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Pendle Labour Party Blog
The Broadest Shoulders PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Sunday, 23 June 2013 21:21

I am in the process of reading “The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited” by Stephen Armstrong.

On reaching page 8, I paused to consider the fact that in 1919 Stanley Baldwin, the coalition Prime Minister, had donated one-fifth of his personal wealth to the Treasury to help pay off the national debt and try to create jobs.

Armstrong reflects on this generous act against the recent Parliamentary expenses scandal and concludes:

 “The idea that MPs would help pay off the national debt from their own purse seems like an insane fantasy; for Orwell it was recent history.”

It obviously raises the question of whether we should expect a better example of moral conscience from our MPs. Should Cameron, Clegg and Osborne set the ball rolling by following Baldwin’s example?

The last Labour Government attempted to remove this moral dilemma for the highest earners by introducing the 50% tax band.

Osborne, with the support of Cameron and Clegg (despite previous assurances given by Downing Street to the contrary) was quick to remove this tax band, which may help to answer my question.

Armstrong (still on page 8 & 9) points out:

“Instead we’re the ones paying through vicious cuts. In 2011 the Child Trust Fund was abolished, child benefit frozen, pension credits frozen, maternity grants cut. In the autumn the winter fuel allowance was slashed – as fuel bills soar – proving potentially fatal for the elderly. In January 2012, people under thirty-five stopped receiving housing benefit unless they living in a shared house. No more one-bedroom flats for junkies withdrawing and trying to avoid mates who still use. From April 2012, tax credits are being reduced and disability benefits withdrawn from one in five people. Although it’s not until 2015 that the pension cuts really hit.

“We already spend the lowest percentage in Europe of our GDP on the public sector and by 2015 we will be spending less than the United States. We have become the NeoCon poster boy. The voices for change are muted, drowned out by hypocritical yells of indignation from an establishment that is almost entirely to blame for the wreckage we are trying to fix.”

Young people will be quick to point out that Armstrong omitted the draconian increase in student fees and the withdrawal of EMA by the current coalition government.

The current tactic of the coalition government is to divide us “plebs” into “strivers” and “skivers” creating a bunker mentality amongst “strivers” that their cause for concern is the “skivers” and not the wealthy people and corporations who use every conceivable avenue to keep every penny in their tightening grasp.


 


 
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Friday, 12 April 2013 11:33

It would be difficult to let the passing of Margaret Thatcher go without comment.

Unlike Mark Antony, I wish to neither bury nor praise her and it will be for history (or more correctly the historians) to determine what lives after her and what is interred with her bones.

On Friday 07 September 2012 I wrote a blog “A view from the left” http://blog.pendlelabour.com/component/content/article/2-blog/72-a-view-from-the-left in which I recorded my own views on the impact of Thatcherism on British society.

Today I have read an article in the business daily Handelsblatt http://www.handelsblatt.com/suche/ which intrigued me, because it lays bare the false claims of the coalition government that it was Labour’s failure to regulate the UK Banking and Finance sectors that caused the UK’s present financial crisis.

This is that newspaper’s tribute to Margaret Thatcher:

"The prime minister's most momentous act was perhaps the 'Big Bang' with which she liberalized Britain's strictly regulated financial sector. The move triggered the massive boom of the City of London and made a lasting impact on Britain's economy. Freed from all their chains, traders and bankers gave the entire economy fresh momentum: Between 1993 and 2006, the British economy grew by 2.8 percent on average per year while unemployment fell from nine to four percent."

"But since then, the world has learned the extremely painful lesson that absolute faith in self control and the self-healing power of free markets was a mistake. The Big Bang was followed by the Big Bust. Thatcher's laissez faire dogma was the intellectual basis for the wild growth of the financial sector that ended up leading to a major crisis."

"Now Britain is paying the price for the one-sided faith of its politicians in the service sector. Today Prime Minister David Cameron and his Finance Minister George Osborne are enviously looking at the industrial core of the German economy. The structural change after the financial crisis has hit Britain hard and its economy has been on the brink of recession for many quarters. With his rigorous austerity policy, Osborne is trying to repeat the Thatcherite economic miracle. But this time the people don't regard scaling back the government as liberation. They know that the entire country has to tighten its belt after the excesses of the boom era. The recipes of the Iron Lady have lost their effectiveness once and for all."

I have not presented this argument to ridicule Margaret Thatcher. My intention is to point out that Cameron and Osborne are woefully trapped in an economic ideology that has passed its sell-buy date.


 
Osborne defends the indefensible on bankers' bonuses PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 11:49

I was pleased to read the rapid response from Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite the union, to George Osborne’s grotesque position of defending the indefensible (Tuesday 5 March) by telling EU finance ministers in Brussels that he could not support proposals to limit bankers' bonuses to a year's salary.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "George Osborne is defending the indefensible by opposing a cap on bankers' bonuses. Britain needs a chancellor who will fight for our public services, not for a tiny elite with telephone number salaries. The chancellor is happy to cap the welfare payments of those struggling to get by, but not the bonuses of the casino bankers who caused the economic crisis. 

"Along with Ukip the Tory-led government is alone in Europe in opposing a cap on bankers' bonuses, even the Swiss in a referendum supported curbing bonuses.

"The chancellor is on the wrong side of every argument and out-of-touch with the people of this country. From April millionaires will get a £40,000 tax cut while record numbers of young people are unemployed and our economy flatlines. Britain desperately needs a new chancellor with some radical fresh thinking who will do more than just help his chums in the city while millions struggle to make ends meet." 


 
All Hail the Green Revolution! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheryl Waterhouse   
Friday, 22 February 2013 16:05

Air pollution in the UK’s cities could be reduced by 30% if ‘green walls’ lined the city’s streets.

Research teams from Lancaster University  and the University of Birmingham have found that living 'green walls' of climbing ivy, grass, shrubs, herbs and even fruit provide a quicker and cheaper way of reducing air pollution in cities than more traditional measures such as congestion charging.

Plants are known to purify the air by absorbing pollutants including carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and airborne particulates into their roots. These pollutants are considered to be liable for a majority of the 35,000-50,000 premature deaths in the UK related to outdoor air pollution every year.

Sheryl Waterhouse, Women's Officer for Pendle CLP says: "Personally I love the look of green walls, roofs and tree-lined streets, they really brighten the place up and improve our health and the environment - that's what I call a win-win situation. I would love to see some local initiatives in our area - just imagine how Manchester, Burnley and Pendle could be transformed!

The UK is just starting to get the idea with famous walls and roofs found at the University of Nottingham, the University of Sheffield (who also have a Green Roof Centre of Excellence) and around London. Other countries have also really got behind this and the practice has been established for some time in the USA, Australia, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, France and Germany".

To view some pictures of green walls, click here.

The researchers conducted a number of computer simulations to examine the impacts of different policies on air quality. The study showed that plants in parks and green roofs were beneficial but green walls had the greatest effect on air pollution levels. The researchers also noted that roadside trees were very effective in less polluted streets.

Following the study, the research team published a paper, ‘Effectiveness of Green Infrastructure for Improvement of Air Quality in Urban Street Canyons’. (An urban street canyon is a canyon formed in a street between two rows of tall buildings, which can trap and limit the dispersion of pollutants due to the lack of wind flow out of the canyon). The paper recommends rolling out more plants street-by-street and installing foliage covered ‘green billboards’ in urban street canyons where concrete and glass is prevalent.

Researcher Professor Rob MacKenzie, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham, stated, "Up until now, every initiative around reducing pollution has taken a top-down approach - scrapping old cars, adding catalytic converters to cars and bringing in the congestion charge - some of which have not had the desired effect. The benefit of green walls is that they clean up the air coming into and staying in the street canyon, planting more [green walls] in a strategic way, could be a relatively easy way to take control of our local pollution problems".

Researcher Dr Tom Pugh, from Lancaster University emphasized the need to use hardy plants to protect against the rigours of the urban environment. He added, "Care needs to be taken as to how and where we plant vegetation in our towns and cities, so that it does not suffer from drought, become heat stressed, vandalised, or interact negatively with other aspects of our urban areas and can carry out the very important job of filtering our air".

Green walls and roofs also have the added benefit of insulation, reducing the need for artificial heating or cooling, and improved biodiversity.


 
Banking Crisis - Structural Deficit –Austerity Measures – Taxation – Economic Development – Growth - Inflation, and all that kind of stuff PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Sunday, 27 January 2013 17:14

George Osborne has been extremely successful in convincing many people that the structural deficit is our biggest problem.
The reality however is that the deficit is a product of the much bigger problem of a depressed global economy. The bigger problem was mainly caused by the global banking system which actively encouraged the creation of unsupportable mortgage debt and then compounded the problem by trading in that debt.

In truth, it is quite normal in time of a depressed economy, for governments to run with a deficit to support overall demand. The reason for this is not ‘rocket science’: as demand rises unemployment falls, unemployment related benefit payments reduce and revenue from taxation increases, thereby reducing the deficit and providing the opportunity to pay back debt.

George Osborne is treating the side effects rather than the malignant disease created by the banks. The only conclusion that I can reach is that George Osborne’s ‘Austerity Measures’ to reduce the deficit are at best misplaced by over-focusing on low interest rates, or at worst are simply ideologically driven to reduce state spending so that if and when a recovery takes place, he will have more leeway to engineer the Conservative Party agenda which includes even more privatisation of services and tax reductions for the wealthy.

On 6th April George Osborne will increase the personal allowance for everyone of working age by £630 to £8,105 p.a. At the same time he will be reducing the top tax rate for those earning over £150,000 by 5%. You can do your own sums to work out what this means for someone paid £500,000 or £2,000,000 for example. To me it hardly seems like “we are all in it together”.

We all know that for over four decades, many manufacturing jobs from the North West have been off-shored in pursuit of higher profits. There is a desperate need for these jobs to be replaced with new employment in higher technology industries, which will generate the decent wages, which in turn will feed the demand side of our economy.

Over the last 5 years average earnings in the North West have only increased by 8.1 % (I believe that this is about 5% less than inflation over the same period).

Because of low interest rates, inflation has wiped about 10% off the value of people’s savings over the last five years; obviously this is not helping pensioners who have saved throughout their working lives for retirement.

Add to this the loss of income from people who have been made redundant or had their working hours reduced and it paints a picture of our declining spending power in Pendle.

The Governments answer to this is to cut benefits and family tax credits on the grounds of ‘fairness’.

It is hardly surprising that we no longer hear the tills ringing on Pendle’s high Street.

I have no problem with Mary Portas looking at our high streets, but the best opportunity for attracting new retail business to Pendle’s ailing streets, is new and better paid employment that puts a modest amount of disposable income into working people’s empty pockets. 

It is not just about spending power, most of the social problems in our society are directly linked to poverty and the unfair distribution of wealth.

We need a government which will focus upon putting mechanisms into place for creating sustainable growth and providing education and training for skills, rather than looking for diversionary headlines about European Referenda which will have a serious impact upon inward investment.


 
A Measure of Austerity PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Sunday, 20 January 2013 22:11

In a previous blog on this page, I mentioned that the argument was being made that "deficit reduction" was always a smokescreen for the true purpose of "austerity measures."

The argument cited the real purpose as being four-fold, the fourth purpose was defined as, “to secure a redistribution of wealth from the ordinary people to the already super-rich, increasing the exploitation of people at work, reducing benefits and services, massively widening the wealth/poverty gap and casting very large numbers of people into absolute poverty”.

Scarcely a week since I wrote that blog, Chris Skidmore the Conservative MP for Kingswood asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the effect of (a) Universal Credit and (b) the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill on child poverty. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130115/text/130115w0003.htm

Ester McVey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for works and pensions said in the final paragraph of her reply “We estimate that the uprating measures in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 will result in around an extra 200,000 children being deemed by this measure to be in relative income poverty compared to uprating benefits”.

So there you have it from the Under Secretary, herself; 200,000 extra innocent children being cast into poverty by the Conservative, Liberal Democratic Coalition Government, simply because they have changed the amount by which Universal Credit and Welfare Benefits are uprated.

I am aware of the saying, “one swallow doesn't make a summer”, but this single demonstration of the effects of George Osborne’s austerity measures, certainly fits the theme of the argument mentioned above.

Incidentally anyone earning £1millon in the 2013-2014 tax year (and subsequent years) will pay £42,295 less tax than they currently do. It hardly seems fair to me that this should be happening when children are being driven into poverty. I wonder if this is an example of what the writers of the original article meant when they mentioned a redistribution of wealth from ordinary people to the already super-rich. I guess it is.


 
Austerity Measures PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Friday, 11 January 2013 16:23

Scanning through online newspapers recently, I was surprised by how two separate articles from two politically different newspapers struck a chord or two with me.

The independent ran with:
“Exclusive: Revealed - Tory plan for firms to run schools for profit

“Private companies would be able to run state schools for profit under a plan to be published by Conservative modernisers which could be introduced if the party wins the next general election.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-revealed--tory-plan-for-firms-to-run-schools-for-profit-8445066.html

A letter in the Morning Star proposing, “An alternative message for Britain this new year” (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/content/view/full/128107) claims that “deficit reduction” is a smokescreen for the true purpose of “austerity measures”.

The letter lists the true purpose of the "austerity measures” as being:

• To use huge amounts of public money to directly support and enrich those private banks and big businesses whose system created the economic and financial crisis.
• To undermine pay, pensions, working conditions and job security of working people to maximise profit in the name of creating a "flexible" compliant labour force.
• To lay the foundation for wholesale privatisation of public services as a new source of profit and the abandonment of non-profitable services to the volunteer "Big Society."
• To secure a redistribution of wealth from the ordinary people to the already super-rich, increasing the exploitation of people at work, reducing benefits and services, massively widening the wealth/poverty gap and casting very large numbers of people into absolute poverty.
This can’t be true, can it?
Given that the “austerity measures” have so far failed the Chancellor’s stated objective of removing the structural deficit, it does however beg the question; why is the Coalition Government so adamant about pressing ahead with these measures unabated and with no alternative plan for growth?


 
Letter to Leader Times Newspapers 9 November 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Foat   
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 21:33

Dear Sir

Pendle Windfarms

There have been several letters to your paper recently about the pros and cons of windfarms in Pendle. 

Policy ENV3 in the Pendle Core Strategy addresses the generation of heat and energy from renewable sources.

The six week public consultation runs from 9:00am on Friday 19th October 2012 and to 5:00pm on Monday 3rd December 2012 and I suggest that members of the public should submit their views to the policy proposals www.pendle.gov.uk/corestrategy

The policy includes the following target: “To help reduce our carbon footprint, increase energy security and reduce levels of fuel poverty Pendle Council will encourage new developments that are appropriate to their setting and make a positive contribution towards increasing levels of renewable and low carbon energy (RLC) generation in Pendle.  By supporting a mix of appropriate schemes the Council will aim to achieve the following generation figures by 2020:  15.4 MW of electricity; 11.8 MW of heat”.

In general, in areas where wind energy development is to be considered, the appropriate scale of development will be determined by consideration of a number of parameters, which will include the scale of the development, its proximity to neighbouring properties and the nature of the landscape it sits in.

Some wind turbines are definitely more attractive than others although the design is not usually the determining factor. 

The ones installed by Ecotricity have rather pleasant streamlined turbine housings.  Environmentalists have said for some years now that if similar turbines are placed in a 'cluster' it produces a more pleasing aspect than haphazard development of various types of turbine.  From a planning point of view, it is the size of the turbine which is critical, not their generating capacity.
 
Rather than waiting for landowners or developers to come forward to ask for planning permission for turbines of various types on their land, perhaps we should invite Ecotricity or a similar consultancy to look at Pendle and identify sites where arrays of turbines would be most suitable and be least intrusive in the landscape. 

This would be a bold strategy that would mean that we would allow planning permission for turbines up to a maximum size in those areas but nowhere else. 

Developers would still need to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment required for such projects.
 
The energy payback of a modern wind turbine (the time it takes to get back the energy used to manufacture and install each wind turbine) is between six and nine months – depending on location (some places are more windy than others).

After that, for perhaps another 20 to 25 years, wind turbines bring a big net gain of clean energy and avoided carbon emissions.

As former US President Clinton has said: “The earth is warming at an alarming rate, we are running out of fossil fuels, and it is long past time for us to take action to correct these problems”.

Yours truly,
David Foat


 
Looking Forwards PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Monday, 05 November 2012 00:25

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog titled: “Looking Back – Looking to the Future”.

At the time that I wrote that blog it had been made known that the hard-core hawks of the Thatcher government were prepared to abandon Liverpool and its environs to “managed decline”.

I also pointed out that Michael Heseltine, from the left of the Conservative party, did make a stand for Liverpool by attempting to encourage private sector investment to regenerate the area.

This week a report commissioned by David Cameron on how to restore growth to the UK economy has been published. The Author of the report, Michael Heseltine is determined to smash London’s dominance of Britain’s industrial landscape. Westminster is thus reliving the echoes of the 1980s.

It is fair to say the outcome of the report was in some part preformed last year,  when Heseltine berated the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government for replacing Labour’s Regional Development Agencies, which were funded to financially support businesses, with weaker Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which can only offer cold comfort and advice.

Power, Michael Heseltine claims, has become too centralised in Whitehall, which he believes is inefficient and bureaucratic.

I believe anyone who has both eyes open, will recognise that the coalition government’s ‘localism’ measures have proven to be feeble and ineffective.

The obvious concern is that Heseltine’s report may be more efficient at creating new splits within the coalition (and opening old ones within the Conservative party) rather than creating new mechanisms for regional development. However he has started a debate which could lead to power being prized away from Westminster to aid the urgent need for regional growth.

The outcome will probably not be full blown ‘Tarzanomics’, but it will be a further crippling blow to Cameron’s authority if the Heseltine’s report is discounted.

I finished my blog in January with the following paragraph:

We need a Government that is equally committed to the economic development of the North West; the present Government’s record is not good, but I would welcome a viable economic ‘blueprint’ for the North West from any political party, rather than for us to be left by this government to “wither on the vine”.

Well the invitation is still open, who knows the former President of the Board of Trade, and former Deputy Prime Minister could be saving the coalition government from themselves by pointing them in a positive direction.

If our local MP wishes to support regional growth in the North West and support his hero, David Cameron, he needs to be banging the drum for the measures contained in Heseltine’s report.

Obviously he will run the risk of upsetting his former Tatton colleague, George Osborne if he supports Heseltine’s report. I guess resolving conflicts like this makes party politics interesting!


 
A view from the left PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Friday, 07 September 2012 18:09

The Labour Party is a broad church of opinion, but we all share the common value “that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.”

It sounds good, and I happen to believe it is right. Therefore it will come as no surprise that I was disheartened to read a recent report that showed that the pension gap between FTSE 100 directors and employees of the same companies had widened.

I was disheartened but not surprised by this, given that a similar gap in relation to earnings is steadily on the increase.

I believe that it is fair to say that the main reason for this can be derived from the policies introduced by the ‘Thatcher’ government of the 1980’s.

Following WW2 many socialist policies were introduced. This included the nationalisation of many industries and infrastructural investment in order to get the nation back to work. State benefits were introduced or increased and many medical services were embraced under the NHS.

Trade Unions also flourished and negotiated on behalf of a substantial part of the UK workforce and they were mindful of the income range affecting their members in companies in which they had bargaining rights.

This period was the nearest that the UK came to being a socialist society and under the ethos of the times Public Ownership and the ideology of socialism had an impact on the organisation of work.
This led to workers' status, incomes, conditions and facilities improving considerably.

Clearly, this did not change the difficulties of manual employment, but it did in some ways compensate for it.

There was also a general equalisation of incomes.

Whilst the seeds of change were ‘benignly’ sown under the ‘Heath Government’, it was ‘Thatcher’s’ Government that tore apart the foundations of a socialist society.

Oil, Gas, Electricity, Water, etc. you name it they sold it!

The Coal Mining Industry was destroyed. Shipbuilding and Iron and Steel were rationalised and massive chunks of our manufacturing industries were moved offshore.

The loss of millions of skilled and technical jobs that bound together the pay range was an enormous contribution not only to the widening of the pay gap but also the decline of the trade union movement’s ability to bridge the gap.

Pundits are quick to ‘rationalise’ this widening of the pay gap as a product of belonging to a global economy and the acceleration of technology.

The reality is that under a capitalist system (global or otherwise) the severe differences in income are derived from private ownership of the productive assets on the one hand and the effects of unemployment on the other.

Disparity in the distribution of wealth will in time lead people to realise that the dismantling of the socialist foundation by Thatcher was not a victory for enterprise; it was the betrayal of the millions of UK workers who were the real wealth creators of our economy.

It is for these reasons that I am convinced that any future Labour government must be 100% committed to bringing into practise the shared values that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article.


 
A Land Value Tax to kickstart the economy? PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Friday, 07 September 2012 17:53

The public Meeting that Pendle Labour Party is hosting on the subject of land value taxation should provide a lively debate.

The principal speaker is David Wetzel, President of the labour Land Campaign.

Looking at their website http://www.labourland.org this wouldn't mean any more overall taxation, because they say the introduction of Land Value Taxation would permit other taxes to be reduced or, in some cases, to be abolished altogether.

I have had a surf around the internet and the concept of a land value tax has been supported by left of centre political parties for over 100 years and more recently by the OECD and the IFS.

A Land Value Tax is applied in 30 countries around the world and also used in some municipalities in the USA.

The best news is that it is an unavoidable tax; you can’t move land into a Swiss bank account!

Everyone is welcome to the meeting and admission is free.

The meeting is at The Ace Centre, Cross Street, Nelson, BB9 7NN on Friday 28th September at 7.00 p.m.


 
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The articles are written by individual members so do not necessarily represent the view of Pendle Labour Party.