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How to encourage growth

with 6 comments

Better cuts and more Keynesian spending programmes says Iain Malcolm

Following this post I posed the following questions to a number of our South Tyneside politicians of ALL parties, including the new “South Tyneside First” group of councillors, I also asked for opinions from some of our local businessmen and nationally recognised prominent bloggers and commentators:

If you were in a position to be advising the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, what would you be telling them about efforts to achieve deficit reduction and balance the budget?

How would you advise them to promote growth in the British economy to increase Treasury revenues?

What steps would you advise taking to help our local authority in South Tyneside promote the right conditions for job creation and improve consumer demand locally?

Sadly, some haven’t even bothered to engage or contribute to the discussion, one decided he could only contribute if I gave him space to openly criticise officers of South Tyneside Council (which was not within the remit of the discussion because officers do not decide upon policies), another said he would contribute but failed to do so. The ONLY local politician who took the time to send some carefully considered comments was Labour’s leader in South Tyneside Cllr. Iain Malcolm, who told me this:

The deficit, caused by the greed of the bankers not the last Labour Government’s spending on infrastructure,  needs to be reduced. However the Tory-led Government are using the deficit as an excuse for making deeply ideological cuts in public expenditure. The Government should be clawing back the unpaid tax by multi-national corporations and taking a leaf out of local government for ways of streamlining their civil service budgets. The Prime Minister has admitted that Councils are the most efficient part of the public sector, so send in the Local Government Association to review Whitehall expenditure with a aim to making drastic savings in their budgets.

But we also need growth in the economy and that means Government spending on economic infrastructure projects, I would rather pay people to work and receive their taxes than pay them for being unemployed. The Chancellor himself is starting to realise his austerity plans are not working and the deficit will need to be reduced over a longer period of time.

The greed of the banks nearly led to a total collapse of the economic system, if Gordon Brown had not stepped in (where other world leaders failed to lead) and reassured the public that their savings, pensions and homes were safe, we would have been in a far grave state than we are today. There would have been public panic (as witnessed over Northern  Rock) on an unprecedented scale with possible social disorder.  Whatever else one feels about our former Prime Minister remember it was his bold leadership that prevented a complete melt-down.

Finally, there needs to be greater regulation of the banking system – the light touch of the former Government (supported by the Conservatives at the time) clearly didn’t work.

It’s a fairly straight down the middle “follow the party line” sort of statement, but it does not show any real vision or initiatives to help the local economy in South Tyneside return to growth. there is no commitment. for example, to retain zero growth in Council Tax rises which would help maintain the little spending power that consumers have right now, and spending power is what lights the blue touch paper of economic growth.

However I’m very grateful and thank him for his participation.

In the table below are the combined thoughts and initiatives of the independents, Conservatives, UKIP, bloggers, and business people.

South Tyneside Opposition ideas for growth

Not very encouraging is it?

Perhaps this is one part of the explanation as to why we have such a heavily Labour dominated council here.

Update 1

This is from UKIP Cllr. David Potts

It never fails to amaze me that Labour politicians have the sheer nerve to blame the financial sector for the global economic situation. Coun Malcolm states that the crisis has been “caused by the greed of the bankers”. This is a pathetic throw-away comment backed up with zero evidence, and Coun Malcolm is intelligent enough to know this. Gordon Brown sold UK Gold reserves in the $200-300/oz range. Today, it is trading at $1600/oz. The Labour Government spent money like a drunken sailor, and the mantra that they “didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining” could not be more accurate.

It really annoys me when governments blame the financial sector for operating within the regulatory boundaries that THEY create in the first place.

However, we must move away from national and global issues and focus upon what matters to us as councillors; South Tyneside. The highly respected think tank, IPPR North has warned that the South Tyneside jobless rate is set to skyrocket, particularly among our young people. It is deeply concerning that Coun Malcolm and his £170’000PA Chief Exec, Martin Swales publically comment that it is nothing to do with them and it is ‘all the evil Tory Government’s fault’. That is nonsense. II speak to local business people regularly. I know one energy broker who offered to save the council hundreds of thousands of pounds by switching their suppliers. His exact words were “I tried, but it was pointless, it’s a closed shop”. There is an active movement among the business community in South Tyneside to push ahead an agenda of progress and growth through directly influencing Council policy via peaceful protest and diplomatic pressure.

Now would councillor Malcolm like to tell us how many local firms are involved in the building of our new swimming pool complex? Would he also like to explain why suppliers of materials to South Tyneside Homes were based hundreds of miles away down South?

Look after the people of your Borough first.

Coun Malcolm and Mr Swales take people for fools and playing on this nonsense assertion that they are socialists. If they are socialists, I’m a Dutchman.

Update 2

This from George Smith, President of South Shields Conservative Association.

I asked our Campaign Director (Dorothy) for a brief, but they “don’t do Blogs”.
Sorry about this, according to the Levenson inquiry they do Twitter, a bit too much for me.

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It’s party time!

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What is beneath the gloss?

So now that the Diamond Jubilee parties are over and we bask a little longer in the glow, the next party is upon us from tomorrow in the shape of a footballing feast known as the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Another few weeks of supermarket prodding will have us overfilled with lager, beer, and frozen pizzas, our homes and cars will be draped with the flag of St. George, the “red tops” will exhort the England football team to glories well beyond their reach (they have only ONCE reached the semi final of this tournament), the new flatscreen TVs will be overheating, and when it all ends……….well there are the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to in London, along with commercially sponsored torch bearers. One only hopes that South Tyneside Council is NOT tempted to mount the giant screen in the park again, I fear the demand will not be there to sit and watch in a South Shields park!

Of course our politicians will probably be a little more sanguine than myself, especially having invested so heavily in the London Olympics, and I confess most of the Olympian sports hold little interest for me even though there will be some football in Newcastle, but for others this will indeed be a veritable feast of summer sports with Wimbledon and Test Match cricket thrown into the mix. David Cameron and News International will be hoping to share the glory of English and British sportsmen and women as the medal count increases the “feel good” factor and the national index of good cheer. Parliament will be enjoying its long summer break with only the Leveson inquiry interrupting the good news, yet quietly gurgling away beneath the veneer of good cheer and “gloss” will be ……………………the economy.

Let’s not forget, that this is the main event!

After two years of a Conservative led coalition government the track record is not that impressive, the deficit continues to grow (albeit at a slower pace), the national debt is still woefully out of control, borrowing is still at record levels and getting higher, public expenditure is higher now than in the last years of Brown’s disastrous administration, so much for the cuts eh? The slight saving grace is that unemployment has not yet broken past levels which might lead to the sort of civil unrest witnessed in Greece. The Eurozone crisis refuses to go away, banks still appear to need recapitalisng (again) and none of the major European players seem willing to take the bull by the horns and dismantle the single currency. All the while the pan European policy appears to be one of further austerity, less public spending, and increasing taxation, as near every nation in the EU other than Germany slumbers along on virtually zero growth.

Growth? Did I mention growth?

Ah yes, who has the secret elixir which will put more money into the hands of consumers or savers? It is they alone who can provide the demand and stimulus that economies need, and any person in South Tyneside who tells you that they couldn’t use a few extra quid a month is madly deluded. Banks rely on savers to swell deposits, greater deposits create more capital, more capital creates greater liquidity which normally leads to easier lending and investment, yet the current economic cycle has brought us interest rates which creep closer to zero and discourage any saving at all. Similarly current personal and indirect taxation levels do nothing at all to inspire consumer confidence and help us to prioritise our spending on essentials such as mortgages and rents, fuel, and keeping our older cars on the road for even longer. It is almost a pan European deflationary cycle. Our own government is caught up in the very same frame of mind as Labour’s outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling who was equally determined to reduce the deficit whilst raising taxes and sending out hopeful signals on government expenditure. Neither Labour nor the current coalition appears to have had a “plan B” that might have included some major initiatives to promote economic growth and rekindle consumer demand.

So, sadly, whilst we are in the summer party of love mood we have to remind the politicians that “it’s the economy stupid”, and with that in mind I’ve asked some of our prominent politicians in South Tyneside, along with some business people and other bloggers for their ideas on what we need to do to get our local and national economy on the move. Of course your own ideas are very welcome too.

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Inflation busting pay rises are bad politics

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20% rise for South Tyneside cabinet members described as “slight”

OK, so the full amount in the pot has not changed, but this comment by Cllr. Iain Malcolm the Leader of South Tyneside Council is simply flabbergasting:

Because cabinet members are now expected to attend more meetings, their allowance rises slightly.

Slightly?

In these days where the average lucky employed person has to settle for a rise of 2% or less, and shareholders are at last rebelling against corporate pay rises as large as 4.8%, this award seems designed to cause an uproar with news being revealed just days after a strong election victory.  This is simply bad politics, a faux pas on the level displayed by the coalition government on almost a daily basis.

How on earth Cllr. Malcolm believes this will sit comfortably with the people of South Shields and Jarrow is beyond me, the independent panel appears to have taken some money from the leader of the (heavily defeated) opposition and doled it out to Labour’s favourite sons, I guess they are hoping that this will all be forgotten about over the next two years – the next time any councillors face an election around here.

I will forgive these cabinet members for accepting this grotesque increase in special responsibility allowance only if they can maintain their financial stewardship and deliver NO council tax increases before the next local government election, that will be fair payment for results don’t you think?

 

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Written by curly

May 13, 2012 at 11:13 am

South Tyneside goes to the polls today

with 10 comments

Local Elections predictions

Along with hundreds of othesr in England and Wales many of our councillors in South Tyneside are facing the voters at the ballot box today. The results expected around midnight will be based largely on Labour’s stewardship of our local economy and its efforts to stay within government spending guidelines in order to keep council taxes frozen, they will also be coloured a little by national political trends which don’t auger well for the two constituent parties of the coalition government.

With only one Conservative councillor, and no Liberal Democratic councillors, after the decision of Joe Abbott to stand as an independent, we shouldn’t expect any miraculous results from the coalition partners around here, but I am predicting that Jeff Milburn will hold his seat in Cleadon Village and East Boldon for the Conservatives, unfortunately for Joe Abbott I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that he may well lose in Hebburn North. The rest of my predictions will not come as any major surprise, I see a victorious night for the Labour Party as the votes are counted in South Shields and Jarrow, the opposition is in for a tough old time! I’m predicting a battering, a hammering, with the Independent Alliance and Progressives almost wiped off the map.

  • Beacon and Bents – All eyes will be on this result which could be very close to call, but I’m predicting a Labour win for former Mayor John Anglin .
  • Bede – Labour hold
  • Biddick and All Saints – Labour hold
  • Boldon Colliery – Labour hold
  • Cleadon and East Boldon – Conservative hold
  • Cleadon Park – Labour hold
  • Fellgate and Hedworth – Labour win from Independent Alliance
  • Harton – Labour win from Progessive
  • Hebburn North – Labour win from Lib/Dem
  • Hebburn South – Labour hold.
  • Horsley Hill – another one very close to call, Labour win from Independent Alliance
  • Monkton – Independent Alliance hold
  • Primrose – Labour hold
  • Simonside and Rekendyke – Labour to hold two seats following the death of Joan Meeks
  • West Park – Labour win from Progressive
  • Westoe – Labour win from Independent Alliance (no Branley effect this year)
  • Whitburn and Marsden – Labour hold
  • Whiteleas – Independent hold, but it could be very tight.

Well, they are my predictions, which would see the Independent Alliance, the Progressives, Lib-Dems, UKIP, and Conservatives fighting to fill the area of an average park bench, if you disagree then please say why.

Remember, you have no right at all to complain about things if you do not take part and use your vote, a map of polling stations is available here, and the full list of candidates is available here.

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All in it together

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Brown bookOf course they are!

“We are all in this together”  may have been the most prophetic words uttered by Conservative Leader David Cameron following the post crash demise of the last Labour government, leaving an economy in tatters and the whole of Europe drowning in debt after the sage advice of Brown and Obama to governments and central banks to borrow more and print more money to keep the world floating happily along towards oblivion. Cameron’s words were meant to galvanise public opinion as we entered an age of austerity to tackle the worldwide mountains of debt and return the UK to a “balanced budget” after the profligacy of the Brown/Blair years, yet after two budgets from the coalition government the achievment of that aim does not seem to be approaching with any speed.

We had just gone through a Parliament awash with excess, the MPs expenses scandal had left a very nasty taste in the mouth and the reforms put in place have not done an awful lot to assuage public anger and resentment at what politicians are perceived to be doing with their time and our money, the News International phone hacking revelations and the subsequent Leveson inquiry will probably also confirm the public’s suspicions that our politicians are easy to influence and are seen to be far too close to some journalists and newspaper proprietors for the sake of good honest and open public governance.

Having taken what they think is statesmanlike stances during their years in office it may seem unedifying to some that former holders of great office now hawk themselves around on the world’s stage making an absolute fortune and banking their income not in a personal account, but into the account of a privately owned company specifically set up to reduce their liability to pay the full rate of UK tax. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and South Shields MP David Miliband all operate such companies and manage to reduce their tax liabilities by sums that some of us may never manage to earn in a year. Don’t get me wrong, we should all praise success, but if we are all in this together we should all be paying our fair share of taxes.

This “being in it together” though, is now becoming a catch phrase of the left, perhaps Cameron may regret having uttered those words in the first place, there are many who would just love to push them back down his throat, and if they have a reasoned cogent argument then why not? Trouble is, some are none too careful about republishing these words, take for example the septuagenarian Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart, invited by David Miliband to deliver one of his South Shields lectures:

“I have nothing but contempt for the expression ‘we’re all in this together.

That’s bullshit – we’re not all in this together,”

“The members of the cabinet are not in the same position as the people who live near me in Bermondsey. What we have seen is not so much a response to a global crisis but Tory policies as usual, masquerading under the claim of necessity.”

Putting aside the fallibility of memory, Stewart seems to miss the response to the UK crisis as well as missing the point on worldwide debt reduction, it does not look or sound so good bleating about the phrase “we are in this together” when one has resided in such luxurious surroundings as these in California:
Patrick Stewarts Californian residence

Picture via Guido Fawkes

The lofty left certainly do not so sound so chummy and down to earth when their wealth is revealed, the folks of Queensferry, Westoe, Trimdon, or Bermondsey must be choking with contempt at any politician/actor (hard to tell the difference with Tony Blair) talking about “being in it together”.

Beam me up Scotty, I want to be in it together with you 🙂

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Have I missed out on a tax reduction?

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Labour’s Iain Malcolm in odd statement

Cllr. Iain Malcolm, Labour’s Leader of South Tyneside District council is quoted today as saying:

“We have been able to reduce council tax year on year since I become leader.”

Has a year been missed out of my life? Have I been in a state of cryogenic suspended animation on another planet? Did they deliberately miss me out?

I have lived in South Shields all of my life, and as far as I can recall during the history of paying council tax on South Tyneside my bill has only ever gone up (or last year stayed the same thanks to the Coalition government), can someone please tell me which year during Iain Malcolm’s leadership that it was reduced?

Every time that South Tyneside Council had a “consultation exercise” on its website about council taxes I was offered a choice of four different levels of increases, never once was I offered the choice of a freeze or a reduction.

Has the “dear Leader” been terribly misquoted or has he become temporarily deluded into thinking he has become a tax cutting Tory after successfully squeezing the council’s budget?

 

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Written by curly

January 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Moral duties

with 9 comments

eric picklesPickles: councils have a “moral duty” to freeze council taxes.

I guess it is seen as good politics to embarrass those council leaders who are turning down the opportunity of a central grant which will enable them to freeze council tax for a second year, I for one, along with thousands of others in South Tyneside, have welcomed this much needed relief. The big question remains, how will councils behave when the scheme comes to an end, and how will they see their “moral duties” when the central cash handouts are curtailed even more severely? I like his idea of proposing a referendum be held before councils can increase council tax by more than 3.5%, a far better form of consultation than that offered regularly by South Tyneside Council in previous years where we have been offered the option of voting for a range of increases, but never been given the option of a freeze or a reduction.

Local councils in England and Wales have had all sorts of additional moral responsibilities thrust upon them by a multitude of governments over the years, and in many respects are now no more than agencies for central government policing statutes and applying regulatory duties, and in some other respects have had to carry the burden of responsibilities once carried by individuals and families. In areas of social care for the young,  the weak, the vulnerable, and the elderly across all walks of life your local council is often doing the job that families used to do, the state has been forced by social change and social mobility to look after people from the cradle to the grave. Be it home care, residential care, leisure services, play schemes, nursery education, youth involvement, day care services, transport for the elderly etc. etc. your local council is doing what your grandparents would see as their own “moral duties” to look after their own family.

As we move further into the time and areas of austerity, which so far in South Tyneside and other areas has NOT been met by howls of protest, demonstrations, or riots in the streets, I wonder just how many of us may cast our minds towards our own areas of “moral duty” and start thinking again about what we can do for our families without having to resort to an arm of the state to undertake the task for us. Whilst the housing market will remain depressed for some time, I wonder if we may see households making huge sacrifices such as forsaking some comforts to bring in an elderly relative to provide care for them in a family environment? I wonder if we may eventually lose the desire to palm off some of our own responsibilities for our own children and youth to the local council as we realise that in tough times our councils may no longer be held responsible for their care or entertainment?

Some may view this as a regressive step, but surely a realignment of moral duties and social responsibility may lead to more rather than less social cohesion as the strength of the nuclear family increases, and allow local councils to concentrate on core demands such as education, housing, planning, waste management, and roads. If central government could manage to reduce the load of “moral duties” attributable to local councils then a reduction in local government spending could become more comfortable for households to accept, so long as we all know that we have our own moral responsibilities and duties to perform. We should all take a leaf out of the book of life of South Tyneside’s leaders, and keep our mothers firmly by our side!

Pickles apparently is a believer in localism and devolving more power and responsibility to householders must surely be one of his aims if local government is to become leaner and fitter for purpose. Alternatively you may believe the man is a fool who talks out of the top of his hat, and that his stance is completely at odds with hundreds of local councils who will revert to huge council tax rises as soon as central government brings the current “freeze” to an end.

Pickles at least is having some success in reducing the expenditure of his own department, the use of tax payer funded credit cards by his civil servants wining and dining at the best restaurants and hotels has been wickedly curtailed as Sir Humphrey and friends are now to be found visiting their local MacDonalds for lunch:

“Quarter pounder with fries to go please – and NO Pickles with that!”

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Written by curly

January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am