Dear America – Go out and vote Obama!

Imagine having a Government that cut too far too fast. Imagine having a Government that overlooks the human cost of a radical deficit reduction programme.

America, learn the lessons from what we are experiencing in the UK and vote Obama. His deficit reduction plan, which is three times slower than the right wing plan being implemented in the UK by the Tories and Liberal Democrats has minimised the impact on ordinary people. They have brought a double dip recession to the UK where as in America, Obama has delivered 32 straight months of growth and a better Health Care system for ordinary people.

Times are hard across the globe in this global economic crisis, but Obama’s plan is working – stick with it, stick with him, FOUR MORE YEARS!

Advertisements

Interesting Articles

I do tend to tweet a lot (follow @Krupesh4Brent!). Now and again, I retweet interesting articles I’ve read on the web. Here are the last 10 [politically relevant] articles I have linked;

  • Cuts will bleed Council reserves dry in 5 years says Senior Tory – LINK – Brent has traditionally had low levels of reserves. That it is why it is financially important that in an era of increased risks to Brent Council, we keep sufficient reserves to cover those risks.
  • Disability rights groups protest at DWP against Paralympics sponsor Atos – LINK – Atos is a French IT company that carry out Work Capability Assessments with disabled people. Unfortunately, the Labour Party is not innocent in all of this as we did as award the original contract to Atos, but pressure to attack benefits from the current Government has exacerbated things. The Coalition has gone even further by naming Atos as a main contractor for carrying assessments for disabled people’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) entitlement. PIP is the benefit that will replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  • Mark Ferguson on LabourList on a Lab / Lib Coalition being a non-starter – LINK
  • Save Central Middlesex Hospital’s A&E – LINK – The Brent Labour Party has provided campaign materials for people to join in on the campaign against the current proposal that will permanently close the A&E Department serving the most deprived part of the Borough.
  • Fleet Street Fox’s article on tax and cuts to disabled people – LINK
  • Lib Dem Peer says their Party should consider disposing Nick Clegg – LINK
  • Mark Steel on Atos – LINK
  • Retiring Andrew Strauss may bat for the Conservatives at the next election – LINK – after quitting cricket for good, the ex-England captain is being touted as a future Tory MP.
  • Welsh health survey: One in three take no exercise – LINK – This is an article related to Wales, but it is a trend I am very worried about. The positive effects of regular physical exercise are well documented.
  • Caught Yellow Handed – LINK – I was reminded last week about this document highlighting Lib Dem Hypocrisy through their actions in Parliament and their leaflets and campaign work in their constituencies. Brent Central Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather has a starring role.
ATOS PROTEST BY ECAP
ATOS PROTEST BY ECAP (Photo credit: Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty)

Guest Blogpost: Richard Lynch – No medal-winning performance from the coalition

During the past month, Britain’s sporting heroes in Team GB have taken on the world at the Olympic Games and, with performances which exceeded expectations, have delivered our biggest haul of medals for over 100 years. What a contrast with the other Team GB, the Conservative/LibDem coalition, which also promised success but has delivered a shrinking economy, increased unemployment and debt, poorer social provision and the biggest squeeze on the living standards of ordinary people in living memory!

When the coalition took office two years ago, it inherited an economy which had been hit hard by the worst global recession since the 1930s but was recovering and had been growing for five quarters. Instead of consolidating and encouraging that growth, however, it embarked on an unnecessary and unnecessarily savage austerity programme which choked off recovery, led to growth contracting over five of the following seven quarters and resulted in a return to recession.

Yet, when announcing his first budget after taking office, George Osborne said that if he didn’t introduce a harsh programme of tax increases and spending cuts, Britain would face:

‘Higher interest rates, more business failures, sharper rises in unemployment, and potentially even a catastrophic loss of confidence and the end of the recovery. We cannot let that happen. This budget is needed to deal with our country’s debts. This budget is needed to give confidence to the economy. This is an unavoidable budget.’

George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 20...
George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 2006 in Manchester. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bold words but what has been the outcome? Interest rates have remained low but, as Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, they have remained low in the USA and Japan as well, countries with higher debt levels which didn’t rush into austerity.

On the downside, however, business failures have continued, with almost 4,000 companies going under in the last quarter and retail insolvencies rising by 10.3%. Unemployment remains well above the level Osborne inherited in May 2010, over a million young people are out of work and underemployment has become a major problem with a record 1.42 million people working part time because they can’t find full-time employment. Business and consumer confidence has collapsed to levels not seen since the worst point of the original recession, we have the highest trade deficit in 15 years, national debt is rising and the economy has contracted in the last three quarters, driving us into a double dip recession for only the second time since the Second World War.

And there’s no good news on the horizon either: The Bank of England is predicting a 0.2% contraction in growth this year and probably five further years of economic pain. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research is prediction a 0.5% contraction and the IMF has stated that Britain’s economic outlook is now deteriorating faster than that of any other major economy.

When Britain was facing big economic problems in the 1970s, Dennis Healy said that the first thing to do when you found yourself in a hole was to stop digging. Another smart bloke (either Albert Einstein or Roy Keane, I can’t remember which) said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But Osborne remains adamant that he will not change course and that there is no Plan B for the economy. Such arrogance from a chancellor and cabinet which have clearly lost the plot is now coming under increasing attack, not only from unions and political opponents but from coalition politicians (one of whom called Osborne a ‘work experience chancellor’), from business organisations and leaders and from the general public. The majority of economists who backed the austerity programme during the 2010 general election are now calling on Osborne to change course. And the IMF, which also previously backed austerity, is now urging the chancellor to think again about cutting back and to focus on growth and on ‘boosting the bargaining power of labour’ to get more demand into the economy.

It’s not as if there is a shortage of good ideas about rebuilding confidence and demand and getting the economy back on its feet again.  For example, stopping or slowing down the public sector and benefit cutbacks (even if only temporarily) would help lower the rate of unemployment, keep people paying taxes and maintain demand in the economy. Borrowing, at our famously low interest rates, to rebuild our creaking infrastructure and to build houses for people to live in, would boost employment in construction and related industries and get people spending again. Putting money back in the hands of ordinary people by cutting VAT (even if only temporarily), ending the freeze on public sector pay and even introducing quantitative easing for people, by creating money to put in the hands of the most needy rather than in the coffers of the banks, would all boost demand and encourage spending.

Indeed PPI refunds by the banks, which totalled £4.8 billion up to May, have already done more to boost the economy than the coalition, because people who have had money refunded have gone out and spent it!

The Olympics showed us that we don’t have to accept mediocrity or assume that we cannot reach new heights. We may have the fight of our lives on our hands but, as the TUC’s Frances O’Grady said, if we keep people together, build confidence and give a sense of hope and vision that things don’t have to be like this, we can build a better world. We can help win that better world by defending our rights in our workplaces and communities. But we can also help win it by mobilising now for the TUC’s national demonstration for a future that works on 20 October. It’s time to stop agonising and start organising!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Liberals desert Barnhill

The Brent Liberal Democrats have failed to field a candidate for the Barnhill by-election on May 3rd 2012. Just two years ago at the local Brent Council elections in May 2010, the Lib Dems put up three candidates in Barnhill and they attracted a respectable 987, 903 and 799 votes for the three candidates there.

A number of questions arise on the mystery decision. Perhaps the Lib Dems are stepping aside to help out their Tory Coalition partners.

In addition, it has emerged that the Independent candidate, standing in the Barnhill by-election, stood for the Tories at the 2002 Brent Council elections in Queensbury Ward and according to this website, looks like he was involved with the Tories on a national scale as a Committee Member of the British Asian Conservative Link.

Labour’s candidate for the Brent Council by-election in Barnhill is Michael Pavey. Michael has considerable experience working in the employment sector in Brent, getting people into work.

The Osborne Effect

The LabourList website has an illustration of how [in]effective the Tory Liberal Government have been since inheriting a growing economy from Labour – LINK

Their policy of cutting too far too fast has had a negative impact on economic growth. As a result, this Tory Liberal Coalition Government has increased public debt in this country.

Guest Blog Post: Richard Lynch on the worst unemployment for 17 years

The announcement, earlier in the winter, that 80,000 people had applied for the 18,000 temporary Christmas jobs advertised by Royal Mail, showed how bad unemployment has become under the coalition – and the latest Labour Market Statistics have confirmed it. These showed, amongst other things, that there are now more people out of work than at any time since 1994, when John Major was Prime Minister, and that youth unemployment is now higher than at any time since the 1980s, when Thatcher was in power. And all the indications are that it is going to get worse.

According to the statistics (which mainly cover the quarter to end September 2011):

  • Overall unemployment increased by 129,000 to 2.62 million, or 8.3% of the economically active population, the highest figure for 17 years.
  • The number of people unemployed for over a year increased by 31,000 to 868,000 and the number unemployed for over two years increased by 13,000 to 422,000.
  • Unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds increased by 67,000 to 1.02 million, giving a youth unemployment rate of 21.9%. This is the highest youth unemployment has been since 1992 when current records began, but previous records suggest that the figures haven’t been this high since the mid 1980s.
  • The number of economically inactive people (not included in the unemployment statistics) increased by 64,000 to 9.36 million, or 23.3% of 16-64 year olds.
  • The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) increased by 5,300 to 1.6 million, giving a claimant count of 5%.
  • The number of job vacancies increased by 7,000 to 462,000, leaving 5.67 unemployed people chasing every vacancy. Haringey in north London (where the summer riots began) is the hardest place in Britain to find a job, with 22.6 dole claimants chasing every vacancy. Lewisham in south London is the second hardest place to find a job, with 21.9 claimants chasing every vacancy.

The coalition is blaming everybody but themselves for this disaster and is shedding bucket loads of crocodile tears for unemployed youth in particular. Their Work Experience Programme is supposed to help young people into work by providing unpaid work experience in supermarkets and other big businesses to young JSA claimants. However, it has recently emerged that anybody accepting an unpaid placement on this scheme will have to continue working for eight weeks, for their JSA payment only, unless they opt out of the programme in the first week. And if they do leave, they can have their Jobseeker’s Allowance cut. So much for slavery being abolished!

*Update: October’s statistics have been published since the above article was written. These show that unemployment has risen again, by 128,000 to 2.64 million.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blog Post: Richard Lynch on why we must have change in 2012

When David Cameron was giving his New Year message twelve months ago, he said that the coalition had pulled Britain out of the danger zone and had laid firm foundations for economic growth and for cutting the deficit. Yet it is now clear that the past year has been a disastrous one for the economy, with growth worse than Gordon Brown achieved when the country was emerging from recession and most economists predicting that a return to recession is likely in the first half of 2012. And as for the deficit, that is now higher than ever and will take longer to reduce than under the Alistair Darling plan which the coalition ridiculed at the time of the general election.

Promises to bear down on unemployment have also fallen flat with 2.64 million people now out of work and 5.67 unemployed people chasing every job vacancy. These are not only higher figures than applied at the worst point of the recession but the highest since 1994 when the Conservatives were last in power. And all the predictions are that there is worse to come, with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) expecting an increase to 2.85 million by the end of 2012 and Capital Economics expecting a rise to three million. And the coalition’s own Office for Budget Responsibility, which had predicted that public sector job losses would hit 400,000 by 2016, is now predicting 710,000 such losses by 2017.

Inflation has also been a huge failure for the coalition with the Retail Prices Index rising by 5% or more on 11 occasions in the first 11 months of 2011 (something which happened on only four occasions in the 13 years of the last Labour government). The Consumer Prices Index has not been quite as bad but has averaged 4.5% during the year and is now higher than the CPI in every other EU country, not to mention China, Japan and the USA. And rail fares have just risen by 5.9% on average, giving us the highest such fares in Europe.

Pay increases failed miserably to match inflation in 2011, with the gap between increases in average regular pay and the Retail Prices Index rising from 2.5% at the beginning of the year to 3.4% on the latest figures available. And, according to a recent CIPD survey, only 45% of workers got pay increases in 2011, with 48% having had their pay frozen and 5% having had it cut – worse figures than were ever seen during the recession.

Pensions have also been hit hard, and not only in the public sector (where two million people from 30 unions struck on 30 November – more than took action during the general strike). The Association of Consulting Actuaries recently said that there has been a ‘seismic collapse’ in private sector pension provision, with nine out of 10 private sector defined benefit schemes now closed to new entrants and 25% of companies planning to dispense with such schemes entirely in the next five years. According to other reports, employee participation in occupational pension funds is now at its lowest level since 1956 and 65% of employees have no such pensions and will only have the state pension to look forward to when they retire.

Because of the above and other factors, living standards have fallen sharply in the past year, with poorer families and those with children the worst affected. And all the indications are that this trend will continue, with the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicting that half a million more children will fall into ‘absolute poverty’ by 2015-16. This is not only reversing the fall in child poverty which we saw in recent years but indicates a level of impoverishment which has no precedent in modern times. And living standards are collapsing for older people as well, according to Age UK, with 1.8 million pensioners below the poverty line and local authority care services for the elderly cut by 4.5% in 2011.

While this is happening, the poor are being fleeced by pay-day loan companies like Wonga which can charge interest rates of up to 5,000% a year and by companies running ‘rent to own’ schemes which allow the poor access to cookers, washing machines and other necessities, but at outrageous prices. Pawnbrokers have also been doing a booming business and are making record profits from those who find themselves having to use their services.

The coalition says that all this austerity is inevitable because we have been living beyond our means and that we all have to make sacrifices before we can get back to the good times. Yet Britain is still one of the richest countries in the world (seventh richest according to the most recent assessment) and is awash with millionaires, multi millionaires, billionaires and cash-rich corporations for whom the good times have never disappeared.

These include corporate executives like Mick Davis of Xstrata, who made £18.4 million last year, Bart Brecht of Reckitt Benckiser, who made £17.9 million, Michael Spencer of ICAP, who made £13.4 million and Terry Leahy of Tesco, who made £12 million.

They also include Phil Bentley, CEO of British Gas, whose remuneration package was £4 million last year and Dave Hartnett, the HMRC head who agreed to let Goldman Sachs off interest payments of £10 million, who will be retiring this year with a reported £80,000 a year pension and a cash lump sum of £160,000.  And F1 Chief Bernie Ecclestone has been so untouched by the hard times that he has been able to put £3 billion in a trust fund for his two daughters and reportedly gave £27.5 million to a banker to encourage him not to disclose information about that fund to HMRC. (His daughter Petra lives in a £54 million mansion in LA and had £12 million spent on her wedding. His daughter Tamara lives in a £45 million London mansion which has a spa and massage parlour for her dogs, as well as other features.)

It is because of people like these that income inequality is rising faster in the UK than in any other developed nation, as the OECD recently pointed out in a report called Divided we stand: why inequality keeps rising. That report said that the richest 0.1% of people in the UK own 5% of the country’s wealth, the richest 1% own 14%, and the poorest 30% of people own only 3%. Yet it is the poorest who are affected most by the coalition’s austerity programme!

In his 2012 New Year statement, David Cameron said that he ‘gets it’ when people tell him they are suffering because of job insecurity and rising prices – and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ‘feels their pain’ as well. But what he doesn’t get is that it is his austerity programme which is destroying the economy, because people who have lost their jobs are not paying taxes to bring down the deficit and people whose living standards are being squeezed are not able to spend on the goods and services which other people are providing; consequently, economic growth is being choked off.

And what some of us are not getting is that there is an alternative to these attacks on our jobs, living standards, the welfare state and our rights at work and that we can turn them back if we stop believing the lies we are being fed and join the growing resistance to coalition and employer austerity policies at work and in our communities in 2012. Let’s do it!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Youth unemployment rates are painful

Over a million young people out of work under the Tory Liberals! I am shocked to read that since January there has been an 83 per cent rise in young people on the dole for six months or more (Source: Labour Party).

On the doorstep, young people in Dudden Hill are angry with the lack of opportunities that are available to them to gain an in into the labour market. They are ready willing and able but the Government’s austerity measures and lack of investment has cut off opportunities.

It hurts that we have a Government that believes unemployment is a price worth paying. There is an alternative to cut slower, which would recognise the human cost of the cuts.

I have blogged here about the Labour 5 point plan for jobs LINK.

The importance of the Future Jobs Fund which was introduced by Gordon Brown – later to be scrapped by Clegg, Teather, Cameron and co – should not be underestimated. What it meant that was while it may have been the case that there are not enough jobs, or enough growth in our economy to get young people into jobs, what the fund did was give opportunities to young people to be job ready and gain practical experience. This is far more valuable to our economy, the taxpayer and the individual and their family than for paying to keep them on the dole.

Tory Liberal millionaire ministers who enjoyed free University education at Oxbridge University, only later to come into power and impose tuition fees of a maximum £9k a year on young people today, have failed to understand the needs of the 16 to 24 age group.

Along with economic policy change, we also need fundamental political change. The Government should also lower the voting age to 16. If people were able to vote at 16, then maybe the voice of young people would be listened to more.

Free Fireworks display – Saturday 5th November at 6pm to 10pm in Barham Park

Following Lib Dem and Tory cuts to Brent Council, there will not be a Diwali parade along Ealing Road like there was last year. However, there will be a free fireworks display at Barham Park to celebrate fireworks night and Diwali on Saturday 5th November from 6pm to 10pm. The Funfair at the park will start at 6pm with fireworks at 8.30 pm with lasers. The event is scheduled to close at 10pm.

Visitors are advised not to drive to the event as it is on a Wembley Stadium Event day and therefore parking is restricted in the area and if you park without a permit, your car may be towed.

You can use the following bus routes to get to the event: 18,92, 182, 204, 245. The actual address for the Park is, Barham Park, Sudbury HA0 2HB.

If the event cannot go ahead on 5th November because of bad weather,  it will be postponed to Sunday 6 November 2011.

The ultimate Nick Clegg U-Turn

Much has been made on Nick Clegg’s U-Turn after breaking the Lib Dem pledge not to increase tuition fees. Here is a video where Nick Clegg says that he would never join a Conservative Government.