14 Dec 2014

Austerity axe strikes again

Wirral Council's latest budget proposals mark a new low for people of Wirral as a further £38 million is sucked out of the local economy with drastic effects on services and spending power.

Tory and Lib Dem councillors should hang their head in shame at the appalling impacts their disastrous state-shrinking policies are having on a borough already riven by gross inequalities.

As a result of their policies and the further deep cuts contained in these budget proposals further misery will be heaped on our most stressed communities already struggling with poverty pay, benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and, most shameful of all, the mounting queues at food banks.

Serious Questions for Labour

But Labour have serious questions to answer if they really expect the people of Wirral to believe they are committed to protecting the vulnerable and reducing the gap in inequalities. In particular,
  • How can Labour claim a commitment to fairness having just voted through an eye-watering 30% increase in the chief executive’s salary. Not only is this an insult to the council employees facing redundancy and reduced pay, it shows a leadership out of touch with reality and missing a glorious opportunity to set an example to others and rein in excessive pay in the public sector.
  • How can Labour moan about the Tories state-shrinking agenda when they have accepted the Tory bribe to freeze council tax and shrink Wirral’s tax base which is so important in supporting and sustaining public services. Yet this is the same council that has forced the unemployed to pay council tax and has now scrapped discounts for the over 70s.
  • How can Labour cut jobs and services even as it spends seven figure sums on a Town Hall that will never be fit for purpose as most residents in Wirral find it hopelessly inaccessible due to its location?
Perhaps, most worrying of all is the nonsensical claim that a Labour government would reverse these cuts. Just this week Ed Balls has reiterated his ruthless approach promising “spending cuts every year” In other words, under Labour we will face more cuts, more austerity, more poverty, even more inequality.

Austerity is not inevitable

Austerity is a political choice supported by Tory, Lib Dem UKIP and Labour.

Only the Greens are offering an alternative to austerity based on taxing the wealthiest in our society, rolling back the cuts, ending poverty pay and investing in jobs and vital public services. Specifically the Green Party would 
  • Impose a wealth tax on the wealthiest 1% generating over £20 billion per annum.
  • Introduce a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions generating a further £20 billion per annum.
  • Replace council tax with a land value tax requiring wealthy land owners who benefit from massive Common Agricultural Policy subsidies to pay something back to society.
  • A 50% tax rate on salaries over £100,000.
  • Scrap Trident and HS2 saving over £100 billion.

5 Dec 2014

What's really the point of "Free after 3"?

Localism is at the heart of Green philosophy and it is incredibly
important that we support local shops and promote effective measures
that encourage people to use their local shopping centres all year round.

However, are Wirral council plans to introduce "free after 3" parking
during the remainder of December really the best we can do to support
the local economy?

Having read what the recent car parking scrutiny review has to say about
"Free after 3" it was revealing to learn that we have no idea how many
motorists took advantage of it in the past and therefore we have no idea
what the cost to the council was or what the benefit to local shops was.

When I enquired what the expected cost of the current proposal is I was
told a budget provision of "up to £20k" had been allowed.

But clearly we don't know the cost which is worrying in itself and leads
me to believe that this is primarily a political gesture.

Now it is instructive to me that we hear and read far more about the
cost of parking than we do about the cost of public transport which of
course has been driven upwards by the misguided policies of the current

So, given that, as a council, Wirral is tasked with supporting local
business, reducing inequalities and improving our environment shouldn't
we be diverting scarce resources to help those people without private
transport access local shopping centres. It is worth remembering the
huge transport inequalities that prevail across Wirral. In Birkenhead
and Tranmere, 56% of households do not have access to a vehicle and are
therefore reliant on public transport.

So, if we are going to spend "up to £20k" on supporting local shops lets
do it in a joined up fashion that supports other key objectives. We
could use that money to reduce bus fares or increase frequency. Or we
could use it to expand 20 mph zones in our town centres and make them
more attractive places to visit. Or we could improve pedestrian/cyclist
infrastructure and achieve more long lasting benefits.

"Free after 3" is a political gesture of minuscule benefit to the local
economy. Unfortunately, it serves the interests of local politicians
more than local traders.