Ryeview – September 2007

Still waiting for Labour to fulfill promises

John Clark writes…

First published: September 2007 – Gazette & Herald

When not in government, Labour opposed the sale of council houses; championed the low paid; promised to increase the state pension and link it to earnings; called for the redistribution of wealth and heralded an ‘ethical’ foreign policy. This sounded well worth voting for. I did. When is it going to happen?

I have no problem with control of incomes, controlling inflation, keeping the economy under control and even a little ‘prudence’; all sensible parts of running a successful modern economy. What is not acceptable is that all these controls are only applied to the weak, the poor, the low paid and the elderly – groups bullied by Gordon Brown in his pursuit of Thatcherite policies. There is nothing wrong with the Tories standing under the banner of the ‘trickle down effect’. This is the policy where the poor benefit from the rich getting richer. Presumably the crumbs are larger. People even voted for this approach in the 80’s and 90’s. What is wrong is that Labour did not stand under this flag.

The sale of council houses is fine for those that buy one. It is harmful for those on the waiting list. In the 10 years of Labour, house prices have gone up almost three times, in line with directors pay. Meanwhile, workers wages have gone up by less than half. Those on a state pension have seen their income falling further and further behind. If Labour had kept its promises, the pension for a couple would be over £200/week. Means testing means those with savings lose out. Another consequence is that over a million low income pensioners don’t get a survival income. As for the redistribution of wealth, the fat cats have fared even better under Labour. In 1997 the richest 10% in the UK owned 47% of the nation’s wealth. Now they own 54%. This money has come at the expense of all those UK citizens that Labour promised to support and didn’t. Even a modest 50% tax rate on earnings of over £100,000 would raise £4billion. This could be used to reduce child poverty, help with affordable housing or increase the state pension. No signs of any of the above.

Now the ‘new’ Labour government under Gordon Brown has looked at who else is vulnerable for the government to bully. Rather than tax the high earners, Gordon Brown has decided to clamp down on civil servants and local government workers.

How does this work in Ryedale? For this year RDC increased its share of the council tax by 3%. North Yorkshire increased its share by 4.9%. Local council workers are not being offered a 4.36% pay rise to keep up with the council tax, they are being offered 2.475%. Meanwhile Directors and Chief Executives in local councils frequently negotiate their own pay level. This results in an ever widening gap between council workers and their ‘bosses’. To rub in a little extra salt in Ryedale the council tax was based on the workforce getting a 3% pay rise. RDC employees who live in Ryedale are paying council tax to cover a pay rise they might not get. Let us hope that RDC achieves higher standards than the Labour government.

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