Friday, 16 December 2011

Tories think about Council Tax rise

I learn  that Cumbria Tories and thinking about turning down Pickles grant and going for a rate rise.

Cumbria Council, a joint Conservative/Labour administration is proposing to increase the Council Tax by 2.5%.

Cllr Eddie Martin, the Council's Conservative leader said he “was inclined to go with the 2.5% increase next year” but had not yet got the agreement of his group.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A better economic model-the missing Liberal ingredient

Is there a chance that out of all the economic chaos a Liberal opportunity might arise. There is little appetite for bureaucratic socialism and the failure of neo con market solutions that led to our present mess has meant folk are looking around for a different model.

Thanks to all the people who sent me a link to this 'think piece' in the New York Times:

Worker-Owners of America, Unite! -

THE Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.
But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.
Moreover, this year some 14 states began to consider legislation to create public banks similar to the longstanding Bank of North Dakota; 15 more began to consider some form of single-payer or public-option health care plan............................................

Some of these developments, like rural co-ops and credit unions, have their origins in the New Deal era; some go back even further, to the Grange movement of the 1880s. The most widespread form of worker ownership stems from 1970s legislation that provided tax benefits to owners of small businesses who sold to their employees when they retired. Reagan-era domestic-spending cuts spurred nonprofits to form social enterprises that used profits to help finance their missions.

Recently, growing economic pain has provided a further catalyst. The Cleveland cooperatives are an answer to urban decay that traditional job training, small-business and other development strategies simply do not touch. They also build on a 30-year history of Ohio employee-ownership experiments traceable to the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s and ’80s.

Further policy changes are likely. In Indiana, the Republican state treasurer, Richard Mourdock, is using state deposits to lower interest costs to employee-owned companies, a precedent others states could easily follow. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, is developing legislation to support worker-owned strategies like that of Cleveland in other cities. And several policy analysts have proposed expanding existing government “set aside” procurement programs for small businesses to include co-ops and other democratized enterprises.

If such cooperative efforts continue to increase in number, scale and sophistication, they may suggest the outlines, however tentative, of something very different from both traditional, corporate-dominated capitalism and traditional socialism.

It’s easy to overestimate the possibilities of a new system. These efforts are minor compared with the power of Wall Street banks and the other giants of the American economy. On the other hand, it is precisely these institutions that have created enormous economic problems and fueled public anger.

During the populist and progressive eras, a decades-long buildup of public anger led to major policy shifts, many of which simply took existing ideas from local and state efforts to the national stage. Furthermore, we have already seen how, in moments of crisis, the nationalization of auto giants like General Motors and Chrysler can suddenly become a reality. When the next financial breakdown occurs, huge injections of public money may well lead to de facto takeovers of major banks.

A long era of economic stagnation could well lead to a profound national debate about an America that is dominated neither by giant corporations nor by socialist bureaucrats. It would be a fitting next direction for a troubled nation that has long styled itself as of, by and for the people.

Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Is a transaction tax unacceptable?

Many Liberals and others on the progressive wing of politics have been interested in a transaction tax for financial services. Earlier this week I posted a link to a third world campaign Stamp Out Poverty advocating the tax and a variation of the proposal has been in the Lib Dem manifesto. Today a letter has appeared in Guardian from the Social Liberal Forum and Compass
.................Everyone who cares about Britain's future at the heart of Europe needs to do two things. First, we must be committed to be part of the European debate, no matter how difficult that currently feels. We have to be part of the process to push for a more social, democratic and interventionist Europe. We cannot opt out of Europe – we are Europe.

Second, while we recognise the important role of the City in the British economy, we must not go on behaving as if the 2008 crash never happened. The City needs to be effectively regulated not just for the rest of the economy and society but to save it from itself. In September, Ed Miliband committed Labour to supporting a financial transaction tax introduced at a European level if there was no global agreement at first – matching the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment to it. This was the right thing to do economically and politically. Europe must take the lead in ensuring that damaging speculation is curtailed and therefore a better balance struck between the manufacturing sector across Britain and the interests of a few in the City of London.

All who share the vision of a more equal, democratic, dynamic and sustainable Europe should work together to ensure Britain plays its full part with its neighbours in creating that vision and does not retreat to the sceptical margins.

I see that my old politics Professor Stephen Hasler has signed the letter

Neil Scales goes

Readers will be interested to learn that the head of Merseytravel is leaving. Sadly he is not taking the Chair of the organisation with him. As the Tory Leader on the authority asked? Why did he start looking for a new job? Was it that a wedge had been driven between him and Cllr Dowd over the issue of vertical intergration? (that is running the rail and the trains. The authority spent mega sums promoting this cause only to perform a handbrake U turn at the last minute without tabling any written advice to members )

Freedom of Information requests will doubtless soon flush out the whole story.......,..and the issues of the personal use of the Authorities credit card by Cllr Dowd

Friday, 9 December 2011


Birkdale's Councillor Simon Shaw, who is Cabinet Member Environmental on Sefton Council, has good news for local residents who missed their green garden waste wheelie bin collection last week. They will now have an additional collection just before Christmas.

Following the national strike on Wednesday, November 30, green wheelie bin collections were cancelled on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week. This was done to enable grey bin collections, also missed on November 30, to be made on Thursday and Friday of that week.

Unfortunately this meant that some residents did not have their green bins emptied on their last scheduled collection before Christmas, and would not have them emptied until the green bin service resumes in mid January.

To help manage this, crews will now collect green wheelie bins on Wednesday, December 21, Thursday, December 22 and Friday, December 23, from properties who missed their green bin collection due to the disruption caused by the strike.

This means that only these properties will have both their grey and green wheelie-bins emptied on these particular days, if they place them out for collection.

Cllr Simon Shaw, said: "I am very pleased that it has been possible to arrange a final green wheelie bin collection before Christmas for those households who lost out because of the national strike."

"Crews did a good job in catching up on the grey bin collections in the aftermath of the strike. Unfortunately, this could only be done at the expense of those residents who were due a green collection on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week."
"I apologise for this inconvenience, and I know that many residents have contacted their councillors or our call centre about this problem. It has been especially awkward as that would have been their last green collection before mid-January."

"One thing I would particularly like to emphasise is that this extra green wheelie bin collection in the last week before Christmas is only for those areas which missed out because of the strike."

Cameron's Delta minus negotiating strategy harms UK

Cameron-having burnt his boats with the mainstream centre right parties in Europe-turned up to the Euro summit with no allies. In order to stop a Tobin/Robin Hood tax ( read the report from Stamp out poverty here)he has damaged Britain's long term interests.*

My Lib Dem MEP has issued the following statement:

David Cameron was this morning accused of relegating Britain to the second division of Europe.
Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies claimed that by wrecking agreement between EU countries in Brussels the Prime Minister had ensured that a two speed Europe would develop.
He said: “Far from keeping Britain strong, Cameron has ensured that we will lose our influence at the top table.
“By seeking to protect bankers from regulation, he has betrayed Britain’s real interests and done nothing in practice to help the City of London.
“The fear now must be that we will increasingly lose the opportunity to affect decisions being taken that are bound to affect us.
“The consequence of the xenophobic attitudes towards our European neighbours that have been allowed to develop has been to leave Britain weak.  We have shot ourselves in the foot.”

*Thanks to Lord B for the Tobin link
As an after though. I do wonder whether that most canny of politicians, Alex Salmond may -when the time is right- adopt membership of the high speed Europe as part of his Independence campaign..... 

Monday, 5 December 2011

A Christmas stocking filler

Now that the second advent candle has been lit I am prepare to talk about Christmas stocking fillers.

The one book that has caught my eye this year is Beyond the Corporation-Humanity Working by David Erdal

As Amazon reviewers say:

This is by far the best book to explain democratic employee ownership to business people and to the owners of family firms who might be consider a sale to the employees. David Erdal has "walked the walk" by arranging for the successful sale of his large family business to the employees so he speaks with a convincing authority on the matter. He masterfully spells out the arguments on economic, managerial, political, and social psychological grounds for democratic worker ownership. This combination of real world experience and interdisciplinary understanding of the issues makes this the book on democratic employee ownership.
--David Ellerman

or again

'BEYOND THE CORPORATION gives a breathtaking overview of employee ownership over the years and across the continents and provides a passionate argument of the case for employee ownership. It should be compulsory reading, not just for those of us on the inside, but for any student of economics, sociology, business or politics.'
--Carole Leslie, Policy Director, Employee Ownership Association
Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working

one we prepared earlier-a Liberal economic idea

Want to spread wealth and power more fairly, tackle the obscenity of mega pay, improve productivity, get business to concentrate on the 'long-term' making it more resilient during a period of retrenchment?

Well the Liberal Party had this quaint idea. They identified the issue of ownership as matter that had to be reformed. Today we would say that the market collapse that led to the banking crisis was in significant part caused by a model of ownership that meant the Directors of a company had one over-riding duty-namely to increase share holder value. This led to some of the short sighted and risky transaction that may have been in the short term interest of the shareholders but were not in the long term interests of the UK economy.

The Liberal Part argued for decades that those who worked in enterprises have AT LEAST as much right as those who contributed the capital. The Liberal policy of co-ownership or out right Employee Ownership was a signature policy and apart from PR one of the few things that the British people knew about the party.Shareholders have shown repeatedly that they are interested only in a fast buck. The electronic dealing in shares have meant they are bought and sold in a twinkling of an eye.It is time to start arguing the Liberal case again.

If employees were properly represented on Boards of Directors you wouldn't need legislation to control top pay. Numerous examples across Europe and North America show that employee ownership effectively deals with this issue. Employee owned firms are not only happier places to work but also more productive.

This policy also gives hope of building a fairer Britain. Firms like John Lewis, Scott Bader and Baxi have all shown that this is a hard headed idea and as talk of class war raises its ugly head once more it is a policy that should become identified with our part

So why the picture of Asquith? Well Clegg must be the first Liberal leader since Squiffy not to make employee ownership a central element in the party's policy