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Archive for December, 2014

HIghgate LibraryCouncillor Sian Berry writes:

The council’s ‘Camden Challenge’ is asking for ideas to raise money and cut costs in the face of a dramatic cut to central government grants to local councils.

In our response – read the full document and all our ideas here – we have tried to embrace the spirit of the Camden Challenge and propose a range of revenue-raising methods that will contribute to closing the deficit, as well as a number of capital investments that could be made now to reduce revenue requirements in future, including external wall insulation, LED street lights and solar panels on council properties.

We also propose increased spending on a range of bottom-line measures for the Green Party, including honouring the Council’s commitment to the Ethical Care Charter and to pay the Living Wage to those employed by contractors.

We are also saying – once again – that people in Camden should be asked in a referendum about a rise in Council Tax of more than 2%. The fact that Camden’s public engagement exercise has so far shown more than six in ten people support a 2% rise shows that there is a limit to the cuts in public services people are willing to take, and that they are willing to pay to preserve the services Camden provides.

We know, however, that raising Council Tax now, after a seven year freeze, can only go a small way to closing our upcoming deficit. And we know that Council Tax is not a fair tax, nor is it adequately progressive, taking little account of income except by concessions for those at the very bottom of the wealth scale.

To properly solve these problems, the next Government has to act, and councillors from other parties, should be doing much more to put pressure on their national policy makers to address the crisis in local services and reform local government finance. If they fail, then whatever clever ideas we come up with in Camden will be nothing more than a sticking plaster under which local public services will eventually wither away to nothing.

Caroline Lucas MPA proposal in Parliament

On 28 November, Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion to highlight the cuts to local government.

It moves:

“That this House believes that under the guise of austerity, central government is slowly but surely putting an end to local government as we know it; notes that from 2010-11 to 2015-16 core central government funding to local authorities has been slashed by 40 per cent whilst local government responsibilities increase; further notes that demand for council services is growing and that people are suffering under government policies harming the poorest and most disadvantaged such as the bedroom tax, cuts to tax credits and benefits and the increase in VAT… and therefore calls for the cuts to local government funding to be reversed and for local government to be protected from further cuts to enable local authorities to provide cherished community services as well as vital social services such as support for looked-after children, care-leavers, users of adult social care, older people, homeless people, low-income families in crisis, disabled people, those with special educational needs and emergency help to survivors of domestic violence.”

Although a number of Labour MPs are signed up, so far no Lib Dem or Conservative MPs and neither of Camden’s two Labour MPs have supported the motion.

Read more here:  http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/579 

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The recent blog of Kitty S Jones, Labour Party activist and blogger, has left many of us rather shocked and dumbfounded by her lashing out at the Green Party. This is not new but simply stronger language than what Greens face routinely from Labour. Kitty S Jones claims that the Greens are somehow on the Malthusian Right because we point out the need for policies that allow us to live within our planetary resources and not cause hardship to the poorest, as will no doubt be the result of climate change and environmental degradation. She goes on to say that if the Greens were really green we would join Labour.

Labour still, shockingly, fails to recognise the social and environmental reality of climate change and the limits to what our planet can sustain. How long will it take Labour to accept this truth and stop its dishonest politics of pretending that it is taking climate change seriously? When will it address the social injustice that this failure will lead to? These are are just some of the reasons that Greens are not able to join Labour.

Still in thrall to the filthy rich?

Many Greens left the Labour Party for its failure to do anything significant to challenge the Thatcherite agenda and because it continued to entrench that system when in government: setting up academy schools outside the control of democratically elected bodies;  tendering parts of the NHS to private sector bidders; continuing with a tax regime that fails to redistribute wealth in our highly unequal society; allowing a free-for-all in the City; and tendering out prison and other services. (And that’s without mentioning the destructive Iraq war.) Labour seemed in thrall to the rich, the filthy rich that they were happy to hang out with and take money from. This was the Labour Party of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and, we must remember, Ed Miliband. However much we may hope for more from Ed, can we with our hands on hearts ever trust him?

Only the Greens have been willing to speak out about domination by the wealthy and big corporates – the Establishment as Owen Jones powerfully explains – and to develop alternative solutions. Labour’s mild scolding of its wealthy banker friends hardly caused a ripple. Only the Greens have argued for the break up of large companies, for state funding of political parties to diminish the political influence of the rich, firm regulation of banks, and to challenge the domination of a handful of media barons.

It’s clear that Labour are nervous. No doubt in their heart of hearts they know that they failed the people in their 13 years in government: failed to tackle the underlying inequality in power and wealth and the big issues that face the UK and the world. Perhaps it’s this guilt that hits them hard and leads to them lash out at the Greens, with their half truths and exaggerations. Jones returns to the old lies about the minority Green administration in Brighton Council and refuses to acknowledge that the Greens were trying their very best to fairly address an equal pay problem in the Council in the months before the strike.

If Labour really wanted change, they would attack the Tories not the Greens.  A stronger Left is needed if we are to make sustainable change, not the weaker Left that Labour seems to want.

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By Kirsten de Keyser
Political blogger and campaigner

On Tuesday 9 December the OECD, the west’s leading economic think tank, dismissed the concept of trickle-down economics as it found that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.

This is a staggering assertion and the report makes for required reading during these dark December evenings. Granted, the economically enlightened would already have guessed that stretching the inequality elastic to pinging point could not be healthy. But reducing the size of an entire economy by 20%? That’s calamitous, to be sure.

So how do we compare here in Camden? Acutely socially aware, borne out by a Labour controlled Council, a great hooray, a lot of back slapping and town hall flag hoisting went on back in October 2012. Green Party Councillor Maya de Souza had been one of the instigators of the Council’s commitment to pay all staff the London Living Wage and a justly proud Camden became one of London’s first boroughs to be accredited as a LLW Employer by the Living Wage Foundation.

And congratulations were certainly in order. Despite swingeing slashing of budgets across the board, Camden Council had somehow found a way to do the right thing; reducing the income inequality of its workers by lifting the lowest paid up to the London Living Wage.

‘Please can I have some more Sir?’
But despite all the 2012 fanfare and fireworks, it now transpires that the much trumpeted LLW commitment will not be fully met for another two years. The excuse is that the pay increase cannot be added into existing contracts, for legal or other administrative reasons. For example, Camden’s dinner ladies will not be paid a living wage until 2016 – four years after the pledge was made.

And that’s a disgrace. Camden Council should simply top up wages to meet the London Living Wage for all staff. If an organisation cannot pay its staff enough to live on, it should not be in business. Passing the buck to the DWP Tax Credit budget or the Housing Benefit department is not only immoral, it is incompetent.

The Green Party of England and Wales has called for the statutory minimum wage to be immediately lifted to Living Wage levels and for a £10 per hour minimum wage for all by 2020. And not a moment too soon.

Twitter: @kdkwifi
Blog: http://whatwouldborgendo.wordpress.com/
Project:NB https://paper.li/kdkwifi/1391956794

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