My first speech at Full Council

Last night I made my first major speech at full City Council since being elected this year, as I seconded this motion proposed by fellow Green Councillor Ash Haynes:

In June 2013, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a further 10% reduction in central government funding to local government, on top of the existing cuts.

In light of the continued effect of the coalition government’s cuts programme upon local residents, council RESOLVES to:-

1) note that there are alternatives to this ideologically driven attack on public services; and,

2) ask the government to reverse the ongoing reduction in grants to councils, which could be funded by other measures.

During her speech, Councillor Haynes highlighted some of the measures by which grants to councils could be funded, including:

  • The levy of a financial transaction tax on speculative activities,
  • raising income tax for those with incomes above £100,000,
  • cracking down on tax havens and tax avoidance,
  • putting far greater emphasis on taxes that discourage environmentally or other damaging behaviour,
  • not replacing Trident.

In my speech, I highlighted why this is significant with reference to the Green Party’s objectives, and developed on the specific measure of the Financial Transaction Tax (more popularly known as the “Robin Hood Tax” or “Tobin Tax”):

“As a council, our day-to-day responsibility is the ongoing welfare of our residents, but our task has clearly been affected in recent years by wider events.

“Since the financial crisis of 2008, local residents have been made to pay — often with their jobs or at best frozen or lower wages — for the mistakes of a small financial elite in the City of London.

“The Green Party has long-recognised the importance of local authorities’ role in acheiving our core values of social and environmental justice, and particularly in this context: ‘for every person, in this and future generations, to be entitled to basic material security as of right’ and that ‘the success of a society cannot be measured by narrow economic indicators, but should take into account of factors affecting the quality of life for all people: social equity, health, happiness.’

“These objectives require long-term investment in skills, people and local communities, but local councils are struggling to keep their heads above water with just the essential services that they must fulfil.

“‘Austerity’ is not a foregone conclusion, as the coalition government would have you believe, but an intentional choice that the government has made to prop up the City of London by imposing austerity on the rest of us.

“Considering that it was those institutions that caused the crisis — encouraged, I might add, by the previous Labour government’s obsession with short-term economic growth — it should be they who pay for the mistakes they caused.

“The government claims that there is no alternative to cuts to public services, but several of my residents have been quick to point out that there are alternatives.

“In the UK, we already have a successful financial transaction tax on shares, which raises £3 billion a year, but if this was extended to include further asset classes — bonds, derivatives, foreign exchange — it could raise an extra £20 billion a year, which alone would be enough to offset the Local Government Association’s estimate of £16.5 billion annual shortfall in councils’ budgets by 2020.

“As already pointed out, this is by no means the only alternative. I therefore second this motion to call on government to reverse their reduction in grants to councils.”

The motion was carried, with all Green and Labour councillors in support, whilst Lib Dems abstained.

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2 Comments

  1. Adam
    Posted 24 July, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Nice, well written.

  2. Alan Cottey
    Posted 5 August, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Simeon! I’m currently reading ‘Beyond the Profits System’ by Harry Shutt. Again, powerful stuff.

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