What essential factors are required in the battle against Austerity?
One thing that may be necessary is to consolidate. When we look at our weaknesses, such as in policy or organisation we strengthen ourselves. We do not go out on a limb without support from the people. We must campaign in a measured manner so as to avoid sectarian tendencies to push things out of the grasp of the majority.
Soon we are to have a Public meeting and also it has been announced that coaches are to lobby Government.
We need to appreciate what the advocates of austerity intend to do with their austerity chaos programme. The neo-liberals have no intention in giving up so we can’t either. The grant cuts to Local Authorities and all funding restrictions ensure Austerity operates in a continuous fashion.
Will there be and end or winding down of their programme? No, if they get smooth passage they have already said that it may continue for an age. Is this acceptable? Of course not, there has to be an alternative.
When the austerity for the Isle of Wight causes the local authority to eventually be rendered totally inept by grant cuts and the end of its management through outsourcing, is this the end? No it is not the end.
Whether there is devolution or not, the austerity will continue.
It will not end because the disparity between the haves and have nots, between the rich and the poor gets greater. The spending power and availability becomes squeezed.
Will the total devastating effect of lack of democracy and impoverishment prevent such a situation when one would imagine blood couldn’t be got from a stone? No, that is not the situation that will be created. As long as there are exploitative capitalists who seek profit and will gain it by any means, they will struggle for their continuous survival. They will demand extra exploitation and added value and “productivity” from existing labour instead of investment.
Without opposition and resistance they will find further ways and extreme ways as long as they can.
That is why the opposition must perpetuate, because the neo-liberals do not wish to give up on their venture easily.
They first try and convince people that austerity is in the interests of people and cutting deficit by this method is by way the best and effective. This is while people passively accept. When this does not wash they will do it by arbitrary means and force if necessary.
Osborne, Cameron, Duncan Smith are no different in this respect. Previously Brown, Balls and Darling and co. were in principle no different all be it there method was not the same.
Now we have opposition developing, but it must strengthen itself. It must develop itself ideologically and politically; it must strengthen itself factually; it must stepwise organise its opposition systematically and consistently. Our short-term intention must be to block them and turn things around in the long-term.
Are we convincing the people what austerity is for example in the budget? Much of the horse-trading or argument is centred on what services to keep and what to cut?
There are many things happening to the poor and the most vulnerable in our community caused by Austerity that Unite the Isle of Wight have highlighted:
Closure of rehabilitation centres for older people, permanent destruction of certain youth services, end of patient support to the mainland (despite what has been said by Wightlink in the past about limited ferry ticket support and outsourcing of NHS services from St Mary’s to the mainland).
Abdication of responsibility of Health and Social Care by Government and foisting the responsibility over to Authorities by allowing a special increase in Council Tax by 2% with the possibility of the funding being diverted into the pockets of private organisations and bureaucrats. Listing includes: Wrecking of care support for people with most complex needs and closure of Mental Health Day Services; Reduction in service to people with sensory impairment; Reduction in essential services to stroke victims. All of these and more represent an austerity attack.
For as long as people can remember there has been no Council House building programme and affordable housing has been curbed. Housing benefit has been curbed for the poorest people in the community and homelessness is rising on the Isle of Wight. The Council has had to struggle over “Pennyfeathers” and Brighstone, leading to resignation by individual councillors on certain portfolios. The bedroom tax is an austerity attack.
People using food banks, low pay, unemployment, zero hour contracts and workfare are all caused by Austerity.
The attack on Blue Badge holders is an austerity assault on the disabled.
The recouping of revenue to offset Grant reductions by the Government has led to a huge reduction in the Council Tax payment support scheme for the jobless and less advantaged.
Are we convincing the middle strata too?
Take for instance School Crossing Patrols. Why is this seen as a service to Cut? Does it not add value? Does it not protect our future generation and the quality of care of children going safely to and from school? Pushing responsibility onto individual schools when they have no funds is impractical.
Beach cleaning and toilets are part of the enhancement of towns and so is hedge cutting. Why then are these things seen as surpluses? Some parishes have taken these services because they know that they are essential and add value to the environment. They may have even managed to do such things cheaper such as in Ventnor. But do people not see this as an austerity measure at the top? Should they be discarded without consideration that some facility has been lost?
Has the system of libraries now produced a better quality of library or have there been losses?
What about the end of Wightbus and the deregulated bus service in terms of services and price to the population?
Island Road PFI has been classic in terms of its cost and the contract that has failed on a number of issues. A Private Finance Initiative has to be told as what it is. It is privatisation of a public service that binds the public to a legal contract over 25 years or so. It costs to outlay; it costs to maintain, therefore it is an expensive model. It does not deliver adequately and so it is an austerity measure that squeezes local finance from public to private paying shareholders out of the diminishing resources of the authority. This money could be used more effectively for a statutory service provided more effectively by the public authority. Austerity privatisations have shown to have unique specific consequences all on their own.
Waste disposal is tentative too.
The Council administration has had to work hard in the past to deal with education that was part of Government Austerity nationally. Academies and free schools were part of the move towards the private sector. Gove was eventually removed. There has been much wrangling with the Conservatives, such as Cllr Whitehouse, over the direction and difficulties caused by outsourcing from the LEA and the dubious collusion with Hampshire. The issues surrounding Cowes enterprise college leading to the contract fiasco and Ormiston and the challenge to Carrisbrooke, which has since proven its worthiness and is another such case to be considered as a consequence of interfering austerity.
The Government and neo-liberals say there is plenty more lean meat on the bone. The asset stripping is part of their intention to grab land and buildings. We have seen it in Ventnor with the Winter Gardens and Botanical Gardens, we have seen it with ASDA land and we see it developing over the railway line. It must be seen in connection with Austerity measures, which serves neo-liberal privatisation.
Unite the Isle of Wight is taking steps and it must work out strategy and tactics.
Without these things the organisation and consciousness of the movement will grope in the dark, struggle to find its bearings and falter in its mission.
The opposition must create and develop its own experience. No one individual can carry the burden or assume onus, it has to be a collective responsibility it would be arrogant opportunism to do otherwise and divisive at that. There is a necessity for a great deal of unity at this time.
At the end of the day the island’s working class and organisations can only save the day by linking up with the similar organisations and movement on the mainland and indeed Europe.