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Pendle Labour Party Blog
Letter to the Nelson Leader PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Porter   
Friday, 04 November 2011 17:47

I write in response to Coun. George Askew’s claims that Labour did Nothing (Leader Times 28th October). The first question is: what planet does he live on, never mind what ward he lives in? He says the UK was spending £170 billion more than it was receiving in tax, that it was a cheap shot to question the tax avoidance of non-doms who bankroll the Conservatives, and that it has been left up to George Osborne to sort out the financial mess left by Labour.

However, at best he appears to be misinformed and at worst blatantly ignorant of the facts. Labour spent less as a proportion of GDP than either of the governments of Thatcher or Major. When Labour came to power in 1997 national debt stood at 42% of GDP. By 2002 it was below 30%. Granted, it slowly increased to 36% between 2002 and 2008 (still lower than Thatcher or Major) as a result of the urgent need to rebuild our public services which had suffered from two decades of underinvestment. The increase, coupled with the windfall tax on utilities in 1997 to compensate for the cheap Tory sell off of public assets, allowed Labour to build new schools, reduce class sizes, build new hospitals, reduce waiting lists, reduce poverty levels amongst vulnerable groups such as children and pensioners and provide public servants with a living wage, along with many others as a result of the National Minimum Wage.

It wasn’t until the global banking sector crisis that the debt to GDP ratio hit 52% by the time Labour left office in 2010 - but this was still lower than those of Japan, the US, France and Germany.

So what response? George Osborne came to the dispatch box in 2010 and declared “Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy”. Despite his claims of economic woe he chose to cut corporation tax while imposing unprecedented cuts on welfare and other public spending, resulting in a return to Thatcherite levels of unemployment at 2.57 million and rising inflation which currently stands at 5.6%.

So in light of these inconvenient truths perhaps Mr Askew would like to revise his simplistic view, because if these are the results of the Tories doing something then I prefer Labour’s “nothing”.

Yours faithfully
Mark Porter


 
Picking over Sid’s bones PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Saturday, 22 October 2011 23:42

Some of us will remember Margaret Thatcher’s British Gas sell off campaign in 1986.
To try and ‘include’ us working class oiks in buying shares in a company we already collectively owned, the Conservative government ran a successful campaign using the slogan, "If you see Sid...Tell him!"
What they didn’t tell Sid (and the rest of us) was that 25 years later many of us would be living in fuel poverty relying on Russia and the Near East for our domestic fuel. They didn’t tell us that our utilities would be owned by French and German companies. Nor did they tell us that each household would be paying the energy companies £125 in profit this year.

David Cameron and Chris Huhne entertained us last week with a Canute like performance and withdrew as soon as the tide turned ugly.

I understand that they cannot do anything directly about dwindling stocks of oil & gas nor can they do anything about world wide rising demand. But they can tackle high profits and stop the energy companies operating cartels.

They can also look to developing ‘clean coal technology’ and getting off their respective ‘widest bits’ to promote renewable energy.

We have seen a substantial hike in the number of people out of work in East Lancashire and unfortunately more will follow as a direct result of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Austerity Plan.
It is desperately sad that this winter many households in Pendle will be faced with the choice of turning the heating on to try to keep warm or putting food on the table. Whilst high paid company executives and bankers feast on their excessive bonuses and speculators gorge on their excessive accumulations of wealth.

This reminds me of an article I recently read, written by an old acquaintance, Roy Jones.

Roy wrote:
“In the Great Depression of the 1930s a spate of media articles advised the unemployed on how to survive on the pittance allowed them - the irony of which was most famously highlighted by Communist MP Willie Gallacher who, when the poor were told how to make soup from fish heads, wondered: "What happened to the rest of the fish?"


 


 
Outrage or Power PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Boardman   
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 12:01

It is unusual for me to turn to ‘The Telegraph’ for political solace, but an article written by Christopher Booker on 15 October 2011 is a timely lesson for anyone who performs on the political stage.

The item is entitled:

The day Liam Fox chose power over sense of outrage

I don’t wish to dwell on Dr Fox’s fall from grace; I think most people recognise that he has been incredibly silly and naïve.

Booker writes: “People become motivated to take an interest in politics, the writer Paul Johnson shrewdly observed many years ago, either by a love of power or by a sense of outrage.”

He then continues to describe how in his view Fox moved from the path of outrage to the love of power.

I think this offers a reality check for all of us when we reach certain crossroads in our lives.

Perhaps our local MPs in both Pendle and Burnley who electioneered on maintaining hospital facilities prior to the General Election and who are now incredibly quiet on the subject should consider which road they have gone down and ask themselves ‘is it too late to turn back?’

If they wish to turn back, they could make a start by campaigning to retain the existing services at Pendle Community Hospital.

Alternatively they could hide behind the future provisions of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care Bill 2011.

We will have to wait and see the answer, but I suspect they will carry on down the road of “the love of power”.


 


 
Save the Community Hospital Petition 15.10.11 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheryl Waterhouse   
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:47

On Saturday a group of us from Pendle CLP went to Colne Market with our petition to save Pendle Community Hospital.
People were shocked and upset that the beds, wards and services at the Community Hospital are under threat and we took 291 signatures in just one day!
People told us personal stories of themselves or family members that have used the Hospital; they think it's disgusting that its services are threatened.
I met an Irishman called Denis who not only signed the petition but bought me some red and white flowers from the market stall too!
 
Sheryl Waterhouse
Labour Candidate for Vivary Bridge 2012


 
2011 Labour Annual Conference, Liverpool PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheryl Waterhouse   
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:43

I was sent by our CLP to attend Annual Conference along with Cllr Julie Henderson and Azhar Ali. I went to the Women's Conference on the Saturday which was really good - lots of women spoke about issues that affect them and it was really inspiring.
Ed Miliband's speech was fantastic and really motivated everyone; we were clapping and cheering so much at one point that he had to tell us to sit down because he hadn't finished yet! My favourite speakers of the week were Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper as they spoke really openly and honestly about issues. Ed's Q and A session was especially good - he was very keen to answer as many questions as possible and he didn't try to dodge difficult questions. I can definitely see him as our next Prime Minister.
I went to a Media Campaigns fringe event which I found very helpful, and I've been able to pass tips from it on to my Communications group within the CLP.
Lucy Smith, our Regional Organiser, had organised an evening out for NW women on the first night which really set me up for the week as I met lots of great women and have become friends with them. I would like to say a special thank you to Paulette, Secretary of Bootle CLP, who lived near to my hotel and really took me under her wing for the week.
Finally I would like to say that I loved Conference and I would highly recommend going next year if you have the chance!
 
Sheryl Waterhouse
Women's Officer Pendle CLP


 
Whose Quantitative Easing? PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Pope   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 22:18

Last week the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee did a 180 degree turn in agreeing to spend £75billion of tax-payer’s money, called quantitative easing or QE2.
Could it be that this vast sum of money is being used to keep the Tory government backer’s, from the financial sector, afloat when the Euro zone finally allows Greece (and others!) to default on its unpayable debt’s? This will result in banks everywhere nursing huge losses on their loans to Greece.
QE2 is not going to help the two and a half million unemployed nor the growing number of young people who cannot find a job. George Osborne sits back and waits for the stagnant business sector to grow when household spending is being cut to the bone. Increased inflation is going to hit anyone on a fixed income for years to come.
Incidentally, £75billion is about twice Britain’s annual defence budget, or the same as the entire market value of BP.
It would be good to know what our Tory Member of Parliament’s views are on the issue and its likely effect on Pendle.


 
Storm in a Tea Shop PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Pope   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 22:05

Pendle Council’s Development Management Committee has dismayed Barrowford Parish Council with its recent decision to refuse permission for the change of use of a shop on Gisburn Road, Barrowford from a Travel Agent to a Café.
The recently opened Tea Time café at 99 Gisburn Road was an attractive addition to the main shopping area of Barrowford, but has been forced to close because of the recent planning committee’s decision.
The reasons for the refusal are given as “… the proposal would result in the proportion of non-shopping uses along this designated Primary Shopping Frontage being above 25%.” Planning Policy 26 encourages retail centres by aiming to limit non-retail space to 25%.
John Pope, Chair of Barrowford Parish Council said “The fact is that changing the former Travel Agent into a café would have increased the non-retail space on the west side of Gisburn Road from 26% to 36%. But if you take into account both sides of the road the overall proportion is only 18% with the new café included.
“To make the decision even more questionable is the fact that Barnoldswick already has a stretch of primary shops where 33% are non-retail.
“The Parish Council discussed the issue at last Wednesday’s meeting and were left wondering, who is pulling the strings. In these difficult economic times it seems any business that is willing to try something new and innovative should be encouraged, especially as Barrowford is putting effort into encouraging visitors to the village and persuading locals to ‘shop local’.”
It appears that the decision by the Development Management Committee was proposed by Lib Dem Cllr John David and seconded by the council leader, Tory Mike Blomeley. It was passed by 4 votes to 3. It just happens that Cllr David is one of Pendle Council’s representatives on the Heritage Trust for the North West’s board, which runs the Pendle Heritage Centre and its café!
The question being raised with this ‘storm in a tea shop’ is, are the elected councillors being allowed to use their ‘common sense’ to arrive at decisions that are best for the community of Pendle, or, are they being persuaded to implement policy based on rigid percentages, by the council’s officers?

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The NHS Bill Has No Mandate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Robert Oliver   
Monday, 10 October 2011 16:51

"The Lords should be affronted by the slipshod way our health system is being blown apart before they can even debate it".

Can we count on Lord Greaves to defend Pendle's NHS by voting to support proper scrutiny of the Health Bill this week, and not just to toe his Party line again?

Polly Toynbee's article on Saturday must surely have given him pause for thought.

And after all, he did call for proper debate in his motion to Pendle Council in April,


 
Riots and Sentencing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Ellis   
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 11:28

The recent riots and public concerns on anti-social behaviour have raised lots of issues. It is true that we should be tough, very tough - and the public demand it - on anti-social behaviour. But we do need to be thoughtful to ensure that the treatment of the behaviour does not produce worse results than the "disease" itself.

We also need to deal with all the elements of anti social behaviour and their causes as well.

On the first matter, stiff prison sentences for rioters in general are not the answer; we need more community restitution orders. Putting thousands of young people into prison is hugely expensive (costing more than sending someone to Eton!), pays nothing back to the community, and more particularly just enforces loss of social engagement (87%, I think, of ex-prisoners reoffend, and are unlikely to have improved the tools or skills to engage back into society). To be frank, aren't the stiff prison sentences more likely to produce the conditions for anti-social behaviour and riots in the future? They are just a knee- jerk Tory reaction, not a measured tough view of how to deal with this element of anti-social behaviour.

On the second matter we have to deal toughly with the more general abuses. We have to deal with those presently powerful who seek to corrupt our press and police. Why should Murdoch get away with behaviour which is so anti-social, and indeed Cameron hire a leading employee from him? Also, why should the very richest in society be able to be so anti-social as to avoid paying tax into the public purse for the benefit of all of society? 220 out of Britain’s top 700 companies arrange affairs to avoid paying any corporation tax. 49 out of 50 of Britain’s richest people pay little or no tax! What example is this of an obligation to contribute to society? The Thatcher ethic of "there is no such thing as society" has grown and grown and Cameron and Co, who are part of it, also, are taking no action on these matters.

There is a clear case that the very rich and powerful do set a scene of "me now and damn everyone else" that others, actually a minority, mimic.

Then we have to deal with the causes. After the riots of the 1980s, Lord Scarman's report found that the root causes were poverty, unemployment and social deprivation, which required urgent action to prevent them from becoming an "endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society"!! Since then wealth inequality has increased, sharply under Thatcher and Major, less so but still up under Blair and Brown, and rapidly so under Cameron and Co. So poverty, unemployment (up again and with 40% or more youths aged 18 to 24 without work in the poorer areas of the UK) and social deprivation are the problems. Cameron called these issues "tiresome" in Parliament, so it’s clear he doesn't get it and won't deal with the causes. So Labour will have to, and Ed Millband's comments on poverty as a cause are welcome and in the present press frenzy a little brave.

So think this, if tax avoidance loopholes by the very rich were closed (and this can be done, it’s a matter of will) then £3,000 for every adult would be collected for the public purse, which is presently anti-socially avoided. In Pendle that would mean a public purse increase of £300 million per year, over 10 times the budget of Pendle Borough Council! Think what opportunities for our communities and options available for Pendle People that would bring! Think also what that would mean in providing antidotes to poverty, unemployment, and social deprivation in communities across the UK.

We need real, tough, and comprehensive action on anti-social behaviour.


 
Colne in Bloom cuttings PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Foat   
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 12:19

Gossip around 'Colne in Bloom' is that Lib Dem Councillor Dorothy Lord seems set to turn Tory when the Lib Dem Party finally fizzles out.  Dorothy, as part of her ambition to see Colne win the National 'In Bloom' competition, asked various businesses to display hanging baskets of flowers, but one Colne bank refused saying that in these times of austerity cuts they could not afford such luxuries or run the risk of being sued under health and safety law if someone was injured by the basket.  Ever resourceful Dorothy appealed to our Conservative MP, Andrew Stephenson, for help and he went higher up the food chain at the bank in question and got the local staff over-ruled.  Joy!

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EuroZone Crisis shows Austerity Cuts aren't working PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Ellis   
Thursday, 21 July 2011 13:01

The Eurozone crisis is increasingly in the news.

Many commentators are making comment upon it. Most (with the glowing exception of Ed Balls) are simply parroting the Coalition line on the matter.

Most therefore are saying that austerity cuts are fine, and let's have more austerity cuts for those overspending non-taxpaying Greeks. A few are saying let them go bust (and implicitly let the Greek people become semi-destitute).

What few are saying, as I said with the honourable exception of Ed Balls, is that austerity cuts are not working and this is the source of the problem

Let’s take Greece. Greek governmental debt is not a great problem at 89% of Gross Domestic Product (think of a mortgage). The Greek deficit, which is growing governmental debt, is.

The Greek austerity cuts (in wages, pensions, services, economy) are the problem. They have increased the deficit since their introduction (and we are now on round 3) because they lead to unemployment, depressed living standard, lack of domestic demand, loss of tax base and therefore growth in deficit.

And the austerity cuts don’t deal with the huge tax avoidance in Greece (as in other countries) by their very rich and denial of contribution to public purse and deficit resolution.

Nor with the massive private debt of private companies (which typically are 4 to 5 times governmental debt).

Then the financial markets, and remember how short term and mad they are (in 2002 they said the California sub-prime mortgage debt was of triple A rating) say Greek debt is unsustainable (it’s growing but is not unsustainable) and raise interest rates on government borrowings.

It’s the same elsewhere. Spain, Italy, Portugal etc. The UK as well, as we well know. Austerity cuts are not working (and also why should ordinary people pay for the excesses of the bankers and world traders and their debt crisis).

Hence the crisis - a combination of austerity cuts not working and financial markets with short term goals (and addicted to high level of returns and presently no loaning desire).

What we need in the euro zone (and the UK etc) is:

  1. A stabilisation package to stop collapse (we will be hurt by collapse as well).
  2. Some flexibility in the euro zone (it is true countries’ economies work at different speeds and have different national problems, so no flexibility is a problem, but what flexibility means is also a problem)
  3. A pan Europe approach to curtailing tax avoidance by the very rich and recovering for the public purse.
  4. Some kind of financial market control (the Rubin or Robin Hood tax to prevent excessive trading) to avoid financial markets short termism and panic. Also some strategy to deal with the massive private debt and debt ratios which are in part driving the financial markets fears.

These are a few first comments. To be a bit trite (but true) we need a people's Europe (and UK) not an austerity cut Europe.


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