Williamson’s bold idea exposes Tory reality: they devolve blame, not power

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The yearly misery

Every year around this time since the Tories took Downing Street in 2010, local authorities are forced into the miserable process of deciding which services get cut and which limp on into another year.

Do they shut libraries or close children’s centres? Do they fund homeless shelters or HIV screening programmes? Do they cut social care for disabled people or elderly residents?

The cuts

The scale of the funding cuts imposed by Tory governments on councils around the country – especially Labour councils – beggars belief. In 2016, Liverpool had already faced cuts of 58% since 2010- and was facing a further cut of £98 million for the 2017/18 financial year.

Under May and Hammond, politically-motivated austerity ploughs relentlessly on. The Tories remain wedded to their commitment to entirely end central Government funding for local authorities by 2020.

Labour councillors face a stark choice: try to make the best of Tory cuts and then try desperately to turn residents’ anger toward the right target – or give up and allow complete collapse.

The proposal

The situation is crying out for genuinely creative solutions that help the majority in hard-pressed areas and point the finger of blame where it rightly belongs – with the Tory government and its ideologically-driven vandalism of the fabric of our country on which we depend.

So Chris Williamson’s fresh thinking on the issue of council tax ought to be welcome.

Williamson and his team in Derby proposed a new approach in which council tax for the majority of the city’s residents would be protected from any council-tax rise – paid for by a bigger increase on properties with in the highest council-tax bands.

Williamson’s idea was not naive, nor ignorant of the fact that some people with little cash live in larger properties – he proposed a relief fund to be created from the additional overall income to help those people and those on low incomes generally. Those on high incomes who can best afford it would pay more – and would know where the real blame lies when they examine the reasons for hefty council tax rises.

The defamatory backlash

But that hasn’t prevented the Tories, seemingly rattled by the prospect of councils doing more than merely try to manage the decline of their town’s fabric and services, trying desperately to attack the idea – including at least one frankly libellous tweet on the topic by the official @Conservatives Twitter account.

The tweet claims that Williamson “want[s] to double YOUR council tax” – but of course, this is only true of a small number of residents in any given town. For ‘the many’, council tax would be frozen or even reduced.

Tories being dishonest to smear opponents – no surprise there, of course. The Tory party is bereft of creative ideas, as its manifesto last year made abundantly clear. But Williamson’s idea and the Tory response to it makes at least one thing even clearer.

What it exposes

Conservative politicians love to talk about ‘localism’ and to claim they are champions of empowering local people and authorities. But when those claims are tested, the Tories are quick to force local people to accept fracking – or to overrule the objections of parents and their council representatives to make them accept the academisation of their schools.

Tories love to devolve – but what they love to devolve is not power, it’s blame. Centrally-imposed cuts have to be enacted by local authorities – and only well-informed residents understand that the blame lies with the government, not their council.

Tory governments are cowards and bullies – striking at the vulnerable and then hiding behind others to avoid the consequences.

Williamson’s idea threatens their ability to hide from the anger their cuts creates, by shining a spotlight on the reasons for steep rises that will only hit those who are most able to pay – and most likely to vote Tory.

So the Establishment backlash was as inevitable as it is contrived.

Power to the people

Changes of the type proposed by Williamson would, of course, under current rules require a local referendum to approve them.

Some councils are understandably nervous about incurring the associated costs – but one-off costs with the aim of an ongoing benefit, both financially and politically.

This blog hopes councils will have the courage to run their referendums – and then to implement the changes. The people who rely on councils and councillors are depending on them to take bold action – and to expose and damage a government that has been forcing them to take an axe to their communities with impunity for far too long.

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  1. Personally I don’t think council tax is the answer.
    Corporation tax is and tax avoidance, also better paid jobs create more revenue.

  2. Sounds a good idea if it is do-able but central government has local councils in chains re council tax. One of the first things the Neo-Liberal Tories (and Lib Dem numbskulls) did was to give tax cuts to: millionaires, corporations, private landlords with multiple properties, hedge funds (hedge funds gave the Tories £50m and the Tories & Lib Dems gave tax cuts to hedge funds of £145m) SO THIS AUSTERITY STUFF WAS NEVER MEANT FOR THE RICH AND POWERFULl! They also changed local government funding settlement rules from being based on population size and NEED (as under the previous Labour Govt) to one based on population size only with the result being major cuts for predominantly Northern etc. Labour Councils and few if any cuts for Southern Tory Councils. The rich may bleat but whilst the Tories attack the working class welfare state the upper class welfare state thrives – over 1,000 tax reliefs for the rich and better off, £120b a year in tax avoidance, £93b in year in corporate welfare (tax cuts and incentives which is £3,500 per household), and globally according to the Panama papers the rich stash 10 trillion dollars globally in illicit offshore banks TO AVOID GIVING TO SOCIETIES! Chris as always points in the correct direction and ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR ALL!

  3. Skwawkbox is quite right.

    The Tories use human shields to defend themselves from the electoral consequences of their own barbaric and anti-social policies.

    In this case the human shields are the councils, which are being placed in the line of fire and put into a seemingly impossible position by the Tory government.

  4. This is not say councils are blameless. Indeed many Tory councils merely seem like puppets with their strings being pulled by central government.
    “Jump” says the government. “How high” say Tory Councils.
    I never see much dissent from the Councils here in the shires.

  5. He comes across as a genuine down to earth bloke and good luck with the grassroots bringing Labour back to its roots

  6. Hey Skwarkbox, Namaste 🙂

    One has to admire an MP who promotes socialism at the grass-roots level. He should be applauded for his efforts…why aren’t other Labour MP’s actively setting about following his example?

    I was curious to know if it were possible for The People to set up councils within their ward with a view to setting local agenda’s and managing budgets for the people by the people, as opposed to greedy councillors taking inflated salaries from out of the penny-pot and looking after ‘friends’ etc. and I found this on the .Gov.Uk website – could it be a first bold step towards The People taking back power in their local area even if it is just at the ‘first level of government? –

    ‘To set up your own town or parish council, you’ll need to first give your local authority a petition containing the signatures of at least 7.5% of the local population.

    The petition must:
    • state exactly what it proposes: creating a parish or town council for a defined area
    • contain the signatures of at least 7.5% of local electors, based on the most recent electoral register – you’ll need more signatures for areas with fewer than 2,500 electors

    If the petition is valid, your local authority will carry out a ‘community governance review’ to see if a local council should be created.

    A neighbourhood forum that’s had a neighbourhood development plan passed at referendum can trigger a community governance review without needing a petition.’

    It is conceivable that from one small step could grow further independence from government bullshit – perhaps even establishing a People’s Bank? As a People’s Council there would be opportunity to influence local council policy, chance to also work in close association with other councils networking for support and sharing costs of services in neighbouring wards or geographical areas, chance to pool resources and apply co-operative practice, establish buying consortiums to purchase contracts for services nationally, etc the possibilities are many and varied to enable a better service delivery.

    Once The People take over Councils, they have a much louder voice within the political arena and who knows where that could lead? I’m still up for the idea of a People’s Government: one that marches straight into Number 10 and cleans up Dodge City once and for good. It is a dream, and a damn fine one, to wish for a day when we are an undivided successful world-leading nation promoting progressive socialist ideas such as equality and brotherhood. One day the Red Flag will be flying high over Number 10: w just have to believe that wishes do really come true.

    Keep it Red and Revolutionary Skwarkbox. Power to The People!

    Love and Peace. Namaste 🙂


    1. Funny that you should say this, was having almost exactly this discussion with someone on Thursday…

      1. Hey Skwarkbox,

        We are great minds thinking alike. I knew we had a connection 🙂

        Your site is important as a social record of these dark days early in the 21st Century: and something tells me your Blog is/will be a Red Beacon when social revolution erupts with ferocious anger and the venom of a spitting volcano.

        As for discussion on Councils…they are one small stepping-stone towards The People running the UK for the People. Imagine if strong political allegiance could be provided by foreign powers across the world who value the absolute worth to be found in progressive socialist societies. The Tory machine is supported by the Trump administration. Perhaps the People can invite Canada to the table or even find funding from the Russians (joking!) and European nations eager to dismantle the evil machine that is the UK government to bring socialism to the fore. We have a multi-cultural society which affords forging possible connections with other countries around the globe that have otherwise not been invited to the People’s cause. From one small step could grow a global network whose tentacles will be far-reaching and very effecting: a network that combines political forces with financing to reinvent the World. If the fascist Tories will not desist in inflicting damage on the UK: policies that are deliberately and wilfully killing people (targeting the most vulnerable in society with policies they call austerity: a disguised term for eugenics): endangering lives or making no provision for the electorate’s health and wellbeing then The People will just have to run a parallel country/economy to the one that is heinously dictated by lying, cheating, self-serving capitalist funded despots and tyrants.

        Social Revolution is coming, and it will upset many people, but that is inevitable when The People have to rise up against fascism to take back the most basic of human rights eroded by evil and re-establish infrastructures to support a fundamental, far-reaching programme of very rapid and highly progressive social change. Unlike the Tories who are bereft of ideas or intelligence, The People have opportunity to draw on a vast resource of incredibly creative minds across the world who are not paid to invent policy to endanger so many lives. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure for the world…but it’s on its way. The times they are a changing, and it starts now.

        Love and World Peace. Namaste 🙂


    2. A single truly Socialist nation will face the whole weight of the international Capitalist machine in economic warfare.
      Maintaining their hegemony is worth any number of our lives and the lives of the dupes who support them through ignorance.

      AI/robotics could enable a Capitalist Dystopia or a Socialist Utopia – to fight that fight we’ll need better tech-warriors than theirs – and not just in social media.

      We have the numbers and we mostly have the educated young – all the 1% really have is money and that can disappear at the push of a button.

      Neo-liberalism’s a nearly-dead duck – if we keep up the pressure for change I think we’re in with a shout… 🙂

      1. Excellent perspective and elegantly put, thank you. Come the Revolution David…how would like the job of Minster for Technology 🙂

        Keep shouting loudly! The People will prevail.

        Love and Peace. Namaste 🙂


  7. levy) on Council tax, which as isn’t graded by bands is regressive for poorer families.

  8. Sorry – something went wrong with the above post. The point I was trying to make is whilst Chris Wlliamson’s idea is of interest it has flaws. It depends on any council implementing such a concept having to fight a referendum, and would have to do this every year, with no guarantee in the teeth of a hostile local media, of winning. Secondly, the Party has disavowed the idea explicitly

    A much fairer idea would be for revising legislation from a Labour Government of extend the number and range of council tax bands above Band D (and which stop at Band H) to more fairly reflect the wealth represented by expensive housing. That achieves what Chris Williamson wants and is permanent.

    Other posters talk of looking at local spending being met from national taxation schemes. Two problems here. One, it puts immense power on local spending in the hands of central government – which could be Tory.
    Secondly, this is regressive and hits poorer people hardest.

  9. The only fair basis for taxation is income and wealth, both individual and corporate.

    All other taxes are manipulated for political gain by the wealthy via the Tories.
    Collecting many different taxes is extremely costly and inefficient – their true value to the Tories is in shifting the burden of tax from the rich to the poor while maintaining the illusion of fairness.
    One of their best tricks.

    Income tax, NI and VAT take half the wages of an average person living from week to week and the rentier class take the rest.
    Anyone believing that’s anything other than planned poverty for the many by the Tories should think about it some more.

    Funding local government from central taxation would allow fair comparison between councils – and between local and central government spending.

  10. I like this one! It’s about time Labour stopped following the Right wing which constantly kowtows to the rich and has done very little since 1945 to lift the burden of debt, caused by Capitalist adventurism (with our wealth I must add) over the years since, which has always been paid for by the many! We only have to look at the foreign wars which both the Tories and Labours Tory lites have entered into where our blood has spilled and their refusal to penalise the Bankers who have caused the financial crises in 2007 or so, and which we have continued paying for up until today, whilst the Bankers, the speculators and the idle rich have got even richer! It’s about time the Labour Left have come out fighting whilst not falling for the Blairite chimera, which underpins their excuses for sucking up to and then joining those who suck the life blood from us. That is, we mustn’t tell ‘it how it is’ using uncompromising language otherwise we might upset people and alienate them from voting for any type of Labour Government which looks as though it could upset the comfortable, smug, petite bourgeoisie who like to think that we must all be reasonable’ and not criticise too strongly, if at all, the scumbags who continue to destroy any genuine democracy in the UK! Go for it, Comrade Williamson! Rally all who claim to be Socialists by pushing forward this proposal to make the rich pay for the austerity that they have thrust upon the rest of us! I remember a Labour Chancellor once saying that ‘we are going to squeeze the rich ’till they squeak’ (Denise Healy actually, never happened though! All we ended up with was another Labour Chancellor (Gordon Brown) who saved the World Banking System by having us bail the buggers out and was lauded by the rest of the world but got shit on by all who wanted the Tories back in power in this Country! Well, we got ’em with a vengeance so, let’s do something to get back our wealth from those who have talked austerity but never paid for it!

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