Joan Walmsley writes … Campaigning in York

Baroness Walmsley and Cllr Keith Aspden at CastlegateI visited York recently to campaign with our council group there, led by Councillor Keith Aspden, on a couple of important local issues.

One was the Labour decision to close a multi-agency youth advice centre at Castlegate without putting appropriate alternative provision in place. This very successful centre has helped thousands of young people with issues to do with jobs, housing, benefits, drugs, education courses and a whole lot of other matters, many of them linked together. That’s why the multi-agency model is so effective. We were able to highlight how short-sighted the Labour Group were to propose closing it down.

We also met a community group campaigning to keep open a unique 50 yard swimming pool, built for the residents of York by Joseph Rowntree and used for swimming and other water sports which are not catered for elsewhere. The Labour led Council plan to completely cut the subsidy to this pool into which millions of pounds have been invested to give it a further 20 years of life. This could cause it to close, wasting the previous investment as well as depriving a disadvantaged area of York of this facility. We used a local radio interview to highlight the petition to keep it open. You can sign the petition here.

No wonder we won a by-election there recently (congratulations again to Andrew Waller) and no wonder Labour has now lost control to NOC because of this and a couple of defections. Well done York Lib Dems!

 

* Joan Walmsley is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

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9 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Nov '14 - 3:29pm


    We were able to highlight how short-sighted the Labour Group were to propose closing it down.

    But this is happening all the time. This is the consequence of “austerity”. The national government cuts the budget to local government, and local government is forced to cut things it can no longer pay for. Local government has borne the brunt of the cuts because that works politically – national government’s hope is that the local authority will get the blame.

    If you are ordered to make cuts, you have no choice. There is no wriggle room left in local government. You may well cut things that have damaging costly consequences in the long run because there’s nothing else left to cut. Or the damaging costly long term consequences are long-term, so you hope they won’t be noticed short term. Or they are costly to someone else, maybe back to national government, so, well, at least YOU’ve solved the problem you had with the budget.

    This is why austerity is not working. We’ve been having it for years and years, we had it before the economic crisis of 2007/8 because before then local government was always the favourite way of national government to pass the buck onto someone else. National government makes tax cuts, says “look at us, aren’t we good, we’re cutting your taxes”, then expects local government to fill in the details of what gets cut to pay for it.

    The sort of “We’re cutting your funding, you decide what to cut” approach we’ve had in government for years and years just leads to this buck-passing attitude, where no-one bothers about the long-term costs to the state of what they’ve cut, so long as it gets passed on to some other arm of government to deal with.

    Then the Orange Bookers go “Waah, we’ve made all these cuts, but state spending is still going up, that means we’re still big state socialist types really, so we must make MORE cuts”.

  • “Then the Orange Bookers go “Waah, we’ve made all these cuts, but state spending is still going up, that means we’re still big state socialist types really, so we must make MORE cuts”

    I’m not a fan of the Orange Bookers in any way but at least I acknowledge that state spending is going up and the deficit isn’t shrinking. That means one of two things: 1) More cuts; 2) higher taxes.

    Can’t we be more honest about this? No-one likes cuts and no-one likes tax rises.

    As a non Orange Booker, Matthew, where *is* all this extra revenue going to come from to avoid further cuts?

  • David Allen 3rd Nov '14 - 5:45pm

    RC said “Can’t we be more honest about this?”

    Well, we could start by not slagging off Labour councils for making cuts, when it is Coalition cuts to local authority budgets which have forced councils to make cuts. That’s dishonest, irrespective of whether you believe the Coalition’s “austerity” measures are justified or otherwise.

  • “Well, we could start by not slagging off Labour councils for making cuts, when it is Coalition cuts to local authority budgets which have forced councils to make cuts”

    Well Labour could stop slagging off the Coalition for making cuts when it was they who left the public finances in an appalling mess, making them necessary in the first place, couldn’t they?

    Why don’t you post on Labour List suggesting they do just that and see whether you get any takers?

  • However, I would agree that if we are opposing individual cuts locally, it is up to us as a party to say how we would find the money from elsewhere in order to fund the service we say we will protect. Perhaps this is what they’ve done in York. I don’t know.

  • It is possible to agree with both Matthew Huntbach and RC.

    Matthew is absolutely correct in pointing out the indisputable fact that for the last forty years, but particularly the last four years, local government in the UK has suffered cuts of central funding whilst it has been prevented from raising revenue from other sources.
    Pickles has effectively closed down complete areas of local council activity by cutting off central funding and restricting or completely outlawing local revenue raising.
    This destruction of local democratic choice over spending by communities has beencompletely unrestrained by LIberal Democrats in the Coalition.
    One can only assume that Danny and Nick sat in The Quad and nodded this through, either because they agreed with Pickles or that they simply just did not understand.

    RC asks the question –“……where *is* all this extra revenue going to come from to avoid further cuts?”. Not an unreasonable question — but there are plenty of perfectly reasonable answers.
    Answers to RC might include — wealth taxes and closing down UK government sponsored and administered tax havens such as The Channel Isles, Gibraltar, The Turks and Caicos. The Cayman Islands etc etc. all those places where the wealthiest in the UK hide their wealth and their income so as to profit at the expense of the decent, honest people who go to work and pay taxes.
    For example Gibraltar is “home” to most of the on-line gambling that has become a multi-billion pound activity in the UK in recent years. Why are the companies all based in Gibraltar? To avoid paying their fair share of tax. To profit at the expense of the rest of us who pay our taxes.

    There other questions that RC ought to be asking such as —
    Why are the cuts always directed at services like those provided by local councils or directed atnthe poor who depend on social security?
    Why have local councils had to sell off school playing fields, old peoples homes, their entire housing stock, local open spaces and other community assets when the MoD sits on 1% off all the land in the UK ?
    Why have local councils been forced to sell off capital assets over the last forty years when land expropriated in the 1940s (supposedly to save us from Hitler) is still in the ownership of the MoD and is either left entirely unused or is seldom put to any practical use?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Nov '14 - 12:19pm

    RC

    As a non Orange Booker, Matthew, where *is* all this extra revenue going to come from to avoid further cuts?

    I’m afraid it has to be higher taxes.

    There’s no conflict between what you and I are saying here, RC. I fully agree with you that we need an honest debate, which looks at what things cost and looks at what taxes raise and asks people to make up their mind on that basis. I’ve always hated the way politics generally ends up with one side criticising the other for making “cuts” without any acknowledgement of the need for cuts in order to keep within a budget, and the other side going on about how wonderful it is that they are cutting taxes, without acknowledging the need for taxes to pay for services.

    I’m happy to look at the examples George Potter is giving, I’d like more details on exactly what it is that Sheffield and Manchester are doing that makes the differences. However, it seems to me that this line about “efficiency savings” has been pushed year-in year-out for decades. Might we not have reached the point now where there just AREN’T any more efficiency savings that can be made? As I was suggesting, it may the case that attempting to make more when there aren’t any more that can be made just results in cuts which save money in the short term at the expense of more cost in the long term.

    As I have said many times, there are strong demographic, environmental, technological and social reasons why state spending is rising so long as we keep the expectations that the state will provide what it has provided. We need a more educated workforce, hence many more people staying on longer in education, and if we continue to expect that to be paid for by the state, it means higher taxes. If we aren’t willing to pay the higher taxes, well, then it has to be paid for in some other way. We should have made this absolutely clear in the last election with the “pledge” on tuition fees. We’ve suffered badly because we did not, and yet the debate on this issue has continued to ignore the need for financial balance, as if having full state subsidy of universities is a policy in isolation rather than one which has to be balanced by taxes to pay for it.

    Similarly, the huge rise in life expectation has enormous financial consequences if we are going to continue with the NHS providing health care free of direct charge, and if we are going to have some sort of state pension scheme. If we want it, we have to face the consequences in terms of the tax to pay for it. If we aren’t willing to pay those taxes, well, we have to accept not having it – the NHS ending as a “free of direct charge” service. Simple, there is no way round that, and I am fed up with hand-waving arguments which we get from almost ALL politicians which pretend there is.

  • David Allen 4th Nov '14 - 12:38pm

    George Potter,

    “Lib Dem run council protected public services and kept redundancies to a minimum by operating more efficiently, the Labour run one slashed public services and made hundreds of workers redundant.

    It’s a similar story everywhere else in the country – Lib Dem run councils are far better than comparable councils when it comes to protecting services at the same time that their budgets are being squeezed.”

    Nice assertion. Is it true? What is the evidence?

    As Matthew Huntbach says, “This line about “efficiency savings” has been pushed year-in year-out for decades. Might we not have reached the point now where there just AREN’T any more efficiency savings that can be made?”

    Or to put it another way – What precisely is the magic bullet that Lib Dems have got and that nobody else has got?

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