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Birmingham city council knows how to waste public money. The Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme installed in Kings Heath is supposed to reduce the number of cars on the road, although in reality all it has done is funnel them onto fewer roads, increasing congestion and raising the emissions levels on those roads. The Council says the project will make roads safer, quieter and better for neighbours ‘to stop and have a chat in’.
Somehow Kings Heath and York Road are going to be transformed into Venice Beach for Councillor Trickett & Co. to hang about and share stories from their cycling holidays over a Venti Soy Quadruple Shot Latte with No Foam.
This scheme is an unmitigated disaster for working class people:
- Congestion will increase on main roads
- Emissions will increase on main roads
- Working class people who rely on the bus will be sat in more traffic for longer
- Emergency services will take longer to get to you
Lisa Trickett likes spending your money
Asked by the Birmingham Mail about the LTN Councillor Trickett said: “It’s not a cheap way of making policy.”[i]
Lisa Trickett knows how to waste public money. In 2017 she was responsible for a war waged on binmen. For a saving of £300,000 a year Lisa Trickett and the Labour Party spent more than £6million in an attack on bin men causing a strike that lasted months.
Now Trickett and our Labour council are chasing cash being offered by the government to those who introduce these ludicrous measures. To get their hands on the cash they had to act fast, which is why they dumped these giant wooden boxes in Kings Heath:
“Birmingham City Council said it would have to implement them before the end of August to secure government funds having been allocated £1 million from the first tranche of the Department of Transport’s (DfT) Emergency Active Travel Fund, with match-funding bringing the total to £1.6 million.[ii]
That’s Labour party consultation for you. Not a cheap way of working for the taxpayer, but pretty lucrative for the Council.
What is the solution?
If the problem is congestion then the solution is better public transport. Instead of making bus travel for all children FREE in the city, as it is for children in London, Labour pushed for changes to the law to make it a criminal offence if children jump the bus and skip the fare. Despite the fact our city is gripped by poverty, we have high levels of child poverty and we bury more paupers than any other British city, this Labour council won’t make it affordable for working class people to move about by public transport![iii]
For an additional £7m (out of a budget exceeding £300m) we could have had FREE bus travel for all children in the West Midlands. Instead, millions are to be pocketed by the council for its overpaid executives and councillors once a trifle is spent dumping wooden boxes in our streets.
What can you do?
Three simple steps:
- Join the campaign and fight back against the Venti Soy Quadruple Shot Latte with No Foam brigade masquerading as a Labour party
- Sack Lisa Trickett at the next election by voting Birmingham Worker
- Join the local Kings Heath section of the Birmingham Workers Party
The proportion of people with a job who live in poverty went up for the third consecutive year to a record high.
Government data shows 1.4 million people across the West Midlands region were living in relative poverty between 2015/16 and 2017/18.
An article in the Birmingham Mail has reported that,
“Poverty has increased for children and pensioners over the last five years with some of the worst hardship in the West Midlands.
The study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said that, despite rising levels of employment, in-work poverty has also gone up because often people’s pay, hours, or both, are not enough.”
The report says that about 56% of those living in poverty were in working households, that seven in ten children who were in poverty had parents in work.
The Josef Roundtree Foundation (JRF) has said the poverty indicator it used is when a family has an income of less than 60 per cent of median UK income for their family type, after housing costs. Just over half of people in poverty are in a working family, compared to 39 per cent 20 years ago, according to the research.
JRF said 14 million people were living in poverty, including four million children and two million pensioners, up by 400,000 and 300,000 respectively over the past five years.
The report said people were more likely to be in poverty if they lived in certain parts of the UK, in a family where there is a disabled person or a carer, if they work in the hospitality or retail sector, or if they live in rented housing.
Distribution of private wealth
The richest 10 percent of households own 44.6 percent of private wealth in Britain, while the poorest 30 percent have less than 2 percent. The poorest ten percent have £18bn of non-property debt (credit cards, overdrafts, HP, etc) while the richest ten percent only have £11bn.
Socialists must never tire of telling people that the political system that we live under (capitalist imperialism) is the cause not only of the fabulous wealth of a tiny handful of leeches who live by exploiting the masses, but is the cause also of the misery, exploitation, ill health, etc that the mass of the workers experience to a greater degree year upon year.
Only a workers’ movement that replaces this parasitic set-up with a socialist planned economy can provide the solution – an economy that is geared towards providing a decent standard of living for all workers, and which will lay the foundations for a future world of peace and plenty.
A second meeting was held in West Bromwich Working Men’s Social Club on Friday evening as George Galloway’s election campaign went from strength to strength. George was joined by fellow campaigners and members of the West Bromwich East constituency for more than an hour, and answered questions and took comments from members of the audience. The full recording of the meeting can be viewed above.
Heat is on for Bogus Dogus
In a disastrous start for Ibrahim Dogus, Labour’s candidate to replace Tom Watson, a report in the Times picked up in the local press has exposed his attempts to smuggle £11,500 out of Britain.
According to the Express and Star,
“Ibrahim Dogus, a kebab tycoon and the mayor of Lambeth, was embroiled in a tax evasion probe in 2011 after giving his aunt £11,500 in cash from his restaurant and asking her to take it to Istanbul on a flight from Heathrow.
The money was seized by UK border officials, who found it in satin purses, envelopes, and a sock with a zipped compartment.
In a court case, Mr Dogus, who is a close friend of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, claimed the money was being sent to Turkey to repay a debt to his brother-in-law.
However, UK Border Agency (UKBA) officials described his story as “unbelievable” and said his financial activities were “highly unorthodox”.
They said: “The UKBA submits that this cash is recoverable property, namely sourced from tax evasion.”
The full articles can be read here:
Comrades from South Kings Socialists, a US based Marxist-Leninist group have met with comrades from Birmingham.
General agreement on a broad range of issues characterised the meeting, with comrades discussing the harmful influence of idpol on the youth, the tasks of anti-imperialists in the imperialist countries, the study and dissemination of Marxism by cadres and masses and a many other similar matters.
In a visit that has taken in Glasgow, Derry, London and Birmingham the comrades from the US have been able to experience something of the conditions this side of the Atlantic.
The energy, commitment and sincerity of the South Kings comrades, in the face of fascist violence, gang intimidation and the sterilizing influence of idpol, will stand the comrades in good stead and we wish them all the very best in their labours.
QuickQuid, Britain’s biggest payday lender have gone into administration after talks with the UK Financial Conduct Authority fell through. CashEuroNet UK, the US owned lender which is comprised of the “QuickQuid, On Stride Financial and Pounds to Pocket brands”, announced that all three US owned UK lenders have gone into administration on the 25th October.
According to their website, whilst the Company has gone bust and is unlikely to cough up the millions it owes, the lawyers make it explicitly clear that all borrowers must continue to pay off their debts to the Company “all outstanding loans remain subject to the terms agreed with the Company and borrowers should continue to make payments in the usual way according to the company’s terms and conditions”(Enova International, Inc., 2019). Talk about having your cake and eating it…
Why have QuickQuid gone into administration?
QuickQuid received more than 10,000 complaints and legal challenges in recent months due to loans being mis-sold over affordability, with rates typically as high as 1575%. After entering talks with the FCA over a high volume of complaints in order to try and resolve this, the talks fell through and CashEuroNet UK pulled the plug, likely deciding it’s better to up and run with the QuickQuid they made rather than stay and have to answer and pay back those they took advantage of at a time of austerity, poverty, deprivation and record levels of unemployment in Britain.
What does this all mean for working people in Britain?
The double standards and rank hypocrisy of capitalism in Britain couldn’t be clearer. Punishment for the poor and reward for the rich is the message, as borrowers who have been mis-sold aren’t guaranteed to compensation whereas QuickQuid sell off their assets and leave with all the funds taken from hard working people, a pretty penny for the parent company CashEuroNet UK, a QuickQuid indeed.
What should workers do?
If you live and work in Britain, you are a British worker, no matter where in the world you are from, we believe that the only thing workers can do is to organise, educate and retaliate in order to protect ourselves and our families from austerity, oppression and all other problems put onto us by the wealthy class and bankers. This is one of the essential reasons workers in Britain have come together and formed our own organisation. One single fact strikes out clear as day, whenever there is trouble in the economy it is the workers that pay the price for the greed of the wealthy and the political class in Britain, when there’s a debt to be paid, the ruling class and bourgeois state expect us to foot the bill.
A few further links on this story
Enova International, Inc. (2019). Brands & Services – Enova International, Inc.. [online] Available at: https://www.enova.com/brands/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
Grant Thornton UK LLP. (2019). Grant Thornton CashEuroNet UK LLC Administration. [online] Available at: https://casheuronetukadministration.grantthornton.co.uk/administration/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
CPGB-ML. (2019). The true level of unemployment. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/10/26/news/true-level-unemployment/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
CPGB-ML. (2019). Shameful levels of malnutrition in Britain. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/09/13/news/shameful-levels-malnutrition-britain/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
CPGB-ML. (2019). Join the party or become a supporter. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/join/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
CPGB-ML. (2019). Workers for Brexit: why our party supported leave in the EU referendum. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/03/29/tv/workers-for-brexit-why-our-party-supported-leave-in-the-eu-referendum/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
CPGB-ML. (2019). About the Communists. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/about/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
George Galloway brings his radio roadshow to West Bromwich tonight, where he will be speaking at 7pm. The media has already reported that George will be standing at the next general election against Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, who sits in West Brom East.
A large protest was organised this afternoon by the GMB outside the premises of Amazon near Birmingham.
The rally was part of a week of events organised by GMB, mirroring action taken across the globe. Amazon have a number of large warehouses in the west midlands and employ nigh on 30,000 workers in Britain and the north of Ireland, with a total worldwide workforce of 630,000.
Staff at warehouses around the world reportedly walked out on Monday this week to coincide with Amazon’s 48-hour ‘Prime Day’ sale – dubbed its very own Black Friday.The sale offers discounts exclusively to Prime members – which is the retailer’s £79 a year subscription service.
Seattle-based Amazon, founded by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, says new deals will launch as often as every five minutes until midnight on Tuesday, “giving shoppers plenty of reasons to come back again and again”. In Germany, the trade union Verdi brought out 2,000 workers on strike in Verne, Weinberg, Leipzig and Koblenz. In Britain, amongst a veritable shopping frenzy, Labour-affiliated GMB said:
“We’re not calling for economic damage for Amazon… What we’re asking for is for people to be aware. Leave feed back on Amazon”.
Companies like Amazon and Deliveroo, with large workforces enduring stressful conditions on poverty pay, are working hard to deny their workers the right to trade-union representation, even when those unions explicitly state that they don’t wish to impact on operating profits.
If the working class is to get up off its knees, there will have to be a fight-back (quite possibly impacting on operating profits, which by the way are of no benefit to the workforce). Britain’s poorest workers have for so long endured high levels of insecurity, unliveable pay and inhuman conditions, the first step to rectifying this will be advocating the interests of workers and not shareholders.
A report in The Times on July 8 described the rush of foreign capital into Birmingham’s housing market. With cheap, cramped and ugly apartments flying up across the city, it is clear that there is money to be made.
Birmingham reportedly has the youngest population of any city in Europe, is now the most popular destination for those escaping from London and stands to benefit from even better rail links to the Capital once HS2 is completed (journey times of 1hr 15mins are already available on some services). Furthermore, with house prices a fraction of those in London it is easy to understand why workers from the south are looking to cash in and buy in Birmingham, and other poorer workers merely escape to cheaper rents in the West Midlands.
“While London and Manchester were previously the prime targets for foreign investors there has been a surge in interest in Birmingham, with overseas buyers snapping up as many as 100 flats each in new developments.
As well as the promise of huge yields renting to young people, investors are being lured by glossy brochures boasting that Birmingham is “one of the greenest [cities] in the UK” has “more miles of canals than Venice” and is home to the “iconic” Bullring. Another developer, whose conversion of a factory in the trendy Digbeth area is being marketed in Hong Kong, promises almost guaranteed rental income.
Seven Capital, which is behind numerous developments in the city, is telling investors that demand from tenants is so high that some properties are being let on the same day they are purchased.”[i]
The Times, which is not well known for being concerned with the prospects of ordinary working-class people reported that,
“Chloe Thorn, 26, has been saving for a deposit to buy a flat in Birmingham since she was 16. But when she began putting offers in she found that minimum deposits were either out of reach or flats were marked as investment-only. “It’s like being priced out of the city I’ve grown up in,” she added. “I remember when I first started looking in 2017 and seeing all these new buildings being built and thinking I may stand a chance of buying somewhere in the city once they are done. But once they went online to buy it was all investors-only on the majority.””
Capitalism only builds for profit
What Chloe failed to realise is that houses are not built so that working people can have a nice place to live, to bring up children and start a family. Under capitalism flats and houses are built so that they can be sold for a profit. Under capitalism, commodities (houses, cars, food, video games) are produced so that they can be sold on the market, they are not sold at their value, they will be sold for as much as the seller can persuade somebody to part with. Capitalism does not work for ordinary working people.
Housing under capitalism has become a vehicle for the wealthy to invest money in. The influx of foreign capital into housing in Birmingham is a consequence of the lack of better (more lucrative) schemes for the wealthy to invest in, and despite the claims of estate agents in Hong Kong and elsewhere, it is far from certain that investment like this can return the rents which these landlords hope for. Birmingham is a working-class city, more than 100,000 children live in poverty and one in five workers earn less than the Living Wage (£8.25p/h), recent accounts from the city council show that many workers cannot afford to pay their council tax with Birmingham owing £115m in outstanding arrears – not a cast-iron guarantee for great rental incomes.[ii]
Whilst estate agents will say anything to shift overpriced, poor quality housing, it is surprising that there are so many gullible enough to fall for it. Even in London the property bubble is due to pop, and there are already signs that in the highest end of the market the glory days are already over,
“Viewed from Bangalore, the purchase of a newly built three-bedroom apartment in London for more than £1.4m seemed like a safe investment bet. The top-floor three-bedroom home under construction in Keybridge House south of the Thames boasted views of the City of London and the Shard skyscraper. As Shonu Bhandari considered the purchase two years ago, agents told him he could expect the value to rise 15 per cent before the property had even been finished. The Indian entrepreneur, who runs a medical products company, happily signed up to buy. But his purchase soured quickly. When Bhandari approached a mortgage lender, it valued the property not at 15 per cent more than he had agreed to pay — but at 20 per cent less. With completion of the building looming, he signed over the property to a new buyer in March this year for £1.2m, losing more than £200,000 of his deposit.
…One new-build brochure from the estate agent Savills in 2016 said price growth in prime central London was expected to average 21.5 per cent by the end of 2020. Prices have so far fallen 10.4 per cent since that date, according to LonRes, a data provider.
“Global capital entering local real estate markets is not particularly new, but what was new was the intensity with which it entered places like Vancouver, New York, London, Melbourne and Sydney,” says Andy Yan, a planner and academic in Vancouver.”
“…In London, research by Savills shows construction continues to be out of step with demand. The London market over the next five years will need 42,500 new homes a year for sale or rent at cheaper than market rates, the property agency found — but only about 3,500 a year will be built.
Demand also far exceeds supply in the “lower” and “mid” markets, up to £700 per square foot. But above that, planned supply starts to exceed demand. In the £700 to £1,000 a sq ft category, annual demand for 7,000 homes a year will be catered for by almost 10,500. Prices at the top end are falling, but the median London house price remains more than 12 times average earnings. “What we don’t need in London are more £1m-plus apartments with swimming pools, spas, cinema suites and service charges of £7 or £8 a sq ft [per year]. Those are not for normal Londoners,””[iii]
Socialism the only answer
Houses should be homes for people, shelter and a secure family life is a right for every worker. Houses should not, as they are under capitalism, be commodities, sold only to those who can afford to buy or rent them, rather than provided for those who need them. By its utter inability to solve the housing question and meet this basic need of working people, the capitalist system is providing yet more proof that it is well past its use-by date and due for demolition.
The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB-ML), held in September 2018, passed a resolution on housing which put forward the basic demands of the Communist Party on the housing question. These demands form the basis of the party work on housing, and should be taken up by all advanced workers:
- Scrap the 2016-17 housing bill:the immediate scrapping of the 2016-17 housing bill, which threatens hundreds of thousands with poverty and homelessness.
- Build council houses not ‘affordable homes’:the provision of at least 300,000 new council houses per year to end the crisis.
- Guarantee secure social housing:guaranteed, secure and well-maintained social housing for all who want it, close to people’s work and families, and the abolition of divisive allocation criteria.
- Council ownership not ALMOs:the return of housing association and ‘non-profit’ properties to council ownership.
- Abolish housing charities:the abolition of housing charities and the reintroduction of the legal right to decent, secure housing for all; slums, overcrowding and homelessness are an indictment on capitalism and a crime against humanity.
- Set a rent cap: the introduction of a rent cap at 20 percent of minimum wage for all privately rented accommodation, and the scrapping of housing benefit (a subsidy to landlords that has helped to fuel rent rises).
- Protect existing council housing:the scrapping of all schemes that fuel prices, create shortages and offer subsidies to landlords and developers.
- Use existing surplus housing stock:the confiscation of all surplus homes and unfinished developments and their transformation into council housing.
- Provide decent homes for all:the establishment of residents’ management committees to oversee planning and maintenance and ensure that all workers have access to adequate space, necessary amenities and decent facilities, including having usable and pleasant outdoor spaces and community halls.
[ii] https://birminghamworker.org/2019/06/13/birmingham-council-cash-reserves-increase-by-736/ & https://birminghamworker.org/2019/07/03/thousands-of-birmingham-workers-too-poor-to-pay-their-council-tax/
In May Birmingham Worker reported on the crisis in council tax and its anti-working class character hitting many of the poorest in our cities. A publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain concluded that council tax was beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated Poll Tax.
The Birmingham Mail on 2 July carried the story that council tax arrears in Birmingham have soared to their highest levels on record with workers in Birmingham owing a total of £115.6million in outstanding council tax. Non-payments in 2018/19 totalled £21.4million – an overall collection rate of 94.4%.
This was a rise from £111million in 2017/18, and up by almost a fifth compared to £98.5million in 2012/13 (the figures are cumulative and include arrears that stretch back many years).
The UK is ranked by the OECD as having, after France, the greatest reliance on property taxation of all OECD country respondents as a proportion of GDP. For 2017, property taxes accounted for around 4.2 per cent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average.
Today’s system of council tax leaves those living in the lowest-value homes paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value, than those living in the highest value homes. This is particularly acute in London where property investment has taken house price prices to ludicrous levels. The poorest Londoners pay 8.1% of household income in council tax, whilst those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3% of their declared earnings.
No tinkering with the present system of taxation will be enough to stop the steady slide of hundreds of thousands of workers and middle classes into absolute destitution and misery. The crisis of overproduction, its consequent lay-offs and redundancies destroy the purchasing power of the masses who are also crushed under the weight of rising prices and taxation which they can no longer afford. Millions of workers today are a pay cheque away from ruination. Raising taxation of empty homes in London does nothing to undermine the financial power of the landlord and capitalist class, it does nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of the people’s misery – capitalism. Only under socialism, where the private ownership of the land by a tiny few is replaced with a socialist system of land ownership and taxation, where the recurrent crisis of capitalism is done away with and replaced by planned production can the working man and woman finally find themselves liberated.
Join the communists
If you want to fight for a better life for yourself, your class and your children, get in touch with the communist party in Birmingham: