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Neoliberalism visits Wyre Forest District Council budget plans

Since 2010, the ConDem Govt and now Tory Govt, have force fed us austerity as an answer to resolving the Banker caused global meltdown of the financial world which lead to a multi billion pound (£) bailout of those same banks. The very same banks incidentally now calling for Govt to guarantee the bad loans they gave to the now collapsed and financially inept Carillon. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up, especially as this Government continued to offer contracts to Carillion despite the financial concerns over their business model.

But what’s it really all about? Be under no illusion, austerity is merely the latest convenient weapon for the Tories to further their neoliberal agenda that brought about the banking crash, and in turn has lead to the recent collapse of public services provider Carillon. Why else would the Tories pursue austerity with such vigour?

They want to shrink the state and privatise everything we value. The NHS is next on their hit list, just ask Virgin Care who sued the NHS, or Jeremy Hunt, Heslth Secretary, who co-authored a book on how to privatise the NHS. They’ve already done Housing, gas electric and water utilities, rail, and the bulk of public services including social care which is adding to the NHS crisis. They destroy local services yet get hard pressed local council tax payers to pick up a bigger bill because Govt chokes the council finances in order to give bigger tax handouts to the already rich. How many Care homes can you close, or Care workers can you sack, or nurses or doctors can you lose, or Police Officers go before enough is enough? Locally, we’ve seen mental health wards at Kidderminster Hospital close, and Respite Centres like Ludlow Road Kidderminster under real threat. It’s never enough for privateers when there’s a profit to be made. All ably assisted by Tory politicians.

As a symbol of what’s wrong with our country and our social and economic model, Carillon is it.

It was one of the ultimate private company public sector sharks, and is a creation of the neoliberalism that gave birth to austerity. It is a machine that craves privatisation to survive, and puts taxpayers money, as profit, into the hands of shareholders and part time executives in eye watering amounts of bonuses. Even when on the brink of collapse it prioritised and ringfenced bonuses to Execs and dividends to shareholders over its public sector contracts and duties.

The Carillion neoliberal model relies on Govt, Councils, speculators, ‘Front’ false Trading Companies, and weak regulation in a carnival of collusion to keep it alive. When did you last hear a local Tory councillor object to this model of public sector service delivery? No, every one of your local Tory Councillors supports this madness which threatens our social and economic fabric. They value private profit above public services, and put cuts before social investment. These are not the civic pride minded Tories of generations ago, who built our great libraries, Town Halls, and much infrastructure we still rely on.

Companies like Carillon, like the Tory ideology it feeds on, is reliant on a transfer of wealth from the many to the few, and from the public purse to the elite. This latest collapse may seem different to the financial crisis of 2008 but it’s born of the same mother and father as Thatcherism and neoliberalism. The elite that demand this business model also squirrel away its money in remote offshore tax havens, yet lecture us on the value of Brexit and patriotism through their mouthpieces like the Daily Mail. They know the EU was about to clamp down on the tax dodging elite they belong to and saw an opportunity. In fairness, they played a blinder and their smoke grenades to hide the truth were highly effective. They used NHS promises, and used elites pretending not to be elites to attack elites, elitism, and experts to amazing effect. Yet this elite are the same lot who now scream for taxpayer bailouts for Carillon as they rampantly avoid paying their own tax. Who picks up the bill? You do. The ordinary people and workers of Wyre Forest.

Unfortunately for us, such austerity leads to its own local brand of neoliberalism as cuts bite into Wyre Forest Council coffers, and they can no longer afford to pay for everything they need to do.

Whether it’s withdrawing the hub from the Town Hall leaving the Town council with a black hole of £50,000 and so making our Services more inaccessible, or forcing Stourport Town Council (and local council tax payers) to provide and pay for its toilets itself, this is an unrelenting unforgiving beast. A beast that now sees cash strapped Wyre Forest Council engaging in the same capitalist type speculation that has been the cause of all of our financial ills. Of course, all of this gets dressed up by local Tories as “saving you money”. It isn’t and never was and never will be it’s a continuation of shrinking services and the state. In the 80’s it was Thatcherism, now it’s austerity. It’s Engine remains neoliberalism and it’s driver the Tory Party. They’re borrowing (your) money to fund it all.

Locally, food safety inspection for Wyre Forest’s 957 businesses is now covered by only 2 full time equivalent Environmental Health Officers. Does that make the food you eat safer? Doubtful when there’s a backlog of 288 inspections due. There is only 1 planning Officer to deal with around 120 planning infringements. Does that add to our peace of mind that people are not flouting planning rules? Not likely. Similarly, our 6 Enforcement Officers are insufficient to deal with the glut of abandoned vehicles or unsafe or illegal parking infringements. It results in more public angst that for the council tax you pay, your services are getting more and more inadequate. None of this is the fault of those overstretched council workers as the right wing press would have you believe. The blame lies at the door of Tory austerity and speculative capitalism, or “casino capitalism” as it was nicknamed. And it’s coming to a council near you to pay for the above services. What could possibly go wrong?

By 2021, some 40% of all the council’s income and that provided by Government will have been removed. There is no Government plan to rectify this shortfall. Instead, Wyre Forest council is to engage in borrowing to the tune of £35million. Their plan is to try and replace this lost income with financial speculation both inside and outside of Wyre Forest to generate income of £225,000 over 3 years. Given it’s exactly this type of financial speculation that got us into the austerity mess in the first place, you have to ask yourself if this is a sensible model for a council to be tinkering with to pay for services, rather than national taxation and a fair Govt grant which had always been the political consensus of Governments since World War 2? It’s what our heroic veterans fought for - Housing, social welfare and the NHS. Their legacy to us is being dismantled before our very eyes.

The Tories are not patriots, they’ve sold most of what we had to foreign Govts. The French, Germans, Italians, Dutch and even the Chinese and Japanese own much of our utilities and rail. All the fault of OUR Govt and not the EU despite what the right wing press would tell you.

It is a fact that the current Tory Government, including the previous ConDems, have borrowed more money and have less to show for it than any other Government in history. They’ve used borrowing to both fund tax cuts for the wealthiest and to pay for their poor financial management meaning your wages are worth some 20% less now than 2008 in real terms and our national debt has near tripled to £1.7trillion. Professor Murphy of the LSE has demonstrated the fact Tories always borrow more, and pay back less debt when in Govt, in quite an articulate way in his many academic financial papers. Indeed, all Labour Governments combined have never borrowed as much as the current Tory Government. Yet, somehow, the myth of financial prudence by the Tories persists. Labour when in Govt did borrow to invest and this created more wealth for all and when they left office, despite the global crash, the economy was growing. The Tories trashed that growth however purely for an ideological goal masquerading as austerity.

Going forward, Labour plans for Government will be based on fair taxation, reversing the tax handouts to the most wealthy, and investment in our people and infrastructure. That’s how to get Britain’s economy growing so everyone can benefit. Equally, your local Labour Party is fighting the cuts, campaigning to save services, working with communities for the greater good and will bring these values to council if we are given the opportunity to run the council.

At this point in time, Wyre Forest voters have put their trust in a Tory council they thought were financially prudent. Labour will make the case that the local Tories are as wedded to austerity as their national Party and are as intent on destroying local services as their colleagues in Westminster like Mark Garnier, our MP. A man who came from a job in the financial sector, which let’s face it, are the source and ideology behind all of our current austerity woes. He has voted for every cut since being elected to make sure his banking chums never face the responsibility of their actions. Given his conduct of late, it shines a very bright light on him on a personal level too. We should all pay more attention to how what he says is rarely the way he acts, especially on votes in Parliament. He is a master of the political sleight of hand which up to this point has served him well in Wyre Forest. However, he represents everything that is wrong with the current Tory Party who take no responsibility for the misery they are causing for the millions of people who are suffering at the hands of Tory austerity. Just ask a disabled person, someone who has been hit by the bedroom tax, endured the savagery of Universal Credit, or young people in Wyre Forest who face a working life of insecure employment on minimum wage. They will tell you a completely different story.

What’s worse for local council tax payers, is your Tory council. They are now dabbling in financial speculation, as dabbled in by their elite friends, and which has cost every one of us dearly. All being done in a desperate attempt to raise money through borrowing so that they can carry on kidding you that cuts and neoliberalism are a sane thing to do. They are not, it is leading to the collapse of our most valued services. Labour will campaign to end this risk to the local public purse and your pockets. We are the Party for the many not the few.

This represents the personal view of Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Media Officer, with kind information assistance from Labour Cllr Jamie Shaw & Labour’s Carol Warren.

Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour Party

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