- Rising wealth – 50 richest people from this region increased their wealth by £3.46 billion last year to a record £28.5 billion.
- Falling taxes – top rate of tax cut from 50% to 45% for those earning over £150,000 a year. This is 1% of the population who earn 13% of the income.
- No mansion tax and caps on council tax mean that the highest value properties are taxed proportionately less than average houses.
- Benefited most from Quantitative Easing (QE) – the Bank of England say that as 50% of households have little or no financial assets, almost all the financial benefit of QE was for the wealthiest 50% of households, with the wealthiest 10% taking the lions share
- Tax free living – extremely wealthy individuals can access tax avoidance schemes which contribute to the £25bn of tax which is avoided every year, as profits are shifted offshore to join the estimated £13 trillion of assets siphoned off from our economy.
Austerity for the rest of us:
- Wages rising slower than prices, benefits will rise even slower than wages.
- Unemployment – recently numbers have been falling slowly around the UK, because of a huge rise in underemployment (where people are working part time and looking for full time work), because of large numbers of people becoming self-employed, perhaps after pressure from a work programme provider so they can get paid for finding someone a “job”, and because the government counts people on forced unpaid workfare schemes as being in employment.
- Food, gas and electric prices rising at over 4%, rent increasing too
- VAT increased to 20%
- Bedroom Tax making people in social housing pay for spare bedrooms that aren’t really spare or move to smaller houses even though there are nowhere near enough smaller properties available, meaning people will move to more expensive private rentals
- Council Tax benefit cuts meaning unemployed and some disabled people in Birmingham paying 20% council tax – an average £5/week
- The worst economic recovery in over 100 years
- A rising deficit we’ll have to pay for
Every crisis is an opportunity. For this and any other neo-liberal government, it is the opportunity to strip away our social security, to transfer taxpayers assets and money to private companies by outsourcing and privatising services, to introduce authoritarian legislation and practice punitive justice in response to uprisings and disorder and to help them and their mates get richer.
Birmingham is the second most unequal city in the second most unequal country in Europe. This crisis could be an opportunity to address that. This crisis could be an opportunity to address the linked problems of climate change and peak oil. We could be investing in our economy to build zero-carbon housing, oil free public transportation and renewable energy resources. Doing this would move us towards an economy that does not need oil and does not burn fossil fuels, a move we have to make. It would also create jobs and growth through investment in structural projects which will return a profit to the taxpayer in the future. The government can borrow at 0.5%, far lower than the private sector, and take returns over far longer time periods, making it the better candidate for these kinds of long term strategic investments. Pay all these jobs at least a living wage and you will address inequality at the same time.
This will not happen whilst we have a government in charge that is in thrall to neo-liberal politics and the neo-classical economics of Friedman and Hayek, as we have had for most of the past 40 years. The only way that will change is through mass action on our streets.
Join us today at 5pm to demonstrate against the council cuts, and to call on Labour councillors to defy the Tory government. Austerity is fundamentally a national government policy, but as long as councils lie down and make cuts they are actively supporting the policy. It is time for those of them that think austerity is failing to join us in opposing it.
5pm, meet outside Waterstones High St/Bullring
5:30pm, march on the Council House for a rally
6:30pm Labour group meeting starts inside the Council House to agree internally the budget proposal which they will vote to pass at the full council meeting on the 26th February
Actions against austerity will take place throughout February as we head towards the full council meeting on 26th of February where £110m of cuts to local services will be formally agreed. There will be a day of action taking place, with a picket of the council house from 12:30-1:30 before the meeting starts at 2pm, civil disobedience actions being planned around the city centre during the afternoon and a mass demonstration in the evening. Please join and invite friends to this facebook event.