Category Archives: Political

Why is public money being doled out to politicians in Lichfield?

This week, Lichfield District Council’s cabinet approved a pilot to hand £14,100 of public money to councillors to dish out at their discretion with a scintilla of oversight that leaves the scheme wide open to abuse, in a step that seems to be a solution without a problem.

In the report to cabinet, a lack of access to funding for smaller groups and initiatives is given as to why this extra program is needed.

Some of these groups are not eligible for most funding because they are not charities or constituted organisations.

It’s true that funds often ask for things like constitutions but that’s for good reason – accountability. This is public money and needs to be accounted for so that we know it’s not being wasted or used corruptly. It may sound onerous but my personal experience is that sometimes it’s as simple as a document that minutes a meeting of the group of people involved agreeing what they are going to do.

If Lichfield District Council has identified that groups aren’t able to access funding, perhaps they can help those groups get access to organisations like Support Staffordshire who are brilliant at helping every day people trying to do good to access funding and deal with whatever bureaucracy is there to protect the public purse.

There are many local funds where the requirements aren’t even very onerous. We Love Lichfield, Swinfen Broun, Conduit Lands to name a few. Even Lichfield District Council’s own recently launched community lottery proudly states that good causes can apply for “free and the application process will only take a minute”.

That said, the report contradicts itself a little later on…

funding awarded would be paid into a bank account in the name of the group

Have you ever tried to open a bank account for an organisation? Doing so without a constitution is pretty hard. In fact, I’d be surprised if it’s even possible. So how do they suppose that groups that can’t access funding because they don’t have a constitution are going to have a bank account without having a constitution?

That’s where it gets even more dodgy…

Funding can be awarded directly to individuals at the Members discretion.

A fund distributed entirely at the discretion of individual councillors, each with their own political associations, biases and motivations, can also be distributed into the personal bank accounts of individuals with no formal checks.

This is touted as a positive by the report, as if handing money to politicians to dish out to individuals at will with zero checks and balances is a good thing!

Where’s the accountability? Oh right…

Councillors will be required to sign a declaration stating that, as far as they are aware, the funding will be used for the benefit of the local community

Which really amounts to councillors being able to just say “yeah, this is fine, trust me” and we’re expected to just nod and accept their word. Forgive me if I don’t trust some of the councillors who tried to shut a much-needed community asset down not so long ago.

Elected members are often well placed to identify local needs and are in touch with grass root organisations operating in their ward.

Sometimes, yes. In fact some councillors already give their personal allowance away in donations to local groups and are very in tune with their ward. Depressingly often though elected members are merely making up the numbers for the party they represent, not because it’s their area. Like a councillor living in Alrewas (IIRC) apparently able to represent Burntwood. Again, we’re asked to trust that these councillors actually have the best interests of their ward at heart but we unfortunately have far too many reasons to distrust.

As the scheme will be managed and administered by members the costs would be minimal.

True, and the money is already allocated to good causes, so it’s not like it’s being diverted from elsewhere. The real cost is in the risk of abuse with a system so wide open to it. In the hands of individual elected members it has potential to become an electioneering tool with members funding projects as they get close to an election in an attempt to bolster support, granting them an unfair advantage. Unless you think that would never happen?

Members would make declarations about the use of funding, which would be in the public domain ensuring awards are transparent.

Which sounds fine until you consider that councillors have had to be reminded of their basic duty to declare interests and it wasn’t so long ago that one of the current Cabinet members was found to have failed to declare something as obvious as a company directorship. The council’s record on holding councillors accountable isn’t great either, having previously held secret meetings to deal with claims of undeclared conflicts of interest.

Here’s what the report says about evaluating this “pilot”:

The pilot will be evaluated against the overall purpose of the scheme. The extent to which it has supported grass roots groups in local communities not eligible for funding from other funding sources. It’s effectiveness in enabling local community groups and individuals to set up and deliver and expand their community activities.

What does that mean? Where are the goals? Where are the measurables? Where are the real, tangible outcomes, that can give the public confidence their money is being used for good versus the already well-established and accountable community grants system (already cut to the bone in the last 11 years, by the way)?

This whole scheme, while small in the grand financial scheme of things, is ill-thought through even if well intentioned and feels like a solution in search of a problem that could erode trust in local politics while depriving deserving groups of much-needed funds. Lichfield District Council’s cabinet should think again.

I voted.

There not being a Something New candidate for Lichfield (maybe next time) I voted for;

  • Proper funding of the NHS,
  • An end to pay freezes for nurses and doctors and other public sector staff who make our country function,
  • The school that my son will attend in September to have more money, not fewer teachers, materials and educational trips,
  • My Mom to be allowed to leave her house (our family home for over forty years) to me and my sisters as she wishes, rather than it being taken by the government,
  • My Mom’s pension to be protected so she can enjoy her well-earned retirement,
  • My children, nieces and nephews to be given the chance of a good education – regardless of their parents’ wealth – so that they can become the highly skilled workers of the future this country needs,
  • Those I know on low wages to have the dignity of a real living wage, not the pittance of a minimum wage that doesn’t cover the cost of decent living standards,
  • A country I can be proud of, that doesn’t blindly engage in military intervention in other countries causing instability and fuelling terrorism,
  • A leader who has the basic humanity to reject the concept of knowingly and deliberately ordering the death of millions of innocent civilians,
  • Investment in our essential national infrastructure like rail, energy and communications,
  • An end to public money – OUR MONEY – being siphoned off into the back pockets of the billionaires who own our national infrastructure,
  • A government that uses immigration sensibly to meet the needs of our economy, not sets unachievable arbitrary targets to appease xenophobes.

I voted unselfishly.

I voted for the many.

I voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Thoughts on “equal” taxation, LTV, deficits and stable economies

Today I replied to a friend on Facebook who takes issue with Labour’s proposals to increase income tax, and he mentioned a few points which I wanted to take the time to respond to with more independent voices on those topics. I thought it worth sharing:

I won’t try to change your mind, only plead with you to make sure your vote is as informed as it can be by people outside the political parties who are obviously biased. To that end, let me share a few things with you about specific bits you’ve mentioned.

An “equal” tax, while it sounds good (I used to think so too!), actually creates INequality. Flat taxes are also not simpler, and are designed to demolish the state – a flat tax would destroy the NHS overnight for starters, and probably a lot more because the state would have a LOT (£bns) less income. See economist Richard Murphy on flat taxes and if you’re bored enough, his report on flat taxes.

I’m glad you agree Labour’s spending commitments are needed (so do 129 economists!) and with government services, like any other services, you get what you pay for. Lower tax will always mean fewer or poorer quality public services. You only have to look at the fact austerity has given us fewer police officers, less school funding, and an NHS crisis to confirm this is the case.

On the Land Value Tax, that’s actually a very sensible change (e.g. supported by the Institute for Fiscal Studies). You personally would probably end up paying less than you pay in council tax. Have a read of Full Fact on that one. There was a lot of scaremongering about LTV, most of which was nonsense, and besides the Tories would probably want to introduce something like it anyway.

As for the deficit, the first thing is to recognise is that the state is NOTHING like a household. In fact, sometimes a deficit is absolutely essential to a well-functioning economy. As for a sustainable economy, wages are falling and inflation has been rising for two years, which means people are less able to spend which takes money out of the economy, making it harder for businesses to succeed. If we judge them by their record, as Amber Rudd asked us to, they are not going a great job.

I don’t expect you to read all those 😀 but please please don’t just accept whatever the political party press releases and platitudes say. On a personal note, I’ve always benefited personally (in a financial sense) from Tory governments but I consider it my responsibility to vote for what’s best for everyone, not just me, and I could never countenance voting for them while they are cutting thousands of pounds from the school my son will go to.

13th

Shortly after the US Presidential Election and Trump’s victory there, I watched 13th – a documentary about the US Justice system.

The film explores the history of incarceration in the US and suggests mass incarceration grew out of slavery and became a huge business profiting from the system’s inherent racism and the slave labour of prisoners.

It’s definitely an interesting watch, I’d suggest checking it out.

Make Royals Pay

When we’re told there isn’t money available for the most vulnerable, for our schools, for our hospitals, for our essential local services, spending £369m of *OUR* money to renovate the home of an unelected, unaccountable, obscenely wealthy family is not only an insult it’s an overt affront to the principle of equality that one family, by only their birth, should be given such fantastical special treatment over people who are in real, actual need.

Sign the petition to make the royals pay now.

Join Republic and demand an end to the injustice the monarchy represents.

Sorry, you were born in the wrong place

Dear EU citizen,
Thanks for your interest in the UK as your home and place of work.

We have reviewed your application and unfortunately it appears that you were born on the wrong bit of the earth.

You see, we (‘humanity’) have, over the years, divided up the various bits of mud, grass, forests and mountains and declared it to be ours. An awful lot of effort has gone into making sure that our bits of land remain our bits of land, and we’ve also put a lot of effort into trying to get more bits of land.

As it happens, us Brits (that’s what we call people who happen to have been born on this bit of the earth we decided to call “Britain” and declare ours) used to claim quite a lot of the earth as ours. We don’t have as much now, so we’re a bit protective about what’s left.

Rather foolishly your parents decided to give birth to you on a bit of land that we hadn’t claimed was ours. So you can’t come to our bit of land. A short holiday would be fine, but you’ll have to go back. You can’t stay.

If you’d been born on our bit of land you’d be one of us, do it be fine. But you weren’t, so it’s not.

Please stay on your own bit of land.

Yours,

Britain.

I might join the Conservative Party and vote for Gove

Well, I already joined the Labour Party because of Corbyn, I might as well complete the set.

But also, as much as I despise Gove, Theresa May will be the absolutely worst option for Prime Minister. She has consistently attempted to undermine our fundamental human rights. She is capable, determined and commands the respect of her peers.

She may well succeed at pulling us out of the European Court of Human Rights and lumping us with both a “British Bill of Rights” and the “Snooper’s Charter”.

Gove on the other hand is in no position to be leading his party nor the country. Even he knows that! My word, the man actually said in his speech announcing his candidacy that he doesn’t want the job. Moron.

Clearly, if he became Prime Minister he’d fuck it up so spectacularly that the Tories would get ripped to pieces. If they didn’t rip themselves to pieces first…

That’s got to be a good thing to spend a few quid on.

So that is why I’m considering joining the Conservative Party to vote for Michael Gove. That, and I put a small bet on him for shits ‘n’ giggles.

Image credit: gove-pob by Little Pixel

Human Rights mean nothing to Tories – Brexit will give them free reign

We already know that this Tory government continues to actively work with Saudi Arabia despite their repeated violations of human rights.

This morning we learn that the Tories helped lobby the UN to “whitewash” Bahrain police abuses.

They’ve already made it clear they want to scrap the European Convention on Human Rights, too.

Clearly while supporting countries who abuse the basic rights of citizens the Tories are wishing they could get away with the same.

Leaving the EU will help then achieve that.

Leaving the EU will make it easier for the Tories to erode workers rights, increase detention without charge, exert more control over the judiciary without worrying about decisions being challenged in Europe and continue to push those unfit to work to suicide.

Don’t fall for the divisive neo-liberal rhetoric of the Tories and their friends in UKIP. Fight for human rights, vote to stay in the EU.

“If Corbyn wins I’ll join the Labour Party”

That was one snippet of a conversation I overheard today about the Labour leadership contest.

Two women – one middle aged, one slightly older – were discussing the leadership contest on the next table. After talking about the change in attitude that Corbyn is bringing to Labour, one commented “if you keep on doing what you’ve always been doing…”

It’s a good point. Labour have lost two elections. All of the candidates except Corbyn offer more of the same election loosing attitude and policies. The same refusal to challenge Conservative lies over the cause of the financial crisis. The same inability to challenge austerity and it’s devestating impact on society’s most needy.

If Corbyn is elected as Labour leader, I’ll do the same. I’ll join a Labour Party led by a proper socialist.