Refuse to be complicit in austerity and council budget cuts

I just sent the message below to all of my council representatives. Feel free to use it as a model for your own emails.

Dear ____

I am writing to you as one of my representatives to object in the strongest possible terms to Edinburgh Council’s cynical budget cuts consultation exercise.(https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget).

    • I consider that if I participated I would become complicit in imposing further hardship on the poorest and most vulnerable in society who most rely on council services.
Owen Jones on tax avoidance

The wealthiest typically contribute proportionally less than others to the common good and have also benefited hugely from the neoliberal policies of recent years. This must cease. They should fund council budget shortfalls.

  • Instead,I call on you, as one of my elected representatives, to present us with alternative ways of raising funds from the wealthiest in society – those who have benefited greatly from neoliberal policies in recent decades. Examples would include raising council tax for properties in the highest ratings band, imposing a land-value tax, raising income tax on the wealthiest and imposing a tourism tax.
  • Where powers to make such changes do not lie with the local authority, you should demand that the Scottish Government enact the necessary legislation.
  • Where the Scottish Government lacks the necessary power, it should demand that Westminster enact the appropriate legislation.
  • I maintain that simply to accept the necessity of cuts at any level is to be complicit in them, and therefore I call on you to resign rather than participate in making the poor pay, yet again, for the policies of the rich.
  • The UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is entirely unacceptable to attack the poorest rather than ask the wealthiest to make a fair and entirely affordable contribution to the society from which they benefit.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

NOTE

You can find your Edinburgh Council representatives here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/councillors/search .

Other Scottish Councils are doing similar things.  For example, here is Midlothian Council’s consultation exercise – http://www.midlothian.gov.uk/press/article/641/balance_our_books_with_new_budget_simulator – and you can identify your Midlothian Council representatives here: http://www.midlothian.gov.uk/councillors.

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About biowrite

I am a writer specialising in non-fiction, particularly in assisting people with their biographies.
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One Response to Refuse to be complicit in austerity and council budget cuts

  1. biowrite says:

    All four of my councillors responded, and I have now exchanged several emails with my Tory representative. Here is my latest reply to him for your interest and information:

    Dear ___

    Many thanks for your reply. I understand that you may not have the time to read or respond to this, and I won’t hold a lack of response against you.

    I am very familiar with The Spirit Level and the spin-off Equality Trust (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/about-inequality/effects) and would point out that the ‘cherry-picking’ allegation has been comprehensively refuted (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/our-publications/authors-respond-questions-about-spirit-levels-analysis).

    You might be interested to know that I introduced Professors Wilson and Pickett to Canadian psychologist Prof. Bruce K. Alexander (http://www.brucekalexander.com/index.php), whose book, The Globalisation of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, I have reviewed. It presents a comprehensive, evidenced argument that the root of harmful addictions is not substances but what the author calls ‘psychosocial dislocation’, and that this is primarily caused by what he terms ‘hypercapitalism’. This complements the work of Wilkinson and Pickett beautifully although it was arrived at independently. Alexander has visited Scotland and addressed representatives of all of Scotland’s addiction-related bodies. They all agree with his thesis. (I know because I have attended meetings at which their views on this have specifically been sought, and I also know Alexander personally.) An entertaining and accessible introduction to his work is this cartoon exposition of the famous ‘rat park’ experiment: http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/

    Yes, of course Ha-Joon Chang is not anti-capitalist. per se, and that is why I thought to refer you to him. One of his major points is that entrepreneurs, innovation and industry thrive in countries with strong welfare systems and are damaged when this safety net is weak. This is evidenced in his book.

    Austerity is patently absurd if its purpose is to reduce government borrowing and the deficit. The national debt and the deficit have grown under the coalition, which is the result of increased welfare payments and lowered tax revenues. See this:

    (1) ‘Back in June 2010 the OBR forecast that real GDP would grow by a cumulative 8.2% in between 2010 and 2013. In fact, it grew by only 3.1%. Partly because of this, the deficit is much larger now than expected. In 2010, the OBR forecast that PSNB in 2014-15 would be £37bn, or 2.1% of GDP. It now expects it to be £83.9bn, or 5.5% of GDP.’ (http://emergenteconomics.com/2014/10/02/britains-economy-is-doing-terribly/)

    (2) ‘George Osborne is today borrowing 10% more than he did this time last year – £11.8bn in September alone. Total government debt is more than £100bn higher than in 2013, at £1.45tn.

    ‘[…] So here’s the lunacy of the situation revealed. Osborne is having to borrow increasing amounts because incomes – and therefore income taxes – have not kept pace with economic growth. Yet that economic growth is, itself, being pulled along by a return to borrowing by individuals. Debt, government and household, is rising.’ (http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/why-the-cuts-arent-working)

    Unless your criterion for success is the income of the richest people in the country, austerity has clearly failed.(According to what James Meadway of NEF said in a talk I recently attended, the wealth of the thousand richest people in the UK has doubled in the last four years.) However, although the national debt has continued to rise (partly because the government withdrew so much money from the economy, shrinking demand), national debt is still not at historically high levels. It’s about 80% of GDP, much lower than throughout most of history and not particularly large by current global standards. Debt was much higher in the 1930s when Keynes urged governments to spend their way out of recession.

    Interestingly, to raise more money you wouldn’t even need to raise taxes — simply make sure tax-avoiders pay their share. One estimate is that tax avoidance costs £70 billion. I think we shall have to disagree on whether it would be a good thing if the multinationals and the super-rich fled if tax were put up (or their tax-avoidance clamped down upon). (Never mind whether they would actually head off to some tax paradise elsewhere. Their businesses often require decent infrastructure and solvent consumers to thrive.) Evidence seems to show that large corporations destroy more jobs than they create. For example, Walmart (Asda’s parent company) is a big employer but it destroys three jobs for every two it ‘creates’ (http://youtu.be/PlPW2CXVnAw?t=7m10s). For one thing, I would love to see the large banks leave, to be replaced by less rapacious smaller concerns (or be broken up).

    In summary:

    (1) Inequality _is_ bad for practically everyone – the evidence is overwhelming and the critics of this have been comprehensively answered.

    (2) Austerity has not achieved what it was claimed to be necessary for. Indeed, it has done the opposite of what we were told it would do. It has only ‘worked’ for a handful of super-rich people. It has widened inequality, damaged the UK’s finances and harmed the lives of many.

    I could go on, but I hope that at least you will at least see that my strong opinions are based on evidence. I believe that the truth about all this will become public knowledge soon enough.

    Best wishes from your constituent

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