The Carnival Against Stuff

The News Shopper reports that approximately 1,000 people descended on Lewisham today to protest against planned reductions in Council services, during a 'Carnival Against Cuts'.

Demonstrators gathered outside libraries, banks and children’s centres at 34 locations across the borough, handing out leaflets and singing, before a march took place from the Town Hall.

The action was organised by Lewisham People Before Profit and Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance.

Speaking outside Barclays Bank in London Road, Forest Hill, organiser John Hamilton said: “It’s a focal point for the centre of Forest Hill more so than the library.

“The banks are one of the reasons we have been in this crisis of cuts.”

Those seduced by the Bacchanalian atmosphere are promised bigger, possibly rainier, carnivals in future. John Hamilton, the group's own Henry Winter, says the organisers have more meetings scheduled and are hoping to stage bigger protests in future.

Read the report here.

179 comments:

Sue said...

Nick, am I missing some literary/cinematic reference here or are you being incredibly cynical?! I was quite inspired that so many people, young and old, cared enough about public services in Lewisham that they gave up half their Saturday to go and make their views known.

Brockley Nick said...

@Sue Mainly just joking that angry people giving out leaflets in the rain is not my idea of a carnival.

If I have a serious point it's in the headline. In the build up to the event it was not clear what the campaigner's positive alternative is and the quotes in the report don't shed any light either.

I think at a time when the Council clearly has no choice but to make some cuts (even the Green Party candidate for Mayor this year said as much), that it is not particularly useful just to oppose all cuts, without compromise, and not offer an alternative positive plan.

If they have one, it would be good to hear it, because that side of the campaign isn't coming over.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that the anti cuts alliance, people before profit and all these groups are made up of the same few people like John Hamilton whose real aims are actually a global overthrow of capitalism. Anti cuts is easy to say but doesn't take account of reality and covers up the true motives of some of these people.

George Hallam said...

Almost everyone who turn out today lives in Lewisham.

They did not "descend" on Lewisham. They just went down the road any joined other people in their area to make a public protest.

The significant thing about this protest is that it was, overwhelming, ordinary people, not a stage army composed of the 'usual suspects' who were protesting.

If this development makes you feel uncomfortable please feel free to ignore it.

Brockley Nick said...

@George

Thanks for coming on to clarify that rather than descending, people "went down" the road.

But perhaps you could address the material point: what is the alternative plan, given that the Council has its rates capped, its central funding cut and is in debt?

http://www.georgehallam.org.uk/home

Sue said...

Thanks for the reply Nick, now I see where you're coming from. I think it's fair to say that the Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance is a pretty broad church - on the one side you have got those opposed to all cuts and who think councillors should vote for an illegal budget (Socialist Party, Lewisham People before Profit and others), then you've got people (like the Greens) who don't support setting an illegal budget, don't support cuts to services, aren't against genuine efficiency savings, but do oppose both the govt imposed cuts and question the way the local Labour-run council is implementing them. Then you've also got a number of Labour activists who oppose the speed and scale of the Tory govt cuts, although a Labour govt would have made a similar level of cuts, albeit a bit more slowly.

I don't agree with everything everyone within LACA says, but there's enough common ground to keep working together, I hope.

And hats off to John Hamilton and many others who worked very hard to organise today's event - getting 1,000 people out to protest in Lewisham on a drizzly February Saturday is quite an achievement, I think.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
"If I have a serious point it's in the headline. In the build up to the event it was not clear what the campaigner's positive alternative is"

If Brockley Nick had followed the build up to the event he might noticed that the campaigners (there are more than one of us) do have a vary clear positive alternative to the current programme of cuts and privitisation.

In fact you don't even have to follow the local anti-cuts campaign to realise that there is a very clear alternative to the Government's current policy: just read the Financial Times.

Brockley Nick said...

@George

Thanks. Are you going to answer the question though? And setting an illegal (and completely pointless) budget doesn't count as a positive way forward.

Brockley Nick said...

@Sue - all the common ground you've just described seems to in relation to national government, rather than Lewisham.

Welcome to 2011 said...

Nick, I think we can take that as a "no" from George.

I've been on his site and the Carnival site and I can't see a single word that isn't either about the national government or that just lists all the cuts and says they're bad.

What Lewisham can or should do instead? I'm none the wiser.

Sue said...

@Nick. Yep, a lot of it is, but there's probably also a reasonable amount of common ground regarding senior management salaries, the number of senior management, and reducing expenditure on consultants and PR.

I noticed that amongst the many recommendations the Mayor made in last week's M&C was one to "ask officers to report to the Constitution Working Party on the creation of a Remuneration Panel charged with reviewing the pay and conditions of senior officers". Personally I'd say this is long overdue. It's not going to save £87m, but at a time when the Council is closing libraries, youth career services etc it seems bizarre to have a CEO earning in excess of £188k and a number of other senior officers earning in excess of £130k. I know many of these officers are hard working and know their stuff, but I really don't think we can justify their salary levels at a time when so many other jobs are going lower down the pay scale.

Incidentally, did you see that the Mayor also asked the Constitution Working Party to "undertake a fundamental review of governance arrangements; to include the number of elected councillors"?

Coney said...

The old "in the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is King" argument. Even if they haven't got a credible alternative, I support protest. Global finance is complicated, how we've found ourselves in this mess is difficult to understand. People just know that they don't like and they want the people in charge to do something about it. It's a poignant situation and don't think sacarsm helps.

George Hallam said...

Sue said...
"the Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance is a pretty broad church"

True

"you have got those opposed to all cuts and who think councillors should vote for an illegal budget (Socialist Party, Lewisham People before Profit and others)".

False

People before Profit does not advocate that councillors should vote for an illegal budget.

And, as far as I am aware, neither does the Socialist Party.

If you analyse the concrete reality of Lewisham council's financial situation, rather than just sloganising about the inevitability of a reduction in public spending, you find that there are all manner of alternatives to cuts.

Some of these alternatives are long term, others are short term.

It's tempting to dismiss short term measures as, well.. er.. short term. Personally, this is my usual position. However, in our current situation this is not sensible to reject such measures out of hand.

The current round of cuts is at least as much about politics as it is about economics. Politically the situation is volatile and it is debatable how long the Government will survive. It is rational, therefore, to use short term expedients to delay cuts, as a new government will probably rescind them.

Of course, to the really revolutionary this is the foulest sort of opportunism. To such people the cuts are heaven sent as a scourge to purify the corrupted spirit of the working masses. The true revolutionary says we should oppose the cuts, but only rhetorically. We should allow them to go through in order to “intensify the internal contradictions” etcetera, etcetera. It’s easy to see how this line of argument goes. What is harder to understand is why Sue and Brockley Nick should choose such bed mates.

Brockley Nick said...

@George - sorry, to clarify, you believe that the positive alternative is to campaign until the government collapses? So, in your view, this event was aimed at taking down national government?

What's the logic in protesting in Catford then? Because Bullock is an appeaser? Take him down and the rest will follow?

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...

"setting an illegal (and completely pointless) budget doesn't count as a positive way forward"

In polite circles it is considered unhelpful to attribute views to people that they don't actually hold.

Brockley Nick said...

I didn't attribute those views to you, I asked you to spell out what your views actually are, which you've avoided doing.

And addressing people indirectly "Brockley Nick said..." rather than speaking to them directly is hardly the height of good manners.

Tamsin said...

Given that the cabinet members receive an extra £15K each in allowances and responsibility payment there would be a small but significant saving in just slicing that extra tier of governance and going back to the Mayor consulting direct with specialising committees of "ordinary" councillors" as the appointed rather than elected Mayor used to do.

Savings also, I suppose, in the support systems that the extra cabinet level of activity requires.

Sue said...

@George Apologies if I've misled on LPB4P and the Socialist Party's stance on the budget - I got the distinct impression from anti-cuts mtgs I've attended that this was the case.

I suspect that we would agree on a lot of cost-saving measures, but the fact remains that saving £87m without any job losses or cuts to services, particularly given how the cuts have been front-loaded, is a tall order, even if you were to use all of the Council's reserves. There are a number of longer-term measures that could be implemented to save money, but extricating the council from PFI contracts etc at short-notice, would be difficult to do without incurring pretty hefty costs.

I also notice on the LPB4P website that one of your suggestions for saving money is "Renegotiate the £27m annual interest payments to the banks to save £7m a year over the next 3 years". How would that work, how would the Council get the banks to agree to that?

George Hallam said...

No. “the” implies just one. I mentioned ‘alternatives’ (plural) some alternatives are long term, others alternatives short term.
“So, in your view, this event was aimed at taking down national government?”

I have been around long enough to recognise a public school debating trick when I see one.
I you read the papers you will be aware that the present Government is facing a number of difficulties. I won’t bore you by listing them. Political commentators who know nothing of Lewisham predicted the Government’s fall. Popular protest in Lewisham is obviously aimed at preventing the council doing silly things.

max said...

Sorry, that £87m figure, there was a thread some time ago where it was questioned and no one could come up with the reason why. Has this been clarified?

Brockley Nick said...

George, I'll defer to your knowledge of public schools, since I went to a local comprehensive, but I don't know why you're so determinedly vague about what you're trying to achieve - it does rather prove the original point.

Personally, I disagree with much of what this government is doing, but a) any government that replaced them would do fairly similar things, still leaving Lewisham with a large hole to fill and b) many commentators in those newspapers you keep telling me about argue that the government is setting Councils up to be the fall guys - leaving them to be blamed for many of the front-line cuts that are being imposed.

The Carnival organisers' vague critique and broad range of targets means actually makes it less likely that blame will be put at the feet of the national government, in my view.

In other words, it's counterproductive. But I'm sure you know best - good luck forming the next government.

Lou Baker said...

Actually - the government has done really rather well, under difficult circumstances.

I think both the PM and his deputy have demonstrated themselves to be perfectly reasonable men, prepared to compromise and act in the national interest. Compare if you will to Gordon Brown whose uncompromising stance (both as PM and Chancellor) created this almighty mess we're in as a country.

As a country we spend far too much money and we 'earn' too little. We borrow an absolutely shocking amount and, worse still, our borrowing isn't just to invest in
infrastructure and our future, it's borrowed to cover the running costs.

The benefits bill is obscene, the NHS budget is ludicrous for the service it offers as are many other departments budgets. If George wants to realise why so many people are poor it might be because 40% of everything they earn goes to pay for all this state funded crap - which if you believe George is all entirely necessary.

We should aspire to having a few dozen excellent public services, rather than hundreds and hundreds of mediocre ones.

Anonymous said...

This is what protest achieves

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-protest-works-just-look-at-the-proof-2119310.html

Welcome to 2011 said...

Good protest, with clear aims and targets, yes.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Brockley Nick, this really has rattled your cage hasn't it. Never read you being so impolite before.

Brockley Nick said...

You obviously haven't read the site enough :)

You want rude? said...

The reality is that you speak for big business, that is your world. I really think Brockley needs to have alternative online presence, the poor of Brockley are not getting represented, all the majority care here is their house price and all this stuff vans, transport, roadworks,shops etc & doing up the area, it all about House prices, the very thing that got us into this financial mess.

Mb said...

Well transport and improving the civic landscape does benefit everyone. Big bussiness? They employ people. Shops? Employs people. We need more businesses in brockley, not less. This blog is a free forum, plenty of left of centre comment. And Lou

Mb said...

Well transport and improving the civic landscape does benefit everyone. Big bussiness? They employ people. Shops? Employs people. We need more businesses in brockley, not less. This blog is a free forum, plenty of left of centre comment. And Lou

Mb said...

What is big business anyway? A business that is big?

Love Detective said...

Nick, if you actually took the time to listen to, or read about, the various stuff that is being put out there by anti-cuts groups in general and LACA in particular then it might prevent you from arguing against convenient made up straw men

You also seem obsessed with setting up this false dichotomy between 'blaming' and then protesting against, either local or national government in relation to the cuts. As if local protestors having a local protest in their local area against the cuts in this country, means that somehow it is less likely that 'blame (or protestors anger) will be put at the feet of the national government' or inversely protests in central london mean that the local councils get of the hook for it either. Here's one of the posters that we've used recently in relation to the cuts They're All In It Together- this does exactly the opposite of what you seem to be suggesting vis a viz protesting locally against 'local' cuts - and instead clearly makes the point that Local/Central and Tory/Labour/LibDem are all in it together. Pointing out and criticising actions of any of these individual components does not mean, as you seem to crudely suggest, that its less likely that 'blame will be put at the feet' of any of the others. This is just simplistic binary logic that seems to me to be more about your own kneejerk disdain for local protestors than genuine appraisal of what's actually happening

So they are all in it together - central government (be they Tory, Lib Dem or Labour) taking the decisions to increase corporate welfare whilst reducing social welfare and local government acting as the distribution channel for a large element of those cuts. Therefore both elements here are complicit and both should be exposed & attacked for the part they are willingly playing in this. Whilst we all agree that local government are restricted by their funding settlements from the state, they could, if the political will was there, play a role in resisting (rather than smoothing the passage through) the implementation of these cuts. Personally I see nothing wrong with setting an illegal budget (as a political statement of resistance to central government), it's been done before and in this day and age the penalties for doing so against local councillors are a lot less severe than they were in the 80's. They could also, instead of immediately cutting services that are relied upon by the most vulnerable in our society (children, elderly, disabled, unemployed, low waged), look to cut back within the areas where cuts could be more easily absorbed (The IFS sometime ago commented on the hugely regressive nature of the cuts being implemented, both at the local & national level) - the lewisham people before profit website lists a fair few examples of these in relation to the local level - whilst not covering the whole of the cutback in funding settlements, they would at least ensure that we are all in it together a bit more than is currently the case.

Clearly there is a tactical ploy in place at central government to channel blame for the cuts down to local government as you say, but there's a difference between falling for this blatant political maneuvering and rightly holding local councils responsible for their collaborative part in the whole sorry affair, something you don't seem to be able to grasp (hence your derogatory comment about 'What's the logic in protesting in Catford then?')

Brockley Nick said...

I work for some big businesses and some small ones. Some public sector organisations and some charities. I am the co-founder of a small independent start-up business. Not that any of that is particularly relevant - any more than I might write off someone else's opinion if they had never worked in the commercial sector.

My criticism of the campaigners is that they haven't explained what they want to do and seem reluctant to, even when asked to do so here.

There are lots of online communities around here, but by all means start another if you think there is a gap in the market. Better still, write an aricle for this site, send it to me and if it's any good, I'll post it.

Love Detective said...

...contd

But you're right in one sense, this fight won't be won at the local level because that's not where the key power lies (however it is where the first lines of real popular resistance in relation to the cuts are being formed and built, i.e. within local communities). A significant amount of power however does exist at the govt local level which could be used to resist the cutbacks being made at the central government level. It's clearly not being used to this effect at present, because of the general political mainstream's tendency to see the cuts (and these kind of cuts in particular) as inevitable and that there is no alternative.

This idea that current level of public debt is unsustainable, that these kind of cuts are the only way to reduce the deficit, and that these cuts will aid economic recovery is something that we in LACA have consistently been highlighting as patent nonsense. And again, if you'd taken the time to actually read any of the stuff that we've been putting out (page 3 on the Feb Bulletin for example, written by my goodself) then perhaps you'd have less justification for your somewhat arrogant simplistic and blinkered analysis of events

(by the way - no way was there a thousand people on the march today - 500-600 tops i'd say)

Lou Baker said...

Lou is no right winger.

I've never voted for anyone to the right of new Labour (unless you count the Lib Dems). I've certainly never voted Tory, though I've been impressed with Cameron
so far.

I even voted Green once. Must have been feeling really sick that day.

Brockley is full of lefty nuts though. Until recently Telegraph Hill was just about the only ward in London with Socialist councillors. The Green loons do well here too. So it's not me being too far to the right, it's you lot being too far to the left.

Love Detective said...

hmm, part 2 of my post appeared but part 1 didn't..

Love Detective said...

I've never voted for anyone to the right of new Labour

you'd be hard pushed to find anyone to the right of New Labour

Brockley Nick said...

@LD - I have unblocked your comment, which got stopped by the spam filters.

With regards to the suggestion that I simply haven't bothered to try and learn what the protestors want.

Two points:

Firstly...

Here is the Carnival website:
http://www.carnivalagainstcuts.org.uk/

Here is the Carnival leaflet:
http://www.carnivalagainstcuts.org.uk/images/attachments/Carnival.pdf

In neither does it say what the council should do instead, beyond saying that there should be no cuts at all.

Even when asked, the likes of George just makes vague comments like "read The FT".

Secondly...

Now even if the alternative plan does exist somewhere, my advice to the campaigners is that if they want to win hearts and minds (assuming they do) then it's good practice to make it easy for people to find that. People shouldn't have to work to find the information, your job as campaigners is to give it to them on a plate.

Otherwise you're doomed to a life of irrelevance and exploiting the fear and anger of the vulnerable to a useless end.

Mb said...

LD, your part one did. My eyes are still bleeding from reading it.

@lou, I've voted Green before too. We must have passed each other in the Q

max said...

Sorry to ask again, but there seem to be a few people here that understnad Council budgets better than I do.
My question is: if Lewisham Council was asked a £21.8m budget reduction for this year why have they cut £32m instead?

Love Detective said...

Nick,

One response to both your points:-

The carnival was supported, organised and attended by around 16 different formal organisations with a fairly diverse (politically, culturally, socially) makeup, each of which have differing views on both what is happening, what should be done about it and what can be done about it

Distilling all those differing views into something that could be put on one (lazy journalist friendly) placard is clearly not something that could be done. The one common theme however is a reaction to what is seen as the unnecessary speed, depth, regressiveness and politically motivated (as opposed to economically necessitated) nature of the cuts. The carnival was simply a chance for anyone in opposition to what's going on to have a day out and make their own particular views & suggestions known.

Popular effective resistance to things don't fall fully grown and perfectly formed from the sky, they are built up through countless disparate and disjointed acts, some coherent others not so, and through time something may or may not be distilled out of it, it's a process Nick.

Anonymous said...

Did the protestors in Egypt each have a policy paper in hand? Should they have? Did Rosa Parks have a policy paper in hand when she refused to give up her seat? Was her action counter-productive? Protest is about expressing discontent not just policy-making, which isn't to say the two are mutually exclusive. Wow, complexity. Go on, fire back, but how you can so derisively speak of the citizens of Lewisham collectively and peacefully vocalizing their anger (irrespective of whether or not they're presenting alternative policy) against the gross reduction of public services is a real head-scratcher.

Anonymous said...

I think nick is asking the organisers to explain their alternatives rather than deriding the protestors. And Rosa Parks was very politically savvy, she most certainly did have a clear idea of what she wanted as an outcome. She wasn't just looking for a seat on a bus.

Brockley Nick said...

OK, well if you're saying it's incoherent at the moment, then why are you complaining that I'm saying the same.

I don't think Egyptian repression or racial segregation are remotely comparable to Lewisham's attempts to balance the books. These are tough, zero-sum questions about resource allocations. Spending on X means cutting on Y, or raising taxes or charges on Z (or accumulating more debt). So if we're saying that X cannot be cut by a single penny, then I want to know what the plan is for Y and Z before I can say whether I support you.

I don't criticise anyone who is angry at the loss of services nor do I blame them for protesting - I'm just suggesting there might be more effective ways to do it.

Love Detective said...

I'm saying LACA's position is perfectly coherent - and if you'd taken the time to read the material I linked to you could make that judgement for yourself as well

The Carnival was not just about LACA though, there were numerous other groups who organised, supported and attended it (some who agree with LACA's position and others who do not). There is no common alternative plan that could be presented and put forward by the Carnival as an 'entity' in itself because it does not exist. Because the Carnival, as the name somewhat obviously suggests was a erm.. carnival, not a political movement or manifesto

You're staring at something and shouting at it for not being something that it has never claimed to be

You may not have the soul to understand why some people appreciate the outlet that an event like this gives them to express their own particular anger and positions on what's going on, but others do, and they enjoyed doing so, myself included.

right den said...

Right so all these people from the carnival saying how clear their plan is and anyone who don't know it is too stoopid or lazy. Still none of them have said what it is.

And now the love detective said actually it wasn't about a plan at all, it was about avin a laugh and lettin off some steam but no one should say anything bad about it because it#s deadly serious.

Ok then.

right den said...

oh yea and it was mainly real people there today not just the usual suspects, but actually it was 16 different political groups too so how you going to get anyone to agree on anything.

Yup, nobody better say anything bad about this otherwise they're not real people they're businessmen.

And we need more blogs out there giving alternative points of view but only if they saying the same things as the carnival people.

OK then people all clear?

Danja said...

I don't think Nick is the one shouting. To me, it seems like he's pretty calmly asking whether the shouters are shouting in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Nick, why must you equivocate Egypt and American segregation with Lewisham? I'm not. I'm making a comment on the nature of protest, and doing so by citing two examples of protest that do not fit your understanding of the concept. This does not amount to likening them.

max said...

Actually it's a great opportunity for protest, there's no point in preaching to the converted, if this is really a borgeoise ghetto then it's exactly the social-demographic protesters must penetrate with their argument if they want to make some political capital.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said..
"And addressing people indirectly "Brockley Nick said..." rather than speaking to them directly is hardly the height of good manners."

A discussion on the web is not the same as a face to face conversation so there is no reason to follow the same conventions when attributing quotations. This is especially so when the person concerned uses a nom de plume.

In any case this is a public discussion and I am more interested in addressing those who read the bog than the individual who wrote it.

Tamsin said...

Speaking to a lady the other day whose son works as an independant consultant for various Whitehall Departments. Several links of hearsay, but interesting, in that she said he said that even the top eschelon civil servants (the emminences grises, the men in grey suits, the powers behind every throne since Maggie Thatcher's) are shocked by the utter callousness with which their present masters, this government, are as a matter of principle setting about the demolition of the Welfare State.

urbansurgery said...

i was abused by one 'protester' when i asked what the Lewisham alternative.

as expressed here, either you are against the cuts or you are thick/toff/banker/enemy of the state

sure i may have been flippant but i was out and about not with protest on my todo list and so for a group to unleash a torrent of abuse in front of two pre-school children is far from getting your point across.

as it happens im open to anyone willing to give a pragmatic response to Lewisham's position. overthrowing the world order i have less time for

i agree with nick.

Anonymous said...

Is Brockley Nick a Tory cuts fan?

Anonymous said...

Is Brockley Central pro Tory cuts???

Anonymous said...

BC is being accused of the same thing as the BBC. Left wing or establishment public school boys, depending on your dogmatic rant. Nick is simply asking for the demonstrators to substantiate the alternative. A least LD is trying, although his posts could do with an editor. Instead of three paragraphs of political theorising just give us the alternative.

A "fan of Tory cuts" is not a coherent acusation, it's something o daub on a placard. I doubt it's even true.

As for the protest itself, no issue with it but I expect conservativ central office are laughing their arses off. Blame to local authorities, especially the poor ones that have the greatest number of people affected.

Transpontine said...

My view, for what it's worth, is that the 'alternative to cuts' can't be resolved at a local level so it would be pointless for local anti-cuts protestors to put forward an alternative budget for Lewisham. Indeed to do so would be to accept the starting point of the budget - the massive reduction in funding from the Government. So yes it is the national government cuts that really need to be changed in order to stop local cuts.

But that doesn't mean protesting in Lewisham is a waste of time. People are naturally going to start their oppositon to cuts where they are feeling them - which is locally, at their local library, nursery etc.

Looking across the country, this wave of local protests is constituting a national movement and that is beginning to worry the coalition.

We've already seen that this Government is weak and divided with its backing down on forest sales following general outrage. The stakes in economic policy are higher but it is quite feasible that a sufficient outcry could widen cracks in the coaltion and at the very least force them to ameliorate the impact of cuts (e.g. you could imagine a budget that announces that transitional funding has suddenly been found to help councils). How far they could be pushed into reducing cuts in future years depends on how strong the oppostion is.

What is certain is that if people don't make a fuss in places like Lewisham when libraries and services close - whether or not they have a coherent policy alternative - the government will feel emboldened to make more and deeper cuts in future.

The poll tax in 1990 is a better analogy than the civil rights movement. Local Labour Councils were instructed by the national Tory government to implement it, and as with the cuts argued that they didn't have a choice. Whether you agreed with them or not, people were angry and started out protesting in their local areas, with lots of demonstrations at Town Halls. This coagulated into a big national movement, with a huge demonstration in central London in March 1990. Some people did a lot of work on alternative models of local government finance, but most people just expressed their anger, that is the nature of protest. But it worked, the Government withdrew the poll tax and indeed was so weakened that Thatcher stood down shortly afterwards.

Whether the national demonstration against cuts in London on March 26th is on the scale of the poll tax demonstration remains to be seen. And even if it is it doesn't mean there will be an immediate outcome. But protest can work, and it can work in this context.

You may or may not agree that it is a desirable outcome for the Government to be forced to do a U-turn on cuts, but it is a realistic possibility. And if it does occur it will partly be because people in Lewisham and lots of similar places could be bothered to get out in the rain and make their voices heard.

Transpontine said...

But yes, tactically I would be more inclined to mobilise on the basis of 'come and show your opposition to government cuts in Lewisham' rather than 'Make a placard to show your disgust at Steve Bullock's priorities' (as the Carnival Against Cuts website puts it). Whether you agree with his stance or not, making Bullock the Bogeyman risks letting Cameron and Clegg off the hook, and lets local Tories argue absurdly that they are not to blame for library closures.

Westsider said...

George I count six posts from you without answering the question - what would you do (in the short term, not long-term exiting the EU and all your other ideas)? Are you Michael Howard?

Love Detective said...

@ Transpontine

"Whether you agree with his stance or not, making Bullock the Bogeyman risks letting Cameron and Clegg off the hook, and lets local Tories argue absurdly that they are not to blame for library closures"

The first paragraph on the carnival website says:-

The streets of Lewisham will resound to the noise of angry residents with saucepans and wooden spoons at 12 noon to show their disgust at the cuts announced by Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock which target children and the poorest rather than making sure David Cameron's cuts are rejected

This clearly identifies the roles of central government as instigators of the cuts and local councils as delivering those cuts. Both are fair game for attack, and like Nick you seemed to slip into the binary view that if any one point in time one of these gets criticised it means the other is being let of the hook

I don't understand this idea that any criticism of local government's delivery of central government cuts risks letting cameron & clegg (and milliband) of the hook. It doesn't. It identifies the roles the various institutions are playing in the cuts process and quite correctly attacks them for their respective roles within it. Bullock is a central figure in delivering the coallition government's cut program in Lewisham. The idea that a protest mach should take place in Lewisham which didn't refer to his role in this sorry affair is bizarre. It would merely bolster his (and local Labour's) janus like position of being anti-cuts in public but pro-cuts in the chamber

Lou Baker said...

Tamsin's "dismantling of the welfare state" rubbish demonstrates the sort of vile scaremongering the corduroy brigade have resorted to.

How exactly is the welfare state being dismantled? By simplifying the benefits system to stop people suffering a life of dependancy? A change backed by that well known right-wing nut Frank Field.

By giving GP's more say over their patients' care than unaccountable bureaucrats?

By providing more help to the most disadvantaged youngsters when they most need it?

By stopping the richest families from being able to claim child benefit?

By offering free university places - and guaranteed places at the best universities - to the poorest families? And by requiring no-one to pay a penny upfront, or to have to pay a penny back until they earn close to the average wage?

Labour, the unions and general exteme left wing riff-raff whine on about cuts. But they have come up with no solutions to the massive budget deficit they created. They went on a spending spree - using the national credit card - and now blaming others for their irresponsibility.

Let's be clear. If you think the benefits system doesn't need reforming, you're an ass. If you think the NHS provides good value for money, you're an ass. If you think university funding is sustainable as it us, you're an ass. If you think Lewisham's cuts aren't partly politically motivated, you're an ass.

That makes a lot of you asses. Shave your beards, change your cords for jeans and swap those sandals for some proper footwear. You'll soon feel better.

Humphrey said...

Flatulent nonesense! The Tory party is not to blame for the cuts. Look not to where the arrow points, Transport. (Plato... but if it wasn't him I don't want to know.)

The last time I was in a library (and I do like them becasue I save on newspapers) it was being used by noisy babies and childminders in one section and some rather smelly chap in the other. Claiming to be a user, he snored as I managed to make it to page 13 of the Telegraph! (Probably why it was empty time and time and time and time and time and time - well, you catch my drift - again.) Managed to spray the brute with some Jo Malone which one of the mum's had left dangling out of her bag, whilst attending some annoyingly noisy brat.

As for most of the librarians... they're writing or reading their own books and resent any intrusion. In fact they only way you can get the attention of a librarian these days is to phone them and scream fire!

The writing was on the wall with the inclusion of the internet grazers, most of whom journey from foreign shores and pay not a penny to the British public purse. Free museums. There is no such thing! It is at this point that I should add that I'm not in any way 'racialist'. But I'm noy going to.

Anonymous said...

From the NUT 'Carnival' leaflet...
A statement from the council in January...

Lewisham Council is absorbing the true scale of the spending cuts it is faced with following the Government’s announcement of the money it proposes to give local councils over the next two years.

The Council had been planning to have to reduce its budget by £60million over the next three years.

Following the recent announcement, it now seems it will be forced to find a massive £87million over the coming four years. Next year alone it is facing a reduction of £33million.

Transpontine said...

@love detective

I don't think my position is the same as Nick's. I have been actively involved in the protests, and promote them at Transpontine (see for instance report of yesterday's protests . But there is certainly room for debate on strategy and tactics.

There's nothing wrong with criticising Bullock and the Council's role in delivering cuts, and as I made clear the protests against Lewisham cuts have to start locally. But there is a danger in getting stuck in this localism - the talk of 'Bullock's priorities' implies that the cuts can simply be solved at a local level by different choices. Or rather it suggests that Bullock should make different cuts. Sure we'd all rather see the Chief Exec take a pay cut and Bullock lose his car than see a library close, but these measures are not going to fill the hole left by national government cuts.

Anonymous said...

Councillors shouldn’t agree to
carry out the Government’s dirty
work. Trade unions and local
people are going to fight these
cuts. You should join that fight.


That sounds like, set no budget or an illegal one?

Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance suggests...

Cuts to public services and jobs are not necesary..... There is a £120 billion tax gap of evaded, avoided and uncollected tax. People and corporations are still making huge profits and bonuses....

That looks like not only buisnesses but also married couples, families, people who have ISA's, pensions funds or are black market enterpreneurs will be targetted.

Whilst at People Before Profits....

We have started a borough-wide petition to draw attention to the fact that the cuts in council spending could be met without any cuts in jobs or services.

£7.2 million - by capping council pay at £50,000 for the next three years.

£3.6 million - is outstanding on trade debts owed to Lewisham Council.

£2 million minimum - by bringing highways repairs back "in-house".

£1 (sic, £1m?) approx - by cutting out agencies and employing staff directly.

Interest payments of £20million per year to the banks could be rescheduled over a longer period.


Ignoring the one off £3.6m and bank interest, PBP claim to have identified approximately £12m a year that could be saved out of the £20m to £33m savings required.

The main proposal seems to be for the council with less money to employ more staff on a permanent basis rather than a as and when basis.

There appears to be no concern on all tree sites that about private sector people losing their jobs to safeguard public sector employees.

Love Detective said...

@ Transpontine

"But there is a danger in getting stuck in this localism"

As we have both pointed out on this thread - resistance and fightbacks against the cuts start locally and movements grow out of this process. You can't fastforward straight away to the end result of that process.

That aside however, if you take a look at any of the material that has been put out by LACA (the bulletin we did for example that I linked to earlier) I think you'd be hard pushed to describe this as being 'stuck in localism'.

We also agree that fighting the cuts can't be won solely by local governments accepting the central govt cuts but cutting different things - the point however of highlighting other options in relation to local authority cost cutting is to show the stock position of local government is for regressive rather than progressive measures - it's not in itself intended as a solution for the situation we're in, but to reveal the hypocritical nature of those who claim to be anti-cuts in public but in private slash services & care to the poor, elderly, young, vulnerable, unemployed as a first measure, rather than a last resort

Anonymous said...

@George Hallam

"It is rational, therefore, to use short term expedients to delay cuts, as a new government will probably rescind them."

On what is this assumption based?

In the late 1970's the working class rejected the governments pay plan in a campaigned known as the winter of discontent.

In the following General Election the working class voted in power the Tories led by Margaret Thatcher.

Why do you assume a 'new government' would rescind any cuts? By the time an election took place Councils would have implemented their budgets and be well on the way and would have set next years.

It looks like a scheme to spend additional millions to save millions...bizarre.

Tamsin said...

I am generally sympathetic with the protestors but do think that the rather too personal focus on Bullock that comes from some of the leadership is not helpful. It puts people and groups off who would otherwise be more supportive.

@ Lou - hardly "courduroy brigade". This was what a slick consultant - just the sort of person minting money from the way government runs now - saying what the ultimate grey suits were feeling. Totally agree the NHS is not value for money. As I see it, the Unions, back in the 70s had too great a stranglehold on work practices (hospitals functioning 24 hours a day but expensive equipment unused for 16 of those 24 hours because the operators were only 9-5)and the attepmped reforms of Thatcher and New Labour have led to far too much target chasing and inter-departmental accountancy - but the continued covert privatisation in the name of "choice" is not the route to go. Even the doctors have now woken up - some of them - and don't like what is happening in Lansley's Bill.

In other aspects of life front-line local authority services are being cut because the - I agree -necessary public expenditure savings are being pushed through so fast. There is not the time to make and bed in extensive efficiency savings so instead chop libraries, youth services and children's centres.

The idea that hoards of volunteers will take up the slack in the Big Society is a pipe dream. To be effective volunteers need to have training (speaking to someone who used to work in a CAB who was deeply impressed by the training he got) and paid staff to manage them. Neither of which are cheap.

Again, with more time, it might work, but no LA can spend the extra money now. The only option is to cut or charge the service users.

Anonymous said...

@Love Detective

You and George are assuming the outcome of the protests that fits in with your idelogical political beliefs.

The people overwhemingly democratically voted for a Mayor who promised cut of at least £60m.

The socialists, Greens etc were trounced..kicked into touch.

Recently in Ladywell voters elected as councillor someone who is aligned with our elected Mayor.

You and George are sounding like any other politician before an election, full of detail about those you oppose but less than forthcoming about your own solutions.

Anonymous said...

"£7.2 million - by capping council pay at £50,000 for the next three years.

Ignoring the one off £3.6m and bank interest, PBP claim to have identified approximately £12m a year that could be saved out of the £20m to £33m savings required."


Reading that again I think 'People Before Profit' have only identified less than £10m of savings...mmmm.

Which would mean the council would have to set an illegal budget to fund the gap?

Transpontine said...

@ Love Detective

I agree with you, and support LACA in taking the Council to task for how it is implementing the cuts.

I do think that Lewisham People Before Profit (which is not the same thing) sometimes overemphasise the role of the Mayor, presumably because of that group's origin in supporting an alternative candidate in the Mayoral elections.

As an example of this disproportionate response they toured my area with a loud speaker on the day of the local and general election shouting 'Kick Labour Out'. Some of us facing cuts might have felt that we had at least as much to fear from an incoming Tory government.

Greeny Red said...

So Sue, George, Love Detective and Transpont...

What is an ordinary member of the public - who don't spend all their time reading your pamphlets - to make of all of this eh? Who should they punish and what is to be done?

You (all of you played a leading role in the demo) can't agree so why should anyone else listen? How are you going to convert anyone? And if you can't convert people why should our political leaders have anything to fear?

I think some cuts are necessary but this government is going too far. i reckon that's where most of the centre ground is. So when we hear you say NO NO NO I don't pay much attention. And when I read 70 comments without anyone from your team explaining how NO CUTS is possible I switch off.

LD said it, it's just a bit of a laugh for people who love this sort of thing and still remember the poll tax riots with much fondness. It's not going to change anything, because you don't have anything useful to offer.

Well done Sue for trying to offer some useful suggestions. She might be able to save £1m. That's important but it's not going to stop the cuts coming in a big way.

Tressilliana said...

Anyone else here old enough to remember the early 80s? Extraordinary sense of deja vu reading all this. When the Labour council in Liverpool refused to set a legal budget, it ended in chaos and Derek Hatton sending P45s out by taxi to council staff. Labour unelectable at national level for over a decade.

Tressilliana said...

It is all a bit 'Down with this sort of thing!', isn't it?

Brockley Nick said...

@Tressilliana - I was originally thinking about the headline: The Carnival Against This Sort of Thing

Love Detective said...

nobody goes to libraries these days anyway do they nick

Greeny Red, your position seems to be that you are demanding answers/information from anyone who is anti-cuts but at the same time refuse to read any of the answers/information they put out explaining why they are anti-cuts.

I've already linked to a bulletin we put together recently and pointed to the specific page which puts forward our non-cuts argument at the national level. If you can't take the time to read the 500 or so words on that page before engaging with the position, then I doubt you have very much interest in reasoned and robust debate about the topic whatsoever.

If you're going to switch off every time an argument is put forward which contains more than 140 characters then i'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree, because unless you engage with the situation there's little point in debating it

Anonymous said...

Love Detective 14:09
"nobody goes to libraries these days anyway do they nick"

That's not actually true now is it Love?

Anonymous said...

@Love Detective

A report from The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) revealed that 310.8 million books were borrowed from libraries across the country in 2008/09.

so nobody uses libraries eh?

That was from this article here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7715689/Children-behind-rise-in-borrowing-of-library-books.html

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - Love Detective is misrepresenting my views from a debate about 2 years ago for comic effect and to deflect attention from the issue at hand. I argued that "traditional library" use was dying - that people want to go to bigger, more multi-purpose facilities with nicer environments and that libraries that didn't adapt would struggle. Now you can argue that the fate of Crofton Park et al, in contrast to the new ones at Deptford and Surrey Quays, make this point prescient, but let this thread not get dragged off topic - there is a thread about the libraries already on this front page (where I say that libraries and the role they play are important).

Nice try Love Detective, perhaps you might address the points being put to you.

Love Detective said...

unlike yourself nick, i've addressed the points being made to me (it's even been commented that my addressal of the points could do with an editor, but there was certainly no suggestion that they were not being addressed), i've pointed you towards material put out by anti-cuts protestors which contradict with your misrepresentation of their position. So far you have not returned to comment on any of that, so to suggest it's me dodging the issues is fairly disingenuous

and shock horror - the man who has a track record in willfully misrepresenting the views of others in misrepresentation shocker - reap/sow etc..

(anyway, given the multitude of protests that have sprung up around the country in relation to the threatened closures of the very type of library services that you claimed no one wants to use any more, i'd hardly say your comments were prescient)

@ Transpontine

I guess some may get the impression that PBP over emphasis the role of the mayor in the cuts, but I don't see that much evidence of it. For example, one of the main PBP placards yesterday on the march was headlined 'Save Our Services From Cameron, Clegg and Bullock' - this seems like a reasonable point to make

Westsider said...

80 comments and still no-one's said what they'd do different to the Council. Love Detective, you don't do your cause any favours. Of course, that was the original criticism, but you just keep digging.

Greeny Red said...

Detective, you don't get it. It doesn't matter about me. You've got to persuade people. You persuade people by making it easy for people to understand what you want. Not hiding your ideas away. The website and leaflets for the event had nothing to say about this. Who cares what some pamphlet you wrote says?

Love Detective said...

For the benefit of Anon's - here's was the quote from Nick I referred to:-

No one uses traditional libraries any more. Books are so cheap to buy new or second hand

Wonder who it was that borrowed those 310 million books when people no longer use libraries anymore, what's behind this recent rise in the amount of books being borrowed when Nick's prescient comments show that no one uses them anymore

Answers on a (concisely argued) placard to.....

What's the betting this post gets deleted

Westsider said...

Greeny Red, I've read his pamphlet and it doesn't really say anything specific. Nothing about what Lewisham Council should do now.

LD I'm not trying to pick a fight with you I genuinely want to understand what our options are. You can think we're all thick and lazy if you like, but we're people who are on sites like these trying to learn about local politics. If we can't work out what you're on about, what hope has the rest of the public got?

You're just preaching to the converted. That's no way to start a revolution but you're obviously enjoying yourself.

Westsider said...

Greeny Red, I've read his pamphlet and it doesn't really say anything specific. Nothing about what Lewisham Council should do now.

LD I'm not trying to pick a fight with you I genuinely want to understand what our options are. You can think we're all thick and lazy if you like, but we're people who are on sites like these trying to learn about local politics. If we can't work out what you're on about, what hope has the rest of the public got?

You're just preaching to the converted. That's no way to start a revolution but you're obviously enjoying yourself.

Love Detective said...

You persuade people by making it easy for people to understand what you want. Not hiding your ideas away

Over a thousand copies of the bulletin were distributed in the run up to and at the carnival, at around 30 different points in the borough - i'd hardly call that hiding the ideas away. We'd obviously like to have the resources to deliver one personally to every person in the borough, but we don't and if you're criticising us for not having the resources to do that then fair enough.

People are obviously well within their right to ignore things like that however and not read them - however you apparently want to argue against them without even having the decency to spend the 3-4 minutes it would take to click on the link and actually read the thing

Brockley Nick said...

@LD - I'll include the link so that people can see the conversation in full, rather than that tiny excerpt and if anyone wants to continue that debate they can do so on that thread:

http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/2010/01/big-yellow-back-for-more.html

Love Detective said...

Greeny Red, I've read his pamphlet and it doesn't really say anything specific. Nothing about what Lewisham Council should do now

erm, the point about linking to the bulletin was to rebut the point made initially from Nick that he thought that all the anti-cuts focus was on local government which in turn was letting central government of the hook for what was going on, i.e. below is a quote from nick in that vain:-

The Carnival organisers' vague critique and broad range of targets means actually makes it less likely that blame will be put at the feet of the national government, in my view

Linking to the bulletin was to show to Nick that he was misrepresenting the message and literature that anti-cuts groups in Lewisham were putting out. It was to show that we weren't focusing purely on local govt activities as he claimed, nor are our activities making it less likely that blame will be put at the feet of the national government. And you have helpfully confirmed that as well in your point about it not focussing specifically on Lewisham Council in particular, so thanks for that

Westsider said...

@LD, no Nick was talking about the Carnival website and leaflet, not your group's.

Think about it - you read something about the Carnival of Cuts in the News Shopper. You wonder what the alternative plan is. You google it. You find the Carnival website and what's on there about what should happen? Nothing. You see some of the carnie folk and you ask them for a Carnival leaflet and what's on there? Nothing. You read the quotes in the paper and what's in there? Nothing.

That's what Nick and me and everyone else are trying to tell you. But I know your style, you don't do listening.

max said...

Can I reiterate the fact that the Lewisham Council was asked to make a £21.8m budget reduction for this year and yet there are £33m of cuts outlined.
Can anyone explain this?

Tamsin said...

Yes - they want to earn brownie points by doing more than asked for. The Greater London Plan called for Lewisham to build x number of new houses. They boasted in their Development Strategy being consulted on a couple of years ago that they were doing x plus y. Turning us even more into just a dormitory for the City with fewer local jobs and scarely any industry, however light.

Politics and a long game.

max said...

Ok, and is it also politics the fact that this not so small detail is completely missing from the protesters' literature?

The Defendant said...

Lou, factcheck. The NHS delivers better health outcomes than the US, at half the cost overall. *Half* the cost. In terms of value for money it is better than or comparable to most European health systems. It mostly works, despite Cameron's cherry-picked statistics - and it works at a reasonable price. Of course it can be improved, but dismantling it is not improving it.

Lou Baker said...

@westside

That's the whole problem with the anti-cuts corduroy brigade. They are not pro-anything. They're actually quite a slimy bunch - reactionary, quite like the Tea Party in America.

Love detective talks about books and proudly claims 310m book were borrowed in 2009. That's an average of 5 each - or one book about every 10 weeks. Proof that most of us are not knocking down doors to get in to our local libraries every day and an example of why the council
is right to close Crofton Park.

Tamsin claims to know someone who knows someone who knows senior civil servants are bricking it. Let's hope so. For too long these parasites have been standing in the way of significant and meaningful reform.

The hard working people of this country have put up
with substandard public services for too long. We've had enough. We demand reform. We demand a say. And we will stand the to the carnival clowns and their desire to protect the status quo.

Love Detective said...

ok westside, that's fair enough

I agree to an extent that the perception of the 'Carnival' by an outsider looking for hard and fast information on the cuts and possible responses to them could be one that views it as incoherent

I'd say this is probably correct. I've already stated that the Carnival was not just an event by one particular group, it was organised and supported by something like 16 different groups (political, social, cultural, single issue etc..). Each of these groups have differing views on what's going on and different views on what's wrong about it and what could be done. Therefore any synthesis of all these views into one distilled clear & coherent message is not really going to happen.

So i'll accept the point in relation to the Carnival specific stuff it's been putting out. My arrival on this thread however urged Nick to go beyond a news report in the newshopper and actually engage with the ideas that some of the specific groups involved in the carnival have. The one in particular that I am involved in is LACA so I pointed him in that direction. This is exactly the same as what we do when talking to anyone on the carnival or at any other event or protest etc.. Individuals can then choose whether or not they agree with what that group is saying.

I've had no response from Nick since pointing him in this direction, but if he is actually interested (from either a personal or journalistic perspective) in analysing the anti-cuts movement in Lewisham in any credible way then engaging with the ideas/positions that are put out by the groups involved in it would be a more useful starting point than just peaking in the front door through the letter box

Anonymous said...

have pay cuts been looked into?

have job cuts been looked into?

has the sale of council property been looked into?

These could all help prevent cuts to services.

urbansurgery said...

agreed. kill the sacred cow of front line job cuts and pay cuts. this said not as an strident rightist, but as someone working in a market of the private sector always worst hit by recessions.

anyone fancy a four day week?

Tamsin said...

Yes, the sale of council property has been looked into - they want to sell the libraries!

@ Lou - the senior civil servants weren't bricking it (they are secure whatever happens) - just shocked at the sheer ruthlessness and hypocrisy of the government (it is normally their role).

Anonymous said...

From the LACA website...

Cuts to public services and jobs are not necesary..... There is a £120 billion tax gap of evaded, avoided and uncollected tax.

They link to an Union that represents....civil servants in tax offices, so no self interest there in demanding there should be more tax collectors.

When one the heads of HMRC said they were going to claim tax from people who'd been underpaying there was outcry from the public.

What do LACA mean about tax avoidance? Are they suggesting closing loopholes such as pension contributions, ISA's and married couples being able to avoid inheritence tax?

Anonymous said...

Is John Hamilton for anything...everytime I see him he is protesting against something.

Is he the man who likes to say no?

Anonymous said...

The tax thing was deliberately designed to encourage people to save for their pension. It's not the same thing as structuring your company so you have shell companies in the caymans to avoid tax.

The outrage about underpayment was to do with the usually small amounts uncollected due to the tax mans mistake. Again quiet different.

Anonymous said...

Could somebody please explain where the money to fund our overly generous benefits system and the public sector is supposed to come from?

When every penny of income tax paid doesn't cover the welfare budget you know there's a major problem that has to be addressed. Similarly, when one pound out of every five spent by the government is borrowed. Why do people find it so difficult to accept this?

And for all of those people who are still blithely blaming the banks, I suggest you become better informed.

Most of the current deficit is nothing to do with the financial crisis. These debts were run up by the Labour government over its time in office (during an economic boom!) So if you're looking for someone to blame, look no further than one Gordon Brown.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to organise my own carnival for those of us who live in the real world and accept the need for the government to take hard decisions.

Anonymous said...

So Gordon brown caused the simultaneous breakdown of financial systems throughout the world. Europe and the USA? The whole world bought the myth that unregulated financial markets would somehow take care of themselves. They didn't. Are you saying that George bush rang Gordon brown for advice on how to structure their economy? Were you asleep during 2008?

Our borrowing was on par or below our competitors, we allowed the banks to police themselves. Us and the free market warriors in the states bought the same myth. To think that little old Britain caused financial meltdown is a little silly. We were part of it sure, but the torries were urging us to gp further. Remember Osborne holding up Ireland as the kind of tiger economy we should be emulating?

Anonymous said...

These people are just a load of trots. The far left in this borough are the most conservative force around. They don't want anything to change; no developments, no new school building, no changes to council services. They have no positive or progressive policies, they just campaign against anything changing.

max said...

It's not true that the whole of the left opposes everything, that may be true for some in that broad coalition, but not necessarily for those that you'd call far left actually.
Just an example but there are people on the far left that are very comfortable with large housing developments (even more that Nick is).
Furthermore, since schools were mentioned, let me say that large merit of the Council's recognition that we are in need of more school places goes to the work done years ago by the New School Campaign, that was led by John Hamilton, without it the Council would have never even conceded that it needed a new secondary school.
And you can't really blame campaigners for the Council's inability to build a secondary school to the point that even before work starts you now need to address the lack of primary school places now.
We need people challenging the Council's decisions, and even more since Labour is back with such a overwhelming majority that there's no chonce of winning any vote at Council.
I'd be more comfortable with people coming up with requests that are more grounded and achievable but still, until someone else does it that's the strongest opposition we have and in democracy we need opposition for things to work.
It seems to me that Bullock is cutting much more that he's asked to and much more than it's desirable and that needs pointing at.

George Hallam said...

Anonymous (20 February 19:09) asked ...
“Could somebody please explain where the money to fund our overly generous benefits system and the public sector is supposed to come from?”

Since Anonymous asked so nicely I will be happy to explain.

We need to get the economy working properly. This means, providing real work – that is work that produces value – something useful. This usefulness can be in the form of goods (physical objects) or services (e.g. medical care, education, transport). The form is less important than the useful content.

If people have real jobs then they produce the wealth that pays their wages and more.

If people have real jobs and they are paid a decent wage then they can support themselves and their families so the need for a benefits system (overly generous or not) is greatly reduced.

If people have real jobs and they are paid a decent wage then they can also afford to pay taxes that provide the sort of services that the market has difficulty in providing – health, education, public transport, police, emergency services, libraries, etc.

“When every penny of income tax paid doesn't cover the welfare budget you know there's a major problem that has to be addressed.”

Yes, I know: income tax is ridiculously low. When the much-maligned Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister, back in the thirties, income tax was 6/8 pence in the pound, that 33.3 percent.

So now I’ve explained where the money is to come from I expect someone will ask how we create real jobs. I have an answer, but it’s late and it can wait for another time.

Anonymous said...

John Hamilton come and join the Greens please...you might win a seat if you do.

Brockley Nick said...

@George

"So now I’ve explained where the money is to come from I expect someone will ask how we create real jobs. I have an answer, but it’s late and it can wait for another time."

Are you George Osborne?

The whole "jobs of value" thing is spurious (Gross Value Added is really important, but that's not what you're talking about here).

For the purposes of raising the tax take, it doesn't matter whether someone is making steel, manufacturing Royal Wedding garden gnomes or Feng Shu-ing someone's bedroom, so long as someone is willing to buy (ie: they value it). Growing a sustainable economy that can support a bigger public sector means supporting industries in which we can be globally competitive and export. Some of those will be areas which I suspect you don't consider "of value", such as banking, marketing and retail services.

So that red herring aside, you haven't said how you'll do the crucial bit - the job creation. In that respect, you're no different from the government, except that you'd raise taxes on labour (and to get to Baldwin's 33%, you'd have to raise it on people on the lowest income tax bracket - unless you're proposing to lower taxes for anyone earning more than £37k).

I think I know what's coming next, because I've read your 5 steps to create 5 million jobs on your website, but it's odd that you didn't simply cut and paste it, rather than leaving us all on tenterhooks.

call me dave said...

Taken from George’s website.

“George Hallam is not a hippie-dippy, wishy-washy, trendy-wendy, namby-pamby, airy-fairy, looney-lefty, whingy-nimby. He comes from Birmingham.”

Well, Ok then..but what does this mean, George?

Reading it reminded me of loony tunes character Yosemite Sam’s line - I'm tha' rootinist, tootinest, shootinest bob tailed wild cat in the west.

It is probably not the impression you are trying to make, but it does come across as quite childish.

Anonymous said...

@ George Hallam

Are steel and shipbuilding still core industries in this country?

Won't taxpayers end up heavily sudsidising lame ducks?

Brockley Nick said...

The UK is one of the world's biggest manufacturers of luxury yachts. It is also still an important manufacturer of high-end steel products.

Neither industry is reliant on subsidies.

Brockley Nick said...

Oh and BAe still makes a lot of ships - albeit military ones.

max said...

I'd rather pay people to do nothing than build weapons actually.

Monkeyboy said...

It's the 'high tech' specialist stuff as nick says. My old company Alcatel-Lucent in Greenwich is sucsessful example(although now french owned) but competing for churning out bog standard steel or container ships will be difficult now that Korea, China and india knock them out like sausages.

mb said...

And it was nice to see the help for Sheffield Forgemasters....oh (I suspect a sneaky U-Turn is in the offing)

Anonymous said...

So the steel and shipbuilding industries are possibly reliant on making high end goods for people who don't have real jobs?

Brockley Nick said...

Well not steel no, the kinds of products we're talking about are to supply to heavy industry.

But luxury yachts, yes, if you buy in to the "not real jobs" fallacy of the left, which is as dumb as the "only private sector jobs create wealth" fallacy of the right.

George Hallam said...

@Brockley Nick

Thank you for this contribution: you have started to engage with the substantial issues. Of course, I disagree with most of what you said but now that you have dropped your pretended ignorance of the alternatives we can start to have a proper discussion.

I have grouped the issues you raised into five areas and added one of my own. The six are:

1. Value and jobs - ‘Can we distinguish useful work from useless (and even value-destroying) toil?’. More specifically ‘How far are banking, marketing and retail services useful?’ and ‘Are transactions costs (i.e. the time and trouble involved in handling money when we buy/sell something) a service or a cost?’

2. Money and value – ‘Is the price we pay for something a reliable measure of how much we value it?’ and ‘Is the price we pay for something a reliable measure of its usefulness?’ Following from this: ‘What does “Gross Value Added” really measure? And ‘Is it that important?’

3. The future of British economy and globalisation - ‘Does growing a sustainable economy mean “supporting industries in which we can be globally competitive and export”?’ I would also like to introduce into the discussion the problem of the other deficit i.e. the British balance of payments: ‘How far are current government policies adequate to address the chronic balance of payments deficit?’

4. Job creation ‘Is George Hallam’s programme of job creation (AKA “5 million extra jobs”) any different from that of the Government?” [I’m not sure that this qualifies as a substantial issue but a discussion of concrete measures job creation follows logically from the previous issues so I have included it. GH]

5. Fiscal policy and wages –
On wages the issues are:
‘Is the current distribution of national income sustainable?’ and ‘What needs to be done about wages that are below the level of subsistence?’

On tax the questions are:
‘Is income tax a tax on labour?’, ‘In what respects does George Hallam want to get “back to [Stanley] Baldwin”?’ or more seriously ‘How should we reshape the British tax system so that it promote a functional economy (as opposed to a dysfunctional economy)?”


6. Integrating national and local activity - ‘How can the policies that have been discussed about be translated in a concrete programme of action at the local level, specifically in Lewisham?’

These are very big issues and the way we resolve them will have implications for all our futures.
You may well feel that this is just too much for you site. I tend to agree, so if you decide to close the discussion at this point then I won’t regard this as a retreat on your part.

If you do choose to this then please feel free to have the last word.

Rest assured that it won’t be the final last word if I have anything to do with it. I will be around (God willing) and there are other forums so there will be other opportunities to carry on the discussion.

mb said...

No, specialist steel is used all over the world in a variety of industries and yachts are sold to people who can afford to buy them so paying the wages to a skilled workforse. Nice try.

Anonymous said...

Here's one way the people could save the council money, by not spraying graffiti.

The council spends hundreds of thousands a year removing some of it...if residents of Lewisham didn't put it there in the first place it wouldn't need removing.

Vandalism by residents of Lewisham is another costly item that is directly under the control of people living in Lewisham.

Brockley Nick said...

@George - I never said I was ignorant of your ideas, I said that ideas were absent from the carnival campaign literature, website and comments to the media. Why that is such a difficult distinction to grasp, I don't know.

Thanks for this lengthy post - I'm very happy for people to discuss big issues on BC.

But you seem to have left out the bit about how you would create jobs. You said you'd come back to this vital missing ingredient, so please do.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - re tagging.

Sure. Lewisham residents could also save the Council money by not committing crime, doing things likely to make them ill, being illiterate, falling down stairs, dropping litter, etc.

I mean, nice sentiment, but I'm not sure what we are supposed to do with that advice.

Anonymous said...

I just remember Michael Foot going to South Wales in the 1960's, to announce the closure of steel works?

I was comparing the size of the industry then with now.

As a country we seem to want to clutch at straws, to retain or reinstate out moded systems rather than bite the bullet and move on.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon

Well it's a matter of balance. I'm certainly not suggesting that a massively expanded steel or shipbuilding industry is likely to be achievable, but let's not denigrate the world-class specialisms we have and let's try and build more of them, wherever they may be.

The UK is a leader (relatively speaking) in biotech, aerospace, architecture, computer game development, media, marketing services, accountancy, gambling, precision engineering, reality TV formats, fashion, investment banking, market data, semiconductor design, space, yachts, oil and gas engineering, twitter apps, universities, food and drink, FMCGs, insurance, law, football and many other industries that create real jobs and products and services that are exported all over the world.

They all have a role to play in the future of the economy and they should all be nurtured.

There's no reason why heavy industry should be inherently less competitive globally than other sector - so long as you focus on high-value-added work, employing highly-skilled labour and innovation.

Anonymous said...

@George

All you seem to be doing is raising questions and packaging it as insight.

Re Number 1. I guess you'd scrap Value Added Tax?

THNick said...

Anon from 20/2/11 2:43 (pls try using a name). From the same CIPFA survey, the busiest libray is in Norwich with 1.5m visitors, but only 1.1m books issued. Looks to me like the majority of people aren't using it to borrow books.

George Hallam said...

call me dave said...
“Taken from George’s website.

“George Hallam is not a hippie-dippy, wishy-washy, trendy-wendy, namby-pamby, airy-fairy, looney-lefty, whingy-nimby. He comes from Birmingham.”

Well, Ok then..but what does this mean, George? “

I think it’s self-explanatory.

In addition to policy statements, election addresses usually include a short section saying something about the candidate as a person (unless of course you are a Liberal Democrat, in which case you have an extensive personal statement with a short section about your politics, if you have room).

Instead of talking about my dog, stamp collection, cycling, and my love of the English countryside, etc., I was trying to indicate what I was like by saying what I was not (following Spinoza’s dictum "all definition is negation").

As you may have notice ‘People Before Profit’ has often been characterised as being a ‘lefty’ sort of group (e.g. “These people are just a load of trots”).
I regard this sort of labelling as a species of lazy thinking that gets in the way of serious discussion. As it happens, I am not a ‘lefty’ sort of person. More specifically, I have never regarded the world a moral gymnasium that was built expressly for the purpose of strengthening my character.

So I have no moral objection to profit. What I object to is a setup where the frenzied pursuit of profit is encouraged at the expense of real peoples’ lives e.g. the financial crisis. I support ‘People Before Profit’ because it has a lot of ‘no nonsense’, solutions to some very real problems. Its approach is essentially practical.

Of course, some people in ‘People Before Profit’ are happy to call themselves ‘Left’ (or even ‘trot’ or ‘anarchist’) and of course we disagree. But the important thing is that, unlike the characters in the ‘Life of Brian’, these disagreements don’t get in the way of us doing things. You may not have noticed but, unlike ‘The Left’, ‘People Before Profit’ concentrates on talking to ordinary people and encouraging them to take action to defend themselves.

Brockley Nick said...

It was the juxtaposition with "He comes from Birmingham" bit I liked.

Anonymous said...

@Nick


"Well it's a matter of balance. I'm certainly not suggesting that a massively expanded steel or shipbuilding industry is likely to be achievable..."

I was reading George's way's to create 5m extra jobs......

Take control of our core industries – renationalise energy, water, transport, telecommunications, steel and shipbuilding – and expand them.

He mentions he worked for British industry 'when we had one'.

I just have the feeling he was harking back to the 'good ole' day when circumstances and they were state owned.

My memory of the state owned railway is of regular strikes.

When I was at school we paid a visit to Ford's of Dagenham if that's the sort of soul destrying industry George wants to return us to, then he can keep it.

When I left school I spent two years in a real job at a local firm drilling holes in metal and then fixing that metal to Land Rovers....depressing.

I have the impression George believes making a television is a 'real job' and marketing & selling the TV isn't.

Brockley Nick said...

"I have the impression George believes making a television is a 'real job' and marketing & selling the TV isn't."

Oh yes, I'm sure you're right about that. But let's not fall in to the trap of denigrating the making either.

Anonymous said...

Mostly the practical solutions...seem to be 'NO CUTS'.

David Leal said...

Today the UK imports most of its food, energy, clothing and the thousand and one manufactured widgets we fill our homes with. This means that the UK has a £81 billion trade deficit in goods every year.

This deficit is equivalent to the complete 30 year cost of the Trident nuclear weapons system EVERY YEAR. It is unsustainable.

A country which markets and sells TVs, but does not make them, or anything else, cannot survive. The people who make the TVs, and those who supply us with food and energy, are becoming ever more suspicious of the pounds that we use to pay them.

As a result the value of the pound falls, and prices in the shops go up and up - this is not something that might happen - it is happening.

So the UK either has an emergency programme to re-establish its manufacturing industry, or we all become very poor.

People who do the tedious jobs of bending bits of metal and drilling holes in them, do not owe people "who are above that sort of thing" a living.

Brockley Nick said...

@David - you're making two mistakes. 1. implying that you can't export services and 2. confusing balance of payments deficit with balance of trade in tangibles.

Manufacturing is important, no-one said otherwise. But what matters is creating things (whether visibles or invisibles) that other countries want to buy.

Are FMCG companies manufacturers? They manufacture things, but the real value they produce is not in the manufacturing.

Pharma companies make things, but the value they create is mainly in R&D and sales and marketing.

Apple is a great maker of physical products, but most of the value it adds is in the design, software and marketing - not the assembly. Some of their key components are British (Arm chips) but Arm don't manufacture, they license their designs and earn a lot of money for this country in the process.

The adversarial nature of the manufacturing v services debate is completely wrong-headed. Let's just talk about what we can do to help business (large and small) without bashing anyone.

Transpontine said...

Well never let it be said the big issues don't get discussed at Brockley Central!

Just wanted to pick up on an earlier point that people opposing cuts are just negative moaners who never say what they're for...

I guess that all depends how you frame it - in being AGAINST cuts I am actually arguing FOR a continuation of libraries and other valued local services. I would see that as a positive argument rather than a negative.

And who doesn't have a mixture of things they're for and against, hardly unique to 'the far left'. When people are against white vans at Brockley Cross what are they actually for? I guess you could say they are for an uncluttered street landscape but every campaigner (and PRist) that sometimes a negative argument can be be more powerful than a postive one

Brockley Nick said...

@Transpontine - yes, I think that's fair up to a point. Certainly in Rosa Parks' case, you could say she was for integration, rather than anti-segretation. But in this case, I think the problem with the NO CUTS position, is that there are consequences to that position that the campaigners stop short of mentioning. ie: it means higher taxes or more borrowing.

The problem for the NO CUTS campaign is that they would not get wide public support if they spelled out the implications, so they don't mention them and instead throw in red-herrings like cutting pay for senior execs, as though that would be anything more than a drop in the ocean. I think the Carnival Against Cuts literature is dishonest in the things it chooses to omit.

Personally, as I have written before, I think national government has chosen to cut too far, too fast and in some of the wrong places. I think government borrowing to stimulate demand during a severe recession is sensible and I agree that the severity of the crisis in public finances has been somewhat overstated.

However, I also think that the state of our public finances is bad, that large cuts are necessary and some cuts are desirable. No large organisation can grow without spending some money on some of the wrong things and why government departments are no different. I think fiscal incentives are wrong and that income tax for low earners should be much lower. I think we should have a flatter, simpler tax system for companies but that we should keep corporation tax as low as possible, offering huge incentives for investment and R&D. I think we should be investing more in universities, science and transport and we should think about creating state-funded companies in some emerging sectors with a view to floating them once they're established. I think Councils should scrap business rates on any high street with low occupancy, etc, etc.

In other words, I agree with some of the underlying ideas of some of the campaigners, but couldn't possibly support their campaign, because it's utterly deluded to suggest that no cuts are necessary.

I also can't support a campaign which simultaneously blames the government that puts councils in such an invidious position and blames the council for making the cuts.

Love Detective said...

@nick

I think the problem with the NO CUTS position, is that there are consequences to that position that the campaigners stop short of mentioning. ie: it means higher taxes or more borrowing

Well if you continue to base your position on what you think campaigners are saying rather than what they are saying then you would be correct. However, if you had taken the time to spend 3-4 minutes reading the thing I linked to the other day, you would see that we quite clearly state that the myth currently being pushed by central government that there is no alternative to the current cuts is a false one. Or that the type of cuts being put forward is the only way to reduce the deficit. We point out the huge amounts of money that are lost to the public purse each year in tax evasion, avoidance and uncollected taxes (if you don't want to rely on the figure quoted, you could take the governments own estimate which is around £68bn per annum).We also point out that the current level of debt is neither high in historical relative terms nor high relative to our current peers.

So in that short article we make the case for what is effectively higher taxes (i.e. clamping down on evasion, avoidance and uncollected taxes) and also argue that there is capacity for further borrowing to stimulate the economy to a position where economic growth in itself through increased activity will ensure more tax take, less money paid out in unemployment and other benefits. So in short we argue that cuts are not the only way to deal with the current situation and part of that alternative does involve higher taxation and higher borrowing. You may not agree with these as solutions, but please actually read the material that is being put out before you start to comment on what you think campaigners positions are - it may make for a slightly more productive discussion.

I agree with some of the underlying ideas of some of the campaigners, but couldn't possibly support their campaign, because it's utterly deluded to suggest that no cuts are necessary

Again if you'd actually read the material being put out, you would see that we don't suggest that no cuts are necessary. We point out that we'd welcome cuts to military expenditure, nuclear deterrents, PFI schemes (not the things they build but the way they are funded), wasteful consultancy expenditure, poorly designed & implemented IT systems etc... So again, please take the time to read about the positions that you are currently trying to critique. It's one straw man after another here.

I also can't support a campaign which simultaneously blames the government that puts councils in such an invidious position and blames the council for making the cuts.

Both are to blame and both are blamed. Central government instigate and local councils choose to deliver. They are both collaborating in what's going on and if you are against the kind of cuts that are starting to be implemented, you should quite rightfully be blaming both central and local governments for their respective roles in this.

Westsider said...

ld he's talking about the no cuts campaigners saying no to any cuts in Lewisham, which is what they say. that would mean higher rates (illegal) or more borrowing (bad).

But I can see why you'd get confused it's confusing lumping together local and national issues.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
“There's no reason why heavy industry should be inherently less competitive globally than other sector”

Unfortunately there is a reason: the high value of the pound.

In the Eighties it was oil exports that inflated its value. Manufacturing industry both light and heavy was crushed.

More recently it’s been the sale of assets and foreign direct investment (currently running at 4 percent of GDP).

The recent fall has helped manufacturing industry to export but our industry has been so run down that there was not the spare capacity to allow this advantage to be fully exploited. Consequently, the impact on employment has been minimal. We need a further, permanent, fall to create the conditions for the reconstruction of British industry.

This is not about a massive export led boom. A cheaper pound would allow import substitution – making goods ourselves instead of importing them.

Of course, lowering the value of the pound would not be popular with the City… There may be trouble ahead.

Brockley Nick said...

@george - the high pound is a problem for any export industry, manufacturing or services. Again, the two sectors are not in competition.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - low pound is not an unalloyed good - it makes imported raw materials more expensive and makes our companies easier to acquire - as may happen with Invensys.

Anonymous said...

@Love Detective

Where are you getting your figures from for uncollected tax?

Are the figures you giving for one year or more?

In September 2010 the HMRC estimate was £42bn.

Of that, £3.2bn was due to PAYE errors.

You'll be pleased to hear they propose to send in the baliffs to get the money.

The biggest shortfall was VAT £15.2bn.

Next was £6Bn due to inaccurate tax returns.

"However, the annual amounts of income tax lost to deliberate evasion are relatively small.

Of the £14.5bn of direct taxes not collected last year, only £1.3bn was attributed to ghosts and £1.8bn to moonlighters."


The report also said businesses failed to hand over an estimated £6.9bn in corporation tax.

Anonymous said...

So with inflation at 5% and wages either capped or pegged, the proposal is to raise taxes and increase debt even further.

Is the the proposal to use redundant soldiers to quell the steet riots?

How about increasing train and bus fares to put the icing on the cake?

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
PS - low pound is not an unalloyed good

I couldn’t agree move.

- it makes imported raw materials more expensive

Undoubtedly

and makes our companies easier to acquire

Only if the government allows the purchase.


Of course a cheaper pound would involve sacrifices, however it would create the conditions for large scale job creation and through that a route back to solvency. The alternative is to accept both long-term mass unemployment and reduced levels of public services.

If we are to avoid social breakdown then we need to face the facts and make difficult choices. After all we are all in this together.. or does this make me sound like George Osborne?

Brockley Nick said...

@George

I don't accept those as the only two scenarios, nor is a permanent devaluation realisitcally achievable nor desirable - it worked for Germany within the Euro because they had a fixed degree of competitiveness with their Euro partners and the uncompetitiveness of many of the other members kept the value of the Euro down, making it easier to trade internationally - such a scenario isn't going to be possible for you, given that you want out of the EU altogether. Germany also has unions that acted responsibly to control wages and keep profitability high (again, not something I can imagine a People Before Profit government achieving). And that last point is a key issue, because devaluations don't deliver long-term competitiveness improvements, the rate of inflation creeps up to compensate. From the Economist this week, arguing relative rates of inflation are better than exchange rates for fixing balance of payments surpluses or deficits:

"Wage-driven inflation would also help to narrow China’s trade surplus by pushing up the price of its exports. Conventional wisdom says that a stronger yuan would reduce China’s current-account surplus. Yet the empirical support for this is weak. In a paper published in 2009, Menzie Chinn of the University of Wisconsin and Shang-Jin Wei of Columbia University examined more than 170 countries over the period 1971-2005*, and found little evidence that countries with flexible exchange rates reduced their current-account imbalances more quickly than countries with more rigid regimes.

In adjusting current accounts, what matters is the real exchange rate (which takes account of relative inflation rates at home and abroad). Movements in nominal exchange rates often do not achieve the desired adjustment in real rates because they may be offset by changing domestic prices. For example, the yen’s trade-weighted value is around 150% stronger than it was in 1985. Yet Japan’s current-account surplus remains big because that appreciation has been largely offset by a fall in domestic Japanese wholesale prices, so exporters remain competitive."

So how do you fancy clamping down on inflation at this time? Or perhaps stopping investment inflows in to the UK to ensure that the pound falls further than it already has? Given that most of our manufacturing base is foreign owned, I'm not sure that's a good idea.

Tinkering with exchange rates to target an arbitrary value of your liking is not only extremely difficult (especially for a trading nation like the UK), it's an extremely bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Tax Gap..Black Hole?

Do the amounts of unpaid/unerpaid tax take into account overpayments?

The HMRC reported about £2Bn in uncollected PAYE taxes, BUT £1.8Bn has been ovepaid.

Leaving an actual gap of £0.2bn which is a lot less than the £3-5bn inferred by some contributors to this araldite debate.

And another thing...is it being said the claimed £120bn unpaid tax is never paid?

Anonymous said...

Carnival Balloon Burst?

The figures being pumped out by Love Detective and others about a massive 'Tax Gap' don't appear to take account of overpayments that go unclaimed.

Following one court ruling HMRC has apparently set aside over £4bn relating to VAT.

One company alone has proved in court it overpaid £38m in VAT.

What is HRMC's calculation for unclaimed overpaid tax, what is the Public Service union's calculation?

Lou Baker said...

@nick:

You said: "No large organisation can grow without spending some money on some of the wrong things and why government departments are no different. I think fiscal incentives are wrong and that income tax for low earners should be much lower. I think we should have a flatter, simpler tax system for companies but that we should keep corporation tax as low as possible, offering huge incentives for investment and R&D. I think we should be investing more in universities, science and transport and we should think about creating state-funded companies in some emerging sectors with a view to floating them once they're established. I think Councils should scrap business rates on any high street with low occupancy, etc, etc."

I am glad you agree with me on all these things. Are you a closet right-winger?

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou

No, I think you'll find there's quite a lot of interventionism in there - right wingers don't believe in industrial policy, because they think that the market always knows best and you just have to get out of the way and everything will be fine.

They tend not to believe in public services either. I do. I like the NHS, the BBC, public transport, state schools, etc.

David said...

Dear Brockley Nick,

Not mistakes but simplifications. Yes you can export services, but not so very much. The vast majority of the services we export are not high tech consultancy but wheeling and dealing in the City of London and money laundering for people like Mubarack. I concentrated on the balance of trade in goods, because I have figures for that. I do not have figures which separate useful services from spiv services.

You are quite right about the role of the pharmaceutical industry and ARM. But what else - there is Rolls-Royce and then we are pretty much stuck. This is a pathetic list for a country of 70 million people - where are our Siemens, Toshiba, Samsung. The biggest UK manufacturer is BAE Systems - an arms company.

The UK has been kept afloat for the past 20 years by North Sea oil and gas, not high tech consultancy. The North Sea is still producing oil and gas worth £40 billion, but this is now declining rapidly. Another £40 billion on the balance of payments deficit and the UK is in big trouble.

Danja said...

The vast majority of the services we export are not high tech consultancy but wheeling and dealing in the City of London and money laundering for people like Mubarack

Oh go and hit some metal with a sledgehammer.

Brockley Nick said...

@David - population of 62m, not 70m

You say BAe is an arms manufacturer as though that somehow doesn't count. For the purposes of the balance of payments, it most certainly does and they are not alone.

The UK is more open to foreign ownership and I think that is generally a good thing. More BMW Minis, more Nissan Leafs, etc.

Having said that, the "national champions" argument is one I agree with you on. I think it would be helpful if we had a couple more (not just in manufacturing). Selling up often makes sense for the shareholder, but I think there are strong arguments about the positive benefits of national champions with big local supply chains.

As I've said before, we should focus more on building big companies, encouraging start-ups and university spin-offs, but just as important, helping small companies grow in to big ones. But that just as true in the service sector as the manufacturing sector. ICAP, Tesco, ASOS, Autonomy, Arm, Sage and the like are just as important to the future of our economy as EADS.

I think your characterisation of the professional services we export is completely wrong - as crass as reducing manufacturing to metal bashing. Arup, Foster and Partners, Clifford Chance, PwC, Experian and WPP are the kinds of companies I'm talking about.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick quoted the Economist...

“In a paper published in 2009, Menzie Chinn of the University of Wisconsin and Shang-Jin Wei of Columbia University examined more than 170 countries over the period 1971-2005*, and found little evidence that countries with flexible exchange rates reduced their current-account imbalances more quickly than countries with more rigid regimes.

“In adjusting current accounts, what matters is the real exchange rate (which takes account of relative inflation rates at home and abroad). Movements in nominal exchange rates often do not achieve the desired adjustment in real rates because they may be offset by changing domestic prices.”


Interesting research, thank you for pointing it out. I take the point about inflationary pressures. I have always been aware that these are increased by devaluation.

In reply:

I think that we can agree that Britain’s balance of payments deficit will have to be addressed at some point.

Reducing the exchange rate of the pound is the obvious way of doing this. Whether this is done by means of flexible exchange rates or a “more rigid” regime is a technical question. I have no fixed views on this. If I ever have the opportunity of putting my policies into practice, (you never know) then I expect I would switch between them depending on circumstances.

The speed with which the deficit is eliminated is also a matter on which I am flexible. In a perfect world one would say “the sooner the better”. However, our world isn’t like that so speed is not my main concern. It’s not a priority is because fixing the UK’s balance of payments is not my principle aim.


My aim is to restructure the British economy so that it serves the needs of ordinary people in a sustainable way.

That means creating real jobs that pay well enough so that workers can both support themselves and their families without relying on handouts AND pay taxes that support the public services we all need.

Manufacturing has a vital role to play in this. If we are going to fill our homes with “a thousand and one manufactured widgets” I can’t see why we can’t make some of them ourselves. And manufacturing does provide all sorts of opportunities for people to do something.
I repeat this is not about going head-to-head with China and India on the world market. It’s about import substitution.

@ Brockley Nick

In an earlier post you make a joke of asking me if I was really George Osborne. There’s many a true word..

George and I have diametrically opposed policies yet paradoxically there are similarities. We both bang on about the need to fix a deficit. But neither of us is too concerned about our respective deficits, as such.

George O wants use the fixing of the fiscal deficit as a hammer to smash the public sector and reduce taxation on the rich. This will, increase profits and inequality.

George H wants use fixing the balance-of-payments deficit as a lever to rebuild manufacturing and shrink unemployment. This will increase wages and reduce inequality.

Brockley Nick said...

"the balance of payments deficit will have to be addressed at some point."

Agreed, but flexible rates should ensure that this happen over the long-term, certainly, you could say that the collapse of the consumer credit bubble and the decline in value of the pound will look after this for us in the next few years. But exports and import substitutions aren't just about manufacturing, they're also about services.

You talk about all the things we fill our homes with. What's worth more? An iphone or the software that runs it and the apps that fill it. Ask Nokia the answer to that one.

"That means creating real jobs that pay well enough so that workers can both support themselves and their families without relying on handouts AND pay taxes that support the public services we all need.

Manufacturing has a vital role to play in this."

Again, no-one has said otherwise. But you still haven't explained how and we are 150+ comments in.

Lou Baker said...

@nick

Proof I am not a right winger. I believe in the market but expect it to be regulated too.

And I believe in state schools (though I expect them all to be good) and I believe the NHS should be free at the point of delivery. Though as long as it makes people better I don't much care whether the NHS service is run by the state, BUPA, Tamsin or even Kentucky Fried Chicken - so long as they do a good job.

I draw the line at the BBC though. A perfect example of a badly managed money pit. Ludicrously over resourced.

Brockley Nick said...

Never said you were a right-winger. You are a misanthrope, a grouch and someone who seeks to shock people with their opinions.

True, those behaviours are often associated with right wingers, but not exclusively, as possibly this thread demonstrates ;)

lewishawcampaigner said...

Lewisham People before profit, have a very clear view and costed alternative for Lewisham, It is clear at National Level that Taxing the Top end,and the Bankers and taking greater care how public money is spend would lead to the improvement of public services, not the savage cuts. In Lewisham Labour have wasted money on an epic scale, They spent 6.5 million last year on Consultants,whilst it costs just 108.000 a year to run New Cross Library, These are Lewisham Councils Figures.. There is therefore a very carefully thought out alternative both nationaly and for Lewisham, Just click on Lewisham People Before Profit website, and read the party manifesto.. People that think the Cuts are the only alternative need to get an education..

David said...

Dear Brockley Nick,

On straightforward economics we probably agree quite a lot. The "big local supply chains" part is crucial. A good OEM puts a lot of effort into cultivating its supply chain and ensuring that it is at a sufficient technical level. BMW tried in the West Midlands, failed, and pulled out.

We also probably have very different political agendas, and I will be quite explicit about mine:

1) Anti-imperialism: BAE Systems make money on the back of US imperialism - without it they would be bust. Equally Clifford Chance, PwC, Experian and WPP rely upon the right sort of pro-Western ruling class to get their business. A few years ago, I saw a notice in a US arms factory "McDonalds is a global brand because McDonnell is a global brand" (McDonnell became McDonnell-Douglas and is now the Boeing division that makes jet fighters). Quite so.

2) Socialism: The economy you envisage has small numbers of people generating the wealth, and a trickle down to an underclass who provide luxuries for wealthy, social services for each other or are unemployed. (I don't think that this is possible in the long term, because societies that make better use of their people will sweep us away.) But backed by imperialism, your society might stagger on in the short term. I would like to predict a workers uprising, but I fear it won't happen. Instead things will get nasty, with groups like the EDL roaming the streets. And perhaps then "common ruin of the contending classes" as predicted by Marx.

Brockley Nick said...

So NO CUTS at all at a local level or just CUTS to private sector contractors? Might that not have some impact on the services you are sworn to protect?

If there is waste in some areas, might there not be in others? Lewisham Council already seems to have done a good job of finding efficiency savings and opportunities to share back office costs with other boroughs.

Are you up for the Council firing some of its back office workers?

Brockley Nick said...

@David

You're quite right, I don't agree with your politics at all. And the idea that service sales are based on cronyism and imperialism while manufacturing sales are based on honest toil is complete hogwash, as the massive Siemens corruption scandal of a few years ago proved nicely.

But just because I don't believe in your Marxist / doom-mongering analysis doesn't mean I am George Bush. I am a centrist.

David Leal said...

Dear George,

You got me sucked into this discussion, but we have the result we came for:

George: "the balance of payments deficit will have to be addressed at some point."

Nick: "Agreed, but flexible rates should ensure that this happen over the long-term"

So nobody is disagreeing with the proposition that as a result of 30 years of economic mis-management flexible rates mean that prices are going up in the shops, and that the resulting poverty for the mass of the people is long term.

Keynes said that "common sense" in economics is the fashionable idea a generation ago. It was Milton Friedman a generation ago who persuaded everybody not to worry about the balance of payments, because with flexible rates this is self correcting. We are now paying the price.

The problem with economists is that their understanding of control theory is limited. It is no good for a control engineer to say that the amount of liquid in a tank will return to its equilibrium position "in the long term", if during the short term the amount of liquid has to go negative. Perhaps in the long term we will be properous again, but in the short term the amount of food we eat will have to go negative.

That should be sufficient to kick start exports of manufactured goods and services from Lewisham.

Brockley Nick said...

"So nobody is disagreeing with the proposition that as a result of 30 years of economic mis-management flexible rates mean that prices are going up in the shops, and that the resulting poverty for the mass of the people is long term."

Yes, I am massively disagreeing with that. I think every economy has its ups and downs, we are currently going through a correction and there are things an interventionist government can and should do to protect people and encourage growth.

None of you have actually proposed concrete policies in this thread that would encourage growth.

"Exchange rates should be lower" is not an actual policy, it's a wish. And at the moment, you have your wish, thanks to flexible rates.

Me personally, I'd do as roger bootle argues today in the Telegraph and keep interest rates low - explicitly allowing the BoE to target growth rather than inflation for the next year. What would you do?

Brockley Nick said...

PS - out of interest, what sort of manufacturing do you expect to return to Lewisham?

Danja said...

If that nasty Bullock would stop letting the exchange rate float I expect we would all be happily ship-bashing away together.

Danja said...

Max said; My question is: if Lewisham Council was asked a £21.8m budget reduction for this year why have they cut £32m instead?

Answer is at p43 (electronic, p55 in the text) of this PDF

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=1469

Formula Grant Reduction 22.1m
Less: Council Tax Income 0m
Plus: Pay Inflation @1% 1.8m
Plus: Non Pay Inflation@2.5% 1.8m
Plus: Budget Pressures 7.5m
Annual Savings Requirement 33.2m

The inflation is obvious enough. The "Budget Pressures" are things they are committed to do in the future.

Like, additional £500k expected employers contrib for the pension fund; £2m to cover TFL's withdrawl from the Freedom Pass scheme; £1.9m for including London Living Wage terms for some employees and agency contractors; £2m for Single Status assessment of officer grades, whatever that is; and £675k for a streetlight replacement scheme.

Now I'm going to go and pull my eyeballs out for fun.

George Hallam said...

George Hallam said...
"the balance of payments deficit will have to be addressed at some point."

Brockley Nick replied

“Agreed, but flexible rates should ensure that this happen over the long-term, certainly, you could say that the collapse of the consumer credit bubble and the decline in value of the pound will look after this for us in the next few years. But exports and import substitutions aren't just about manufacturing, they're also about services.

“You talk about all the things we fill our homes with. What's worth more? An iphone or the software that runs it and the apps that fill it. Ask Nokia the answer to that one.”

There are two two substantial points at issue here:

1. How will flexible exchange rates fix the balance of payments deficit? In a good way or a bad way.
2. The distinction between manufacturing and services


1. Will the balance of payments deficit be fixed? In a good way or a bad way.

By a good way I mean that full employment is restored and the real value of wages rises so that workers can both support themselves and their families without relying on handouts AND pay taxes that support the public services we all need.

I estimate that restoring full employment requires that we create the equivalent of five million full time jobs. I am happy for some of these jobs to be in services, as they are conventionally defined.

By a bad way I mean: a) we remain overwhelmingly dependent on imports; b) the mass of the population has to reduce its consumption to balance the books while those in banking demand even bigger payments to compensate for the fall in the value of the pound; c) unemployment is persistently high.


2. The distinction between manufacturing and services

Brockley Nick makes great play of the importance of services and insists on mentioning this almost every time I mention manufacturing.

I am not persuaded because the distinction is by no means as clear cut as Brockley Nick appears to imagine. Transport, for example, uses vast amounts of capital equipment that are far in excess of many areas of light engineering.
The point about the relative cost of an iphone and the software that runs it/apps is a weak one since it is purely arbitrary that the writing software should count as a service (like being a valet or a waiter) rather than an manufacturing (like tool-making).

In addition I have a prejudice. For for the last thirty years (and more) I have had to listen to innumerable lectures about how services will make up for the loss of jobs in manufacturing. In that time I have seen the official total for unemployment rise from less than a million (which seemed very high at the time) to two and a half million today. Over the same period the number of people who were registered as unable to work has rocketed. Consequently I have difficulty in believing that services will take up all of the slack.
As I have said, the nice things about manufacturing are a) we continue to consume manufactured goods. b) manufacturing industries provide employment for a wide range of skills. A lot of unskilled and semiskilled jobs are better paid the low skilled jobs in services.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said…

“"Exchange rates should be lower" is not an actual policy, it's a wish.”

I’m terribly sorry but ‘a lower exchange rate for the pound’ is a policy: it is my policy. I can’t implement this policy at the moment: I’d have to run the government before I could make it happen.

But, rest assured, governments can control the exchange rate of their currency, especially if they wish to keep it cheap. Maintaining a high exchange rate is much more difficult be even then, it can be done.

Tamsin said...

On the demise of the manufacturing industry and craft skills you are back to the disaster of education policy in the 1960s. Once education became comprehensive academic success or failure was perceived to be the only standard and metalwork at school a standing joke. Result many more young people leaving school disengaged and unemployable because the system hadn't found out where their real potential lay.

If only Secondary Moderns had been called Modern Secondaries there might have been the perception that they were of different but equal value to Grammar Schools. And supposing there had been testing for manual skills as well... OK, you got into the Grammar School but don't be too cocky about it - your art and needlework is crap and you can't even bang in a nail straight.

And George is right - low end work in the service industries, data-entry, call centres, hotels and catering is as bad as a factory production line and probably worse paid. And no visible end result that you can take a little bit of pride in contributing to.

Tamsin said...

All credit to Danja for wading through pages of pdf to bring forward the nuggets we need.

Relieved to see the Council prepared to cover the shortfall from the Tfl on Freedom Pass funding (although surprised at the £2m price-tag). There does seem to be a campaign on the part of the media - radio 1 on Sunday morning and LBL just now (so I've been informed)* - to cut on spending on keeping the elderly active and engaged as long as possible (the freedom pass and TV licences). The public costs of removing such funding must be at least equivalent to the savings made - totally disregarding the quality of life issues and the "happiness" index that as a nation we fare so badly on.

* Although I was forgetting that charming radio 4 documentary I caught a couple of episodes of - about some feisty groups of pensioners who set off youth hostelling with their freedom pass and a collection of bus timetables.

Anonymous said...

@Lewisham Campaigner

Lewisham People before profit, have a very clear view and costed alternative for Lewisham..

No they don't...they have a theory.

(From a comprehensive school educated individual with a CSE in metalwork.)

George Hallam said...

Anonymous quoted Lewisham Campaigner...

Lewisham People before profit, have a very clear view and costed alternative for Lewisham..

Anonymous commented...

No they don't...they have a theory.

Some confusion here.

Lewisham People Before Profit is an organisation. As such it has agreed policies. These include an alternative to the Council’s programme of cuts. This alternative has not been plucked out of the air. It is based, in part, on general grounds, as any rational policy must be. However LPBP does not have an agreed stand on theories, still less does it have “a theory”: it is not necessary.

LPBP is not a cult. The people who form LPBP are all local residents. Many have been campaigning on local issues for years and have an extensive knowledge of the issues. They also have a good grasp of social and economic theory. This theoretical understanding, together with the relevant empirical knowledge, has informed the discussion in LPBP that produced the policies.

So LPBP has policies, people have theories.

I hope this is clear.

Now we have dealt with Lewisham People Before Profit who would like to look at the theoretical and empirical foundations of policies of the Council and HM Government?

No takers? I can sympathise, it’s not a pretty sight.

Anonymous said...

Swore I'd stop looking at this blog, far too irritating but here I am. Love the Rosa Parks comment, Indeed it seems harsh you aren't supposed to object to a wrong unless you have a fully worked out alternative. Heavens, the current government haven't even managed that. Big headlines and everyone scurrying in back quarters trying to work out how the hell you can get the latest announcement to work.

One cut I would have made in Lewisham is to the free swimming. I'd rather have a library and pay for my swim. Oh and it seemed well dodgey that the council have borrowed money to buy the freehold for Catford Shopping Centre, how much are we paying there? (That was an article in Lewisham Life, I suppose soomeone has to pay for that too?) I'd rather it went towards a librarian.

Anonymous said...

£2m of Lewisham's money towards a freedom pass. I suppose many pensioners will no longer be able to have a healthy walk to the library. How would it work if freedom pass had a small contribution? I have rather wealthy retired inlaws. Ok, I'd rather they weren't driving round in their posh, polluting car.

Sorry, maybe being trite here, after learned and academic lecture. Thankyou, George I(notably well mannered, I'd say).

Greeny Red said...

OK, so no cuts at all, apart from to the things you can't see the point of, because you would rather read than swim and because you have wealthy in-laws, so all old people must be in the same boat. Except also, even though your in-laws are well off, you think it might be a good idea to incentivise them not to use their cars, so maybe that's not such a good idea. And cut that Lewisham Life too, even though that would probably mean shedding a Council job and even though the Council has already cut it back.

That is a helpful illustration of why people are asking the protestors lobby to explain their thinking. Because they don't know what they are talking about.

Moira said...

I read somewhere that Lewisham Life is being cut, or the paper version is- it's going online.

Anonymous said...

I have a bank account with nearly 20K in it. All of it free unasked for money from the government. Lovely you say, how did this come about? Simples. I procreated. It will come in handy with the school fees of course, but really why is the government not allocating its precious resources on the basis of need. Free bus passes for those who with limited mobility. Free swimming for those who have a medical need. (Isn't giving these privileges to the over 60's just a form of ageism?)

Ofcourse it isn't that simple. Democratic politics makes the state a money sh*tting machine. And once the tap is turned on near to you, you begin very quickly to regard that as some sort of human right rather than a privilege that is paid for by other people. The state needs to drastically curtail its activities if we are to continue to compete globally. The alternative? Who knows, but I think a retreat from globalisation, would inevitably lead to economic stagnation, social upheaval of an unpleasant sort (nasty populist racism not carnivals). Of course protest helps to confirm people in their identity as 'good people', but it has little to say to the current crisis.

Welcome to 2011 said...

"I have a bank account with nearly 20K in it. All of it free unasked for money from the government. Lovely you say, how did this come about? Simples. I procreated."

You don't and you didn't, did you.

Anonymous said...

@George

Seen one of your videos on YouTube sounded like you stood for mayor to get free postage, well paid for by the poor and needy of Lewisham.

45,000 leaflet drops and just one response?

-------

If jobs in the media aren't seen as real jobs how about the lecturers who teach students who want to work in the media?

Tamsin said...

I need to ask my sister who quoted it to me years back but there is some epigram building on the theme of those that can do and those that can't teach that is along the lines of "ours the [something, something] higher reach/ We [something] teach the teachers how to teach."

Anyone know it - goodle is not necessarily much help with half remembered tags.

George Hallam said...

Anonymous said...
@George

Seen one of your videos on YouTube sounded like you stood for mayor to get free postage, well paid for by the poor and needy of Lewisham.


No. I stood for Parliament to help John Hamilton who was standing for Mayor. Perhaps it would have been better if we hadn't had an elected Mayor.


No. The cost of distribution was born by the Post Office. The leaflets had to be sorted into bundles and delivered to the correct sorting office. The cost of delivery was therfore marginal.

I was the only candidate that argued against the cuts. My election address was widly read and I have had a lot of favourable comments. Not a bad deal for widening the debate.

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