Monthly Archives: June 2013

Osborne is failing, and we are paying the price

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The Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered his Spending Review to the House of Commons earlier this afternoon. It was a review that, had Osborne’s economic plan worked, would not have been needed; the deficit should have been eliminated by 2015, after all. As it is, according to the latest forecasts, the deficit will still stand at £96 billion come the next general election. The Chancellor has had to find nearly £12 billion of new cuts to make and, as we have come to expect, the most significant cuts will fall on welfare and local government settlements. There was no significant plan for increased investment, no plan to tackle the crisis in living standards, but an agenda that will make people in Hall Green and across Birmingham worse off in the next two years and beyond.

The first important cut that was announced in the Chancellor’s speech was a 10% reduction in the budget for the Department for Communities and Local Government. As if cities like ours were not being squeezed hard enough already, the so-called ‘model of lean government’ Eric Pickles will now administer further draconian cuts to local government budgets. Even members of the coalition parties have been quick to criticise the move: Sir Merrick Cockell, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association, said that these cuts will ‘stretch essential services to breaking point’. Everyday services carried out by councils like ours are under increasing pressure thanks to the recklessness of this Tory-led government. The bitter pill of the cuts to local government should have been sweetened by the announcement of Lord Heseltine’s Single Growth Fund; this, however, will amount to just £8 billion over four years, as opposed to the £49 billion he proposed. It is clear from the spending review that cities such as Birmingham and other, more deprived areas of the country that are not Conservative councils or marginal seats simply do not matter to this government.

The other most significant package of measures confirmed in the speech concerned the welfare budget, including a new welfare cap and  further restrictions for people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance. Under the new plans, JSA claimants would have to wait seven days, four days longer than they do now, before they were able to receive their benefit. This means that more people and families struggling to find work will be forced to rely further on foodbanks and payday lenders to survive. With foodbanks already under immense strain and payday lenders systematically ripping people off,  this is an unacceptable state of affairs and one that a Labour government would seek to rectify. Our local MP, Roger Godsiff, has already warned in the last few weeks that food poverty is rising rapidly, and the measures announced by the Chancellor today will only make the situation worse. Across Birmingham, there are people already relying on foodbanks, such as the one operating in Sparkhill in our constituency and its satellite in Yardley Wood in nearby Billesley. Rather than further slashing welfare budgets which will increase dependence on foodbanks, the government should be addressing the falling living standards in our country. This government simply has the wrong priorities.

Of course, these plans are for the year 2015-16,and Labour win the next general election, it is these spending plans which it will inherit in May 2015. It is right for the party to accept the general expenditure limits that have been set by the current government, but with two important caveats. Firstly, there needs to be greater capital spending immediately so that the economy can grow and the deficit can fall faster. Secondly, a Labour government would have fundamentally different priorities from the current one. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are committed to addressing the problem of living standards through policies such as the living wage, a mansion tax to pay for a restoration of the 10p tax rate and capping rail fares. Locally, our Labour council has had to make truly difficult decisions but has done so with social justice in mind, and our councillors will continue to do so. George Osborne’s plan has failed, and his announcements today show that we are not all in it together – ordinary people are paying the cost of his failure. In these tough times, it is Labour who will work to get a fairer deal for people in Hall Green, in Birmingham and nationwide.

City council children’s services described as ‘utter chaos’

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The children’s social care watchdog committee heard the department is on course to spend its fifth year tagged as inadequate unless there is a drastic turnaround. Labour backbencher Coun Barry Bowles (Hall Green) was equally scathing suggesting: “There seems to be a reluctance from the director to attend the committee. Bad organisation doesn’t come from the bottom up, it comes from the top down If we don’t get it right there are consequences for the children in our care.”

Read the full article here – Birmingham City council children’s services described as ‘utter chaos’ – Birmingham Post.

Saturday Doorstepping is Great!

2014 Candidate Kerry Jenkins and branch activists hit the pavements of Hall Green Ward again this morning and chatted to local residents as well as delivering the Spring leaflet. Despite the odd shower, spirits were not dampened, and lots of encouraging support was found, with new activists stepping forward and more importantly – lots of Labour voters in May identified.

If you have some spare time to help Kerry with her campaign by delivering leaflets or helping to organise meetings please get in touch.