social functions that are left. Only today, Cameron revealed the following plans to give people more “power” (sic). The Sunday Times (which I cannot quote because it’s behind a paywall) claims that Lord Snooty wants to give people  “individual budgets” so that they can “buy” services. From The Independent,

Allowing the elderly to choose how money is spent on their care;

Enabling people with long-term health conditions to choose their own therapies;

Giving parish councils powers to take control of local parks, playing fields, parking and traffic restrictions;

Allowing parents of children with special needs to make their own decisions about schooling.

What all this amounts to is a further assault on the public sector. Soon local authorities will only exist to rubber stamp the diktats of private providers. But this is only the tip of the iceberg: before we know it, education will subjected to the same treatment with schools being forced into the voucher system. As for empowerment, this is noticeably absent. Giving real political power to people is something that this government is keen to avoid. There is no way that the government wants to allow us plebians a say in how decisions are made. That would be too much like real democracy.

So what happens when you run out of funding? Well, the government hasn’t thought that far ahead.  Given the number of hare-brained ideas that trip from the lips of ministers, some might say that the government isn’t capable of thinking at all. In today’s Telegraph, Danny Alexander reiterated the government’s position,

Mr Alexander insisted that ministers wanted a ”constructive dialogue” with the unions – but indicated that this would be restricted to the detail of how the changes would be implemented.

Nowhere Towers believes that the government has behaved high-handedly towards the unions by telling them that they will only negotiate  when the unions accept the government’s plan. This is the wrong way to go about negotiations. In the same article, former Labour pensions minister and closet Tory, John Hutton added his thoughts,

”They are the basis on which we want to go forward and reform public-service pensions, but of course in these discussions we need to look at the detail of how that works, about how these things are implemented,” he told the Murnaghan programme.

”What we have to get to is a situation where, yes, people have to work a bit longer and contribute a bit more, as we have put forward, but that we maintain the quality of their pensions into the future.”

Reform is the word being used here but reform almost always means cuts, redundancies and unwanted and unnecessary changes to working conditions.  The unions have no choice but to go on strike. If they didn’t strike, they would be failing their members and, for that matter, all those working people who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to earn a living from rents, dividends, shares, trust funds and daddy’s allowance.

The largest one-day strike since the General Strike of 1926 will take place on 30 June. Doing nothing is not an option.

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Filed under Big Society, Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Labour, Public spending

Can we have some of what the Egyptians and Tunisians are having, please?

We need some of this here

First Tunisia and now Egypt, the old corrupt and repressive regimes are under threat. Ben Ali of Tunisia went into exile last week and Hosni Mubarak is clinging on. But these protests tell us something: ordinary people have put up with neoliberalism, corruption and attacks on them for long enough. There is only so much people can take before they snap.

Yesterday,  David Cameron said

“I think what we need is reform in Egypt. We support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of their democracy and civil rights and the rule of law.

“Clearly there are grievances that people have and they need to be met and matched.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest that people are being killed on the streets of Egypt as we speak, and so I hope the violence will cease.

“But clearly, when you have people who have grievances and problems that want them responded to, it’s in all our interests that these countries have stronger rule of law, stronger rights, stronger democracy.”

Foreign Secretary, Fizzy Willy Hague chipped in with

“I think it is important to recognise that the people involved have legitimate grievances – economic grievances and political grievances – and it is very important for the authorities to respond positively to that, and to be able to hold out the hope and prospect of reform in the future.

“That is the answer to this situation, rather than repression. It does not help to suppress people’s right to freedom of expression.”

Cameron  also said to the delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Europe had to

‘incentivise the same kind of risk-taking investment culture’

What Cameron can’t wrap his head around is the fact that British people have plenty of  grievances and problems  but his government ignore them and are intent on creating more problems by pursuing their ill-conceived and poorly-formulated social experiments.

Yesterday, one of Cameron’s model councils, Westminster, announced that it has plans to give social housing priority to those people who are employed.   Westminster was infamous in the early 1990’s for the Homes for Votes scandal. The then leader, Dame Shirley Porter, gerrymandered marginal wards to favour the ruling party (her party).

Under the council’s plans, working households will be defined as those where the main applicant or their partner are in work, have a permanent or temporary contract or are self-employed.

People who would be prioritised must have been working for a minimum of two years.

As if to emphasize their intellectually feeble and philosophically bankrupt policies, Hon Gid  and Cameron were spreading the Thatcherite message. Their message files in the face of recently published economic figures which say that Britain’s economy has shrunk while the US economy has grown. The US has spent money to achieve growth, while the British government makes deep cuts to public services and raises the rate of VAT, thus choking off consumer confidence. A PPE degree clearly doesn’t make for a wise politician.

While the likes of Cameron and Hague call for reform in Egypt, they trample over our democratic rights and pursue ideologically-driven policies that will make people poorer and destroy public services. Not only are these people intellectually feeble (it was the snow that caused our economy to shrink) and philosophically bankrupt (social housing is responsible for worklessness), their minds are firmly closed to today’s realities.

This is 2011, not 1981.

But the Great Lord of Darkness is still living in the past.

After nearly a quarter of a century of good industrial relations, the cloth-cap colonels of the TUC are talking about using the strike weapon to overrule a democratically elected Parliament. I can understand their anger and frustration.

I doubt he can understand the anger and frustration. His take on history is faulty too. What does he mean by “a quarter of a century of good industrial relations”? He’s not even honest enough to admit that it was his government passed a series of anti-trade union laws and spent a lot of its time smashing those unions while, ironically, supporting Solidarinosc in Poland.

I won’t bother to quote the rest of his blog. It’s really depressing.

There are demonstrations against the cuts to education in London and Manchester today and there are more planned for the future. There should be daily protests and if a few things are damaged in the process, then so be it. This government has shown that it isn’t interested in what ordinary people think and it is only through the tactics of shock that we can get them to change anything. Though, expecting this shower of shite to leave office and go into exile to Chile is clearly my fantasy and mine alone.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, Cuts, Egypt, Government & politics, Public spending

Localism: a marketing gimmick to sell council cuts?

Who ate all the pies?

I am not impressed with this new word “localism”.  It travels along the same linguistic line as the phrase “Big Society”.  It is an utterly meaningless word in the hands of avowed neoliberals.  The term “localism” has been coined to present a friendlier face to the savage cuts that are about to be made to local government finances. The localism in question is originally derived from Hannan and Carswell’s Randist-inspired treatise, The Plan- Twelve Months to Renew Britain.  Make no mistake, the general thrust of the government’s localist agenda is to remove forever the link between local people and the only bulwark they have between them and the excesses of central government. Thatcher abolished the metropolitan county councils precisely because they stood in opposition to her policies. The current plan carries this idea much further by eliminating the possibilities for town halls to spend money on social projects, since the money that comes from central government is to be dramatically reduced.

Last week, Eric Pickles, the local government minister announced his plans for ‘localism’. Pickles says on his Twitter feed,

Localism Bill will be introduced next Monday. Lots of power to to Councils

The Guardian reports,

Central to the bill, and to the decentralisation, is the general power of confidence (GPC) being given to councils. Through this, authorities are given the freedom to make social, economic and environmental decisions for their local areas, rather than being subject to top-down targets.

But how empowered councils will be in reality is up for debate. Experts warn there is a distinct lack of financial freedom partnering the GPC which could hamper any true reform.

The Guardian asks the same question that I and many others have been thinking: how will this bill “empower” councils? Local authorities will have no more power to control their finances than they do already.  The paper adds,

David Walker, the former managing director of public reporting at theAudit Commission, argues that the localism bill is in fact a con and that underneath its glossy exterior of power to the people, councils will have no more financial control than at present.

The government’s ‘localism’ project is another means by which to shape British society along the lines of Randist individualism. This means that people are disconnected from their peers and the society in which they live and are remoulded as individual consumers of reified products in a localized, but highly artificial, market place. Even the Conservative-run Local Goverment Association is finding Pickle’s localism hard to stomach. The Guardian,

The Local Government Association (LGA) is predicting 140,000 job losses over the next four years and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting predict that 70,000 of those could come in the next year alone.

Pickles has already slammed the Conservative-run LGA for scaremongering on job losses and making up figures “on the back of a fag packet”, but the front-loading of the cuts in particular risks another confrontation between central and local government.

The Public Service website says,

The Localism Bill is nothing more than a smokescreen that will enable thousands of local government jobs to be cut under the name of the Big Society, the Unite union has said.

Precisely. George Orwell must be spinning in his grave. But Pickles is adamant,

“I believe it is possible to cut significant sums out of local authorities by simply improving the way local authorities operate.”

He told the BBC that councils have “simply got to wake up to the fact that it is no longer viable to have their own chief executives, their own legal departments their own education departments, their own planning departments”.

Which begs the question, why have elected local councils in the first place if this is how the government views them? This hasn’t been explained. Some councils like Barnet have cut back so severely on their public services that they may as well not exist as local authorities. Such ‘reforms’ are guaranteed to make councils into nothing more than a rubber stamp for outsourced public service contracts. As such, councillors will arguably be less accountable to their electorate. It seems to me that local authorities will have to outsource even more of their services to private interests. Companies will be invited to tender; the company that claims to be able to provide the service for the lowest cost, wins the contract. The emphasis is not on quality but what can be done for the least cost. This raises a problematic: the service provider that runs say, social services cheaply will not necessarily produce work of quality. We could see more Victoria Climbies and Baby Peters because of these highly experimental policies. But social services is one area of local authority provision where the cuts will impact the poor and the vulnerable the most. The rich will not have to worry about local provision of social services because they have the economic capital to deal with their own affairs.

As I pointed out earlier, the objective of the Localism Bill is reduce the possibility for councils to oppose any government diktats at a local level. This is also a social engineering project that is being sold as a decentralization of power. It is a dishonest attempt to foist unwanted cuts on those who are already vulnerable and those who are about to be made vulnerable.  This is a form of politicized misanthropy that is dressed up as empowerment. Like the Big Society, Localism is another marketing idea that has been dreamt up by people who place their trust in the sign alone. Philosophically empty and devoid of any real meaning, Localism is likely to kill rather than cure.

Resist the cuts!

UPDATE: 20/1/11 @ 1950

Changed “state” to “central government”.

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