Thousands of Birmingham workers too poor to pay their council tax

council tax rise 2019

a poster issued by Birmingham Worker in April this year when council tax for many households rose by £70+

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.

Council tax

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:

Thousands of Birmingham children are taught in classes which are too big

children in class

According to figures released by the Department for Education, 11,503 children in Birmingham are being taught in classes of more than 30 pupils (as of January this year). This means one in nine primary pupils in Birmingham (11%) are now being taught in a large class, up from 10.9% a year before.

Across England, there were 558,658 pupils in primary schools being taught in classes of 31 or more.

The Birmingham Mail reported Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, as saying: “Today’s figures expose the consequences of the Tory cuts to our schools, with more and more pupils crammed in to super-sized classes that can only make it harder for them to learn.”

What Angela Rayner and other Labour MPs/councillors etc want to hide from the public is that the commercialisation of schools began under Tony Blair’s Labour party with the Learning and Skills Act 2000. Successive Labour governments, and then the Liberal Democrats and Tory coalition (and in more recent times the Conservative governments of Cameron and May) have consolidated and deepened this process.

The academies, which began to replace LEA-funded schools brought private finance into the running of schools, and are a part and parcel of move towards full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with the increase in religious, private and grammar schools, academies paved the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.

What do communists say?

At the 8th Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB-ML) held in Birmingham last year, a motion on education declared:

“This congress notes that today in Britain, rather than education and vocational training being viewed as a social necessity and individual necessity required for the full flourishing of society as a whole as well as the individuals within it, education and training are treated as a commodity, which is sold to the working class as a product that will provide a higher income to them as individuals, irrespective of its social utility or its ability to enhance the individual life.

Congress believes that all education and training from creche and kindergarten through school, university, vocational college and on to adult lifelong learning and retraining should be provided free, along with full maintenance grants to full-time pupils and students, that sufficient teachers should educated, trained and provided, and that vocational training should be awarded equal respect to academic education, since the plumber is as useful and as necessary as the sanitation engineer.

Recognising the above, congress resolves that the party’s demands regarding education are:

1. The expulsion of all private interests in education, including the abolition of academies and their return to the state school system and the end of private provision of goods and services to educational institutions, with all staff brought in-house with realistic wages and full employment rights.

2. The abolition of private, religious and ethnically-divided schools.

3. The abolition of tuition fees in all institutions at all levels of education.

4. The provision of maintenance grants to cover living expenses of working-class students and their families, from creche and kindergarten through nursery, to school, undergraduate and higher-degree level.

5. Changes in the syllabuses and teaching methods should reflect the scientific, historical and artistic needs and interests of working-class people, including the teaching of materialist philosophy, science and working-class history and politics.”

If you’d like to find out more, get in touch:

Birmingham council cash reserves increase by 736%

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100,000 children in Birmingham live in poverty according to the Children’s Society.  Birmingham is a young city with almost half its 1.1 million residents aged under 30. Birmingham’s parents earn very little with one in five workers in Birmingham earning less than the Living Wage of £8.25 per hour.

From the above its clear to anybody that the services provided by the city council to meet the pressing needs of Birmingham’s poorest are absolutely essential. Any reader will know that Birmingham city council, under a Labour administration, has waged a ruthless campaign of cuts to services and attacks on the working conditions of council employees, with bin strikes and care worker disputes making regional and national news.

The Labour party career councillors blame it all on Tory cuts, they say there is simply no money. The same excuse is used by their acolytes in the Socialist Party and other Trotskyite groupings.

It’s a similar picture up and down the country, where two-faced councillors squeeze the poor while building up cash reserves, handing the assets over to private contractors and wasting millions in short sighted projects and on overblown salaries for top executives.

In a lengthy report published in The Times, it is alleged that Birmingham council like many others has built up huge cash reserves in the last ten years whilst drastically reducing spending on services. The piece details hundreds of local authorities with Birmingham city council topping the table for having increased its cash reserves by £411 million in eight years.

“English councils have amassed huge cash reserves while blaming budget cuts for reduced spending on services, official figures suggest.

Local authorities, excluding police or fire and rescue authorities, were sitting on £21.8 billion of non-ringfenced reserves last year, £5 billion more than they had in 2017 and £11 billion more than they had at the start of the decade.

Spending on local services, including libraries, parks, bus services and bin collections, has fallen by about 21 per cent since 2010, when the government began slashing the central grant it gives to local authorities. Many councils have also been raising council tax bills.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower tax, said that some authorities were making questionable decisions with their budgets that meant residents ‘paying more for less’.”

Midlands local authorities change in non-ringfenced reserves since 2010

Birmingham £411m 736%
Nuneaton & Bedworth £9m 338%
Worcester £8m 265%
Warwickshire £96m 259%
Daventry £19m 238%
Coventry £69m 236%
Rugby £6m 221%
Stratford-on-Avon £8m 208%
Warwick £5m 38
Worcestershire £20m 32%
North Warwickshire £1m 21%
Redditch £0m 12%
Dudley £5m 10%
Wolverhampton £-3m -5%

According to the report Coventry city council said it could no longer afford to provide free school buses for disabled children whilst “holding £97.6 million in usable reserves, up 76 per cent on 2017.” Coventry is planning a further £11 million of cuts.

“In its annual accounts the council accepted that it was difficult to explain the need for such high levels of reserves but said that the financial challenges it faced and projects it had established provided a ‘strong justification’.”

Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink

All this cash floating about without a penny for the workers pay, nor services for working class families reminds us of the tale of the ancient mariner,  ‘water water everywhere nor any drop to drink’. In that poem the ancient mariner brought a curse upon his shipmates by shooting an albatross and he is forced to wear the albatross around his neck as his shipmates suffer from thirst.

The working class prolongs its suffering in the continued support of the imperialist Labour party. The Labour party and its deeds hang on our necks, never has it been clearer that workers need to build a Communist Party to lead the fight for socialism and rid ourselves of the curse of class collaboration, fake socialism and opportunism in the ranks of the labour movement. Get in touch:

Council tax becoming the new Poll Tax claims IPPR

21st century socialism

The first premise of all human existence is … that man must be in a position to live in order to make history. But life involves before anything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things” (K Marx and F Engels, The German Ideology (1846), International Publishers, New York, 1947, p.16).

A short column in the FT on Saturday 18th May notes the publication of a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality. The report, focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain concludes that council tax is beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated Poll Tax which caused Margaret Thatcher so many problems thirty years ago.

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.

The IPPR report states that 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 study found that a household in a Band A property in London would on average pay nearly five times what a Band H household would pay as a proportion of property value. 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.

“Those in the lowest-value homes in London are paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value than those in higher-value homes… To the extent that the distribution of property values is a proxy for wealth, this is not fair… The regressive nature of the present council tax system is embedded in its design… The highest-value property in Band H will attract a maximum of three times the tax on the lowest-value homes, even though (based on the current banding system) the high-value home is worth at least eight times the low-value one in 1991 property prices. As a proportion of property value, lower-value properties pay a larger proportion than higher-value properties.”

Arrears

“Across England”, according to the report, “officially recognised annual total council tax arrears increased from £836 million in 2013/14 to £944 million in 2017/18. Moreover, the total arrears outstanding in 2017/18 were £3 billion, up from £2.5 billion in 2013/14. Research by the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) has also found that a number of councils are using bailiffs, and claimants are being charged court costs on top of their arrears… At the most extreme, 305 people were given custodial prison sentences for non-payment of council tax between 2013/14 and 2017/18, with another 6,278 receiving suspended sentences…”

Council tax

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.

Note

The IPPR is from a social democratic think-tank with a long history of providing Labour IPPR logoparty class collaborators with policy proposals designed to paper over the cracks of an increasingly divided and unequal society, its chair of trustees is Lord Adonis and in 2016 it appointed Tom Kibasi its Director. Mr Kibasi has worked for the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Bill Gates Foundation.

Birmingham solidarity with Venezuela

We held a successful meeting in solidarity with revolutionary Venezuela on 19 February in Birmingham. The meeting was well attended and heard from leading Venezuelan trade union leader Marcos Garcia, and Helena Menendez of the embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Introducing the meeting for Birmingham Worker our comrade said,

“The recent escalation of US aggression against Venezuela has been dressed up in the language of ‘human rights’, ignoring, as ever, the fact that human rights abuses by or on behalf of the government are as imaginary as were the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq.

The real nature of US imperialism’s concept of human rights was demonstrated by the country’s psychopathic national security adviser, John Bolton who, “Perhaps most brazenly … appeared in an interview on Fox Business and disclosed that the US government was in talks with American corporations on how to capitalise on Venezuela’s oil reserves, which are proven to be the world’s largest.

“We’re in conversation with major American companies now,” he said. “I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” (see Inside John Bolton’s month-long PR campaign against Venezuela’s government)

Venezuela has foolproof election arrangements that cannot be manipulated in any way (in contrast to what those of the United States!) Yet all elections in Venezuela since the government of Hugo Chávez and his successors (aka the ‘Chavistas’) took over the government and started to use the profits of Venezuela’s oil to improve the lives of ordinary people (rather than to enrich US multinational oil companies), have been pronounced ‘fraudulent’ by the US – except the one parliamentary election that opponents of the government happened to win!

In attempting to remove Nicolás Maduro and his government, US imperialism wants new elections to be called – but only ones that it is able to manipulate to produce the results it wants.

For the last two decades, the US government and its various agencies have spent huge amounts of money trying to bolster the election prospects of Venezuela’s anti-government minority, all to no avail (which, incidentally, does not prevent it moaning on about totally fictitious Russian meddling in US elections).”

For more information read: It is imperative to halt the imperialist military adventure against Venezuela

To get in touch and participate in Venezuela solidarity work in Birmingham, fill in the form below:

British workers demand Brexit!

BW Brexit

This weekend saw the UKIP conference in Birmingham. For every Neil Hamilton on the platform there were dozens of saner Brexiteers from amongst the various strata of  British society in the audience. Most are members of UKIP for one very simple reason; its continued opposition to membership of the EU. The ‘left’ in Birmingham like other towns, is made up of self-righteous, unthinking puppets. Rather than talk to delegates the Birmingham ‘left’ made a small demonstration outside the conference and claimed it was all part of fighting racism. The usual individuals turned up – that is the very same people who are rabidly hostile to Russia, invite known Mi5 operatives onto anti-war platforms in the town, and back the imperialist Labour party the hilt. The trotskyite delusion is a permanent revulsion. Needless to say, CPGB-ML had nothing to do with the ludicrous protest. We spent time during the conference talking to delegates, trying to gauge their attitudes on a range of subjects, sold lots of socialist literature to them and attempted to put some of our opinions on Brexit to them. Except for a tiny minority, we found that  most were willing to listen to our point of view whilst the only attempt at intimidation came from the local police.

British workers must not allow the referendum result to be overturned. Theresa May’s strategy and favoured proposals differ according to which day of the week it is, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has never held a clear and consistent position. The furore that continues amongst the ruling class is never-ending and the liberal media continue to propagandise for the overturning of Brexit.

Attacks on the Brexiteers & attempts to overturn the referendum

Divisions among the ruling class over Brexit continue to be clear for all to see: the liberal bourgeoisie continues to pursue its anti-people, anti-Brexit agenda and remains committed to overturning the referendum result. This has been particularly evident in newspapers such as the Guardian and Observer, which have been desperately pursuing every possible avenue for overturning the vote.

A recent line of attack has been to jump on what is essentially a student petition: “Predicting a young people’s revolt over the coming months, student unions – representing 980,000 students at 60 of the country’s leading universities and colleges – are writing to MPs… calling on them to back a ‘people’s vote’ before a final Brexit deal can be implemented.”

If a second vote on the referendum takes place and Britain does vote on the final deal, it is worth remembering that university students are not the only young people who were too young to vote in the referendum. For every student there are many more disenfranchised working-class teenagers. If these young people could be mobilised to defend their class interests, the pro-Brexit vote would only grow.

Government and opposition chaos

The divisions within the Conservative Party (and, therefore, the government) are mirrored by those in Labour. Both parties continue to tear themselves apart over Brexit, and this chaos of the bourgeoisie can only be welcomed by class-conscious workers.

The government finds itself at a roadblock. The sheer impossibility of the situation should long ago have led to the downfall of the government. The problem is that most bourgeois opinion is terrified of a Corbyn-led Labour government, as there is no guarantee that it can be dissuaded from implementing at least some measures inimical to imperialist interests, even though it is a better bet than the Tories for finding a means of escaping the Brexit vote.

The chaos looks set to continue, and will only be made worse by the deepening economic crisis, which is bound to take a further lurch downwards before long.

Foreigners are constantly blamed for the lack of jobs, low wages and poor social provision that are caused by capitalism, and workers are urged by bourgeois politicians and media alike to swallow the lie that if it wasn’t for ‘all the immigrants’ there would be jobs available at high wages for all native-born Britons, along with readily available housing at affordable rents and a decent level of social provision.

Free market economics is bad for Britain

The truth, however, is that capitalism, in its desperate drive to push down production costs, must inevitably try to push down wages and social provision, too – not only to maximise profits, but also to survive the competition from its rivals and to win the struggle over markets.

If immigration were stopped tomorrow and average wages rose, it would not be long before enterprises presently relying on cheap labour closed down altogether, with their capitalist owners either being driven out of business and/or deciding that their money was better invested abroad and/or investing in new machinery that would lessen the need to hire workers.

That is why, despite the constant increase in productivity (which ought to lead to a shorter working day and higher living standards for all of us), living standards for workers continue to be pushed relentlessly downwards all over the world.

According to Oxfam: “In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. The figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.”

Foreign and native-born workers alike suffer as a result of this downward pressure on wages and benefits, whatever country’s labour force they happen to belong to. Our only possible defence is our ability to fight back – an ability that is lost if the working class is divided against itself, whether on xenophobic lines or any other basis.

Far from exciting hatred, working-class immigrants to this country should be treated with sympathy, since it is clear that the overwhelming majority who leave their countries of origin only do so because they feel they must in order to escape poverty, starvation, persecution or war.

Just like us, they love their families and are simply doing whatever they can to take care of them and secure their futures.

So long as capitalism exists, so long will workers have to fight every inch of the way to maintain reasonable living standards for themselves and their families – and will periodically suffer real deprivation as a result of battles being lost.

So long as capitalism exists, there will always be a reserve army of unemployed – both of local people and of people abroad – who are desperate for work. Competition among workers for jobs is built into the capitalist system, and so the proletariat must not allow itself to be tricked into believing that it is other workers who are the enemy.

The sole and only cause of this desperate situation is the continued survival of the capitalist system, which stands convicted of an utter inability to cater to the even the most basic needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity.

If capitalism was overthrown and replaced by a planned, socialist economy, in which all society’s resources were used to provide for the needs of the working people and their families, there would be no such thing as unemployment and no such thing as competition for jobs.

Every person would be found something essential to do, and all labour would enrich the whole of society. Under socialism we shall apply the fair, basic economic law of socialism: he who does not work, neither shall he eat.

 

VOTE FOR SAMMI IBRAHEM VOTE BIRMINGHAM WORKER IN BALSALL HEATH

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Sammi Ibrahem gives his support to striking workers last summer

BIN COLLECTIONS AND VERMIN

Our bin collections must remain weekly and there should be no cuts to our waste services. Our streets are filthy; the attacks on bin workers last year only benefitted local rats. For a saving of £300,000 a year the Labour Party spent £6million in an attack on poorly paid bin workers making private haulage firms from Telford veritable overnight millionaires.

STOP THE LABOUR PARTY WASTING PUBLIC MONEY

No more attacks on the terms and conditions of Council workers. Millions in taxes has been wasted in senseless attacks on bin men, care workers and others who provide essential services for the city whilst earning less than £20,000 p/a. If any wages are to be cut, it must be the wages of the top Council executives. The Labour led council currently pays:

Chief Executive £180,000

Change and Support Services Strategic Director £135,000

Finance and Legal Strategic Director £135,000

Legal and Democratic Services Director is on £100,000

Customer Services Asst Director £100,000

Corporate Strategy Asst Dir £90,000

HOUSING

Our city needs decent, cheap, secure public housing, and not the allocation of more city land to private developers building expensive flats for the purpose of ripping-off students. Restrict the growth of “houses of multiple occupancy” and help families into affordable homes.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN

High-quality, safe, pre-school childcare and education, and the protection of ALL the Children’s Centres at risk from Labour party cuts. Oppose all attempts being made by the Labour party to encroach on provisions made for women and children in Birmingham.

LOOK AFTER OUR ELDERLY RESIDENTS

Bring to an end the conversion of large domestic houses into private care homes where the elderly are left in squalid conditions by capitalists who profit from not looking after our elderly. The city council must protect existing services, AND fund more services to look after our elderly. This money can easily be raised from small taxes – thousands of businesses pay no rates at all in Birmingham due to the system of “small business rates relief”, a system which is being abused by hundreds. Everybody should pay their way to look after our children and the elderly folk.

FREE BUS TRAVEL FOR PARENTS & CHILDREN, THE UNEMPLOYED & LOW-WAGED

Access to a free, fully integrated public transport system. Children up to the age of 10 are allowed to travel FREE by bus and tube in London, why not in Birmingham?! We demand the same, and why shouldn’t we get it when the Director of NX Buses took home £309,000 in 2016! This bus company makes millions from Birmingham workers, if it can’t give anything back to our women, children, unemployed and low-wages, we can find a bus company who will – or take the Company into public ownership and run it on a not-for-profit basis.

To support our campaign, get in touch:

Support for RMT members out on strike in Birmingham

The Birmingham Worker calls on our supporters and friends to defend and lend their support to RMT rail workers who are out on strike. 

RMT strike December 2017_BIRM_pg 1

Race for profits = more train delays

Attacks on working conditions and cuts to services have forced rail workers to take industrial action to protect their jobs and public safety.

When railways were nationalised and there was an integrated national service, terms and conditions across the industry could be uniform. Now that privatisation has carved up the train network between dozens of different companies, working conditions and disputes between workers and managers can arise at any one of several companies at any time and standards and safety are constantly under threat from a race to the bottom, driven by the need to maximise profits.

The government’s solution to the fragmentation, unaccountability and petty rivalries that privatisation has inevitably bred in the previously integrated national rail service is … more privatisation!

Strike action is a DIRECT result of train management attacks on workers. If your train has been delayed, it is not the fault of workers, but management.

Show your support for the workers.

You can claim back the cost of your ticket under the Delay Repay scheme. Collect a form from the station or apply online at:  https://www.virgintrains.co.uk/delayrepay   or https://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/customer-service/contact-us/delay-repay

Cross Country services recruit scab managers

Cross Country operate trains in and out of Birmingham from Tamworth, Nottingham, East Midlands, Bristol, Cardiff, Sheffield, Leeds, Cambridge, Bournemouth, Reading, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The RMT union have warned passengers “that the company are trying to recruit a scab army of managers, ill-equipped and without the skills and training needed to fulfil the safety-critical role of the guard, and paid a bounty of £250 with luxury hotel accommodation thrown in. Drivers are now being strong-armed by the company with the imposition of compulsory overtime.”

The “RMT has warned that these bogus train managers are acting outside of their substantive role and are poorly trained, incapable of carrying out the full role and responsibility of a fully competent and safety critical guard”.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“It is disgraceful that the management at Arriva effectively sabotaged talks… that were making progress towards a settlement to this dispute and were instead focused on dishing out cash bungs to a dangerous scab army of under-cooked management recruits to try and break the action.”

Strike action is a result of train management sabotaging talks.

Show your support for the workers.