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Local elections too important to sit out
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Thursday, May 5th, 2016

If anybody is thinking of sitting out the local council elections, I sincerely urge you to think again.


May 5 is the first opportunity we voters have to send a message that we are fed up with a Government, which though barely a year old, is proving itself to be both economically malevolent and staggeringly incompetent.


Take your pick. A Chancellor who has missed every target he has set himself and has seen tax receipts to the Treasury plunge because too many of the jobs he has created are lowly paid and part-time.


The meteoric rise in zero-hours work is testament to a “long-term economic plan” that rests on austerity, a philosophy that is to economic growth what Donald Trump is to community cohesion.


Omnishambles Osborne who, whether its pasties or PIP (Personal ­Independent Payment) recipients in his bungled budgets, repeatedly fails to ­disguise his lack of understanding of the lives of ordinary Britons but persists with insulting us with public ­relations twaddle about help for the lowest paid – even when the Institute for Fiscal Studies is slamming him for his “disingenuousness”.


A Work and Pensions Secretary who walks away because it suddenly dawns on him that the Conservative Government only helps those who vote for it.


A Prime Minister who displays more than an “economie” with the “actualitie” when it comes to explaining the ­provenance of the tax-lite gifts bestowed upon him. And in the ensuing efforts to close down discussion of the Panama Papers, it is revealed that the Chancellor actually makes twice the average wage from shares he was given, without lifting a finger.


This is an administration for whom tax crackdown means setting 10 times as many inspectors on the poor as on the rich, hammering welfare claimants while the better off can turn to myriad accounting rules to find ways to dance around their fundamental obligations.


‘Burning inequality’


Following hard on the heels of the billions stashed abroad by the rich and powerful, we have the heart-rending report from the Trussell Trust that hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, including many children, are struggling, one step away from starvation, in the fifth richest economy in the world.


If anything demonstrated the fierce and burning inequality engulfing our country, it is the repugnant contrast between a rich elite who can enjoy tax-light arrangements for the cash they have squirrelled away in the British Virgin Islands with the tales of daily despair emanating from the Trust’s 424 foodbanks.


A stubborn refusal to engage on a solution to the junior doctors’ dispute which typifies this Government’s irresponsibility, and employment figures which reveal we now have around five million workers defined as self-employed – that is, without rights or a stable income to rely on.


And, of course, the Trade Union Bill – a needless piece of class malice that benefits only bad employers, which will set back industrial relations in this country by decades and seeks to drain the life from the official Opposition in a move that would make even Franco blush, as Tory David Davis points out.


Our communities are now the laboratory for the last ravings of discredited neoconservative economics confirmed by the release of Labour Party figures that show that the better off are not “in it together” with the rest of us.


While the leafier Home Counties seats of Theresa May, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt enjoy the status of having the lowest deprivation rates in the country, they further enjoyed the lightest of cuts to their budgets and transitional grants of £32 million to ease any pains that their services may feel. To these ­communities, austerity is a vague notion, not a harsh reality.


Not so Hackney, Manchester and Knowsley, or any of the other members of the top 10 most deprived areas in the country. These communities saw the biggest cuts in their grants and no ­transitional cash. In Knowsley, the council is now £739 per person per year worse off.


That is why we are seeing the collapse in vital services, many of them in early years provision for children. This ­Government is not building a ladder of opportunity. Instead they are sawing the rungs away one by one.


The only growth figure that this ­Government can point to with certainty and say that this is their doing is that of rampant inequality.


Don’t take it from me. Let the recently resigned Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith sum it up: “The ­Budget… is deeply unfair and was perceived to be unfair [but] that doesn’t matter because they don’t vote for us.”


Well, we may not vote for the Conservatives but it is increasingly apparent that they are not interested in governing in the national interest. So use your vote on behalf of the people on May 5. And vote Labour.



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