The ConDems announcement on council cuts can only be deliberate.
All the big losers are inner city, poor locations. The relative winners are all Tory shires.
The 37 top losing councils are all Labour. 32 of the best off are Tory.
And yes, I know that Labour did pay much, much more to political authorities like Liverpool than i did to Richmond (whether Surrey or Yorkshire). But, and this may be a shock to many in the Tory shires, there was good reason for that. The scale of social need in poor urban areas is vastly, vastly higher than in leafy suburbs.
Of course it could be argued that some of that is the fault of those who live in poor inner city environments. There are undoubtedly some (a greater proportion than average) who live chaotic lives in those places. There are those who are, without doubt, welfare dependent. I don’t deny it. It would be wrong of me to do so. And there are those who have not worked, and may never work. I accept that too. Let’s not duck truths.
But, truth requires honest responses. And that is not what is being supplied by this government, which is going out of its way to punish these people (I mean that: I am saying that the ConDems are seeking to deliberately make the lives of these people, who are already the poorest in most communities worse off – and I think they enjoy the prospect of doing so). This will be especially apparent when the medical needs of these people – for which funding is being slashed – are not met. Being married to a GP who has spent most of her working life in areas of urban deprivation – and yes we have one in West Norfolk – it’s called Kings Lynn – I am exposed frequently to the tales of what those needs are, and they make a mockery of those of the shires’ ‚Äòworried well’.
And honest response recognises some other truths. The first is that we do not have jobs for far too many young men. When we had a half a million men working on the railways, vast numbers working in manufacturing and more besides we employed these men – often in what were at least notionally relatively low skilled roles, and yet each of which developed its own skill set over time – which most were afforded to develop that skill set as there was a commitment to employing people in the long term whenever possible. In other words, roles were developed for young men that met their need for employment and the learning needs and abilities they had. We’ve abandoned that approach. We now teach girls and their skill needs and we have no commitment to employing the young men failed by the education system by offering them long term work. We won’t address chaotic lives until we do address these issues. The Green New Deal is one way to tackle this issue. It recommends the creation of a “carbon army” – jobs to green the UK. It’s not the only one, but a way.
Nor will we address poverty until we recognise the need for long term, good housing for those without the capital to buy their own. I stress, good housing. We have mean, niggardly house building policies in the UK. Most housing is too small. State housing has been ignored, undermined and underfunded in terms of new build and maintenance. That’s a scandal. Of course we have poverty and a lack of hope in that case. Again, the Green New Deal has some answers. Not all, but some.
And we need to be much more open minded about what education is. It is ludicrous to design the whole education system around university admission when at least 50% will not go. And yet Gove is downgrading vocational training. He will only isolate more people from the whole education process, whilst refusing to fund them to stay until 18 and yet demanding that they must do so.
The truth is all these things need spending. And spending now. But as I’ve argued time and again, and will continue to do so – that spending will pay. When I did the calculations in 2009 cutting a job paying £25,000 cost the UK £23,000 or more in lost revenue – and that’s before the knock on effect in the private sector was considered. Of course, as a result the reverse is also true. Create a job and it almost pays for itself directly. Add in the private sector knock on effect and it always will pay.
There is one way to get out of recession – and that is to tackle unemployment.
There is one way to tackle urban poverty – and that is to spend.
We can afford both.
It’s a choice to deprive people of work.
It’s a choice to deprive people of hope, homes and the help they need.
It’s a choice to favour the richest over the poorest in our communities.
They’re choices the ConDems are making.
And they’re all ones for which they must be held to account.