Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cuts : the Big Lie

On radio the other day I was treated to a clear explanation of ConDem economic theory. (I can't remember the name of the speaker, who I think was an economist). He said "It's only the private sector that creates wealth". i.e. the public sector doesn't; the public sector consumes wealth. So in order to get us out of the enormous hole in the country's wealth that, er, the private sector has created, we've got to swing an axe through the public sector and stop it consuming so much.

The private sector, you see, is good (according to the ConDems) because it produces all the things that people want (like cars and gadgets and entertainment) and is subject to the honest discipline of the market which makes sure that companies make the maximum profit for their shareholders who can award enormous bonuses to the bosses (for them to bank offshore to avoid paying taxes) whilst at the same time keeping prices competitive by employing as few people in this country as they possibly can and paying producers the least they can get away with.

The public sector is bad (say the ConDems) because it takes people's money away against their will to produce all the things they don't want (like health care and social services, roads infrastructure, schools, rubbish collection, oh - and benefits for all the people the private sector doesn't feel it needs any more). And of course the public sector is so undermining of freedom, isn't it? : Whereas in the private sector you can rejoice in the freedom to choose from fifty different brands of yoghourt in your supermarket (but don't worry your little heads about who is appointed to run the company or at what salary, or whether the company trades ethically, uses its weight to crush other small businesses or any of that 'do-gooder' stuff) the nasty public sector just takes your money away and you have no choice. Don't worry about citizen rights or voting or anything like that - "they're all as bad as each other", your vote is worthless. (Anyone who finds themselves agreeing with that has just swallowed the big lie).

So here's a brilliant idea for getting us out of the deficit. Take the city council's leisure facilities, say, and privatise them (as Oxford has done). At a stroke, a £700,000 "saving" in that nasty public sector spending (except that, being no fools, the private company refused to take responsibility for those leisure centres that the council had failed to maintain properly - so the council tax payer is left to pick up the 'toxic assets'). At a stroke, the leisure service is now creating £700,000 of wealth rather than consuming it. That's a net swing of £1,400,000 to the country's wealth for doing nothing except passing the buck. Yay! Brilliant!

But hang on a minute, the company is 'non-profit'! Doesn't that mean it isn't generating any wealth? Now I'm getting confused.

Oh well, it's still £700,000 shifted off the council's books, isn't it? It still means the country isn't spending £700,000 that it was before. Doesn't it . . ?

No it doesn't. The whole idea that only the private sector produces wealth is utter rubbish. Worse, it's a lie told to justify passing on the costs of gargantuan failure in the spoiled and unaccountable upper echelons of the private sector to the most vulnerable in society by way of cuts to essential services. "Firm but fair", Mr Cleggeron? It's morally, spiritually, economically bankrupt. It's a lie propagated by most of the mainstream media, including the BBC. It's a lie that most of the population has been manipulated to believe. There is plenty of actual wealth in this country, most of it generated by the public sector, on which the upper echelons of the private sector are nothing more than a parasite. It's that parasite that needs cutting out. Never mind selling off Oxford City Council assets : I wonder what those buildings in the City of London are worth?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Haven't posted for a while because life's been so busy. The issues I've been immediately drawn into :

* the closure of one of the busiest swimming pool and leisure centres in Oxford despite massive public opposition (6,500 petition signatures so far) and public consultation that tried as hard to avoid actually consulting as it could, leaving it until they hoped the plan was a fait accompli. The feasibility study will only be published days before the Executive Board plans to make the decision. In the midst of the heat generated, a very interesting proposal for a replacement pool using reed-bed water filtration has emerged.

* the issue of nightmare all-night parties in student houses. My researches reveal that the Environmental Development people do have the power to act with fixed penalty fines whilst the problem is occurring, but that a call-out involves young female staff being summoned from their bed 20 miles away at 3:00 in the morning after having done a day's work, to deal with the problem on their own. It's a serious matter : there are signs that long-term residents are starting to move out of the areas with high student concentrations, which will destroy the delicate balance that makes East Oxford great.

* the turning-over by the Council of a large chunk of the only publicly-owned green space in East Oxford for a builder's compound for two years, again without consulting the East Area Parliament as they were obliged to do.

* the proposed licensing of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and discussions about what anti-social behaviour conditions might be applied to the licences.

* a series of public meetings about the problems of far too many cars in East Oxford, which was not designed for cars at all. Is a Controlled Parking Zone the way forward? The more one goes into the issue the more complex it gets.

* I have created and started to build an online resource - an interactive website along the lines of Wikipedia, facilitating the building-up of an information base that members can add to and search. Up to now, a lot of key information has been locked in the heads of a very few people. It's at but most of its content is restricted to Party activists.

* how to get a missing section of what could be a very valuable cycle route into the city from the south established. Unfortunately it runs across Christ Church College land, and previous attempts have not been successful.

* membership of the Standards Committee (currently examining complaints the City Council receives), the Value & Performance Scrutiny Committee (equivalent to a parliamentary select committee) and a sub-group of that, the Asset Management Group, which is currently scrutinising proposals for a radical reordering of the council's ways of working, introducing home working and hotdesking, selling off two of its offices and pulling all the staff into two places, and restructuring the council to create a single customer interface (instead of people having to find out which department they need and deal direct).

Alongside this is the more routine 'casework' - dealing with complaints and planning applications. All in all, it's been a bit of a shock. It hasn't helped that I've only just managed to get the IT equipment I wanted, and still don't have access to the Council intranet. But I'm glad to be involved and feel I can be useful.