What Challenges and Opportunities Should the City of Edinburgh Council be Aware of?

The Lothians Branch of the Scottish Socialist Party is submitting to the consultation because we believe that the economic strategy of the City of Edinburgh Council is resulting in a deterioration of the conditions of working people in our capital. The current and previous Labour/SNP/Lib Dem administrations have implemented ruthless and widespread cuts that leave our public services in crisis and a chronic shortage of affordable housing. Instead of perpetuating the low wage, high bills attacks on working people, the council should consider the changes we propose to raise funds and better the conditions of workers in Edinburgh.

Replacing the Council Tax

We call for the immediate replacement of the Council Tax with a means based alternative, the Scottish Service Tax. The Council Tax is an outdated and unjust tax that disproportionately targets low income families. Government freezes and Council plans to tweak the payments will not address the fundamental flaw – it does not assess the person’s ability to pay. Instead, the Council Tax crudely demands payment based on your address using bands set in 1991. The difference in payment from the highest to lowest band is 3:1, yet the wealthiest residents in Edinburgh are far more than three times richer than the workers we petition on behalf of.

The Scottish Service Tax is a thought out and costed bill that the SSP developed a decade ago. Based on the principle of progressive taxation, the Scottish Service Tax proposes a rising scale of tax bands based on income. Therefore, people pay what they can afford. Academics at the Paisley Business School estimate that these changes would raise upwards of £4billion annually if implemented nationally. With Edinburgh being the wealthiest city in Scotland, the Council will begin to raise the significant funds needed for public sector investment.

An example of the annual earnings bands:
£0-£10,000 – zero%
£10k – £30,000: 4.5%
£30k – £40,000: 15%
£40k – £50,000: 18%
£50k – £90,000: 21%
£90k and above: 23%

Tackling Poverty Pay

The City of Edinburgh Council should implement a £10/hour Living Wage for all Council workers and put pressure on businesses in the city to do the same. According to the Government, a person needs to earn £10/hour to pay their own way- as that’s the wage you need to earn before you stop qualifying for top-up benefits like housing benefit, tax credits and free school meals. The current national minimum wage of £7.50 (for those over 25) and the Council’s minimum pay rate of just over £8, combined with insecure employment, leaves people in poverty. This branch includes Edinburgh Council workers who earn less than £10/h with no opportunities for full time hours and can testify that it results in fuel poverty and workers having to take up multiple jobs to get by. Poverty pay is having a serious effect on the health of council employees and the quality of service that the council is able to provide. It is affecting crucial services like education and support for homelessness and means that workers are often unable to stay in the job for long – further increasing costs for the council.

The SSP also calls for the council to support legislation for a £10/h Living Wage for private employers in our city. Edinburgh is dominated by multinational corporations who pay slave wages and abuse Zero-Hours Contracts. Retail, hospitality, call centre, admin and care workers are some of the worst affected. Edinburgh’s Summer and Winter festivals and pop-up events are opportunities for private individuals to make millions on the back of low pay and insecure employment- especially using young workers who don’t even qualify for the pitiful £7.50 min wage. We can see this is a wealthy city, we are working hard and accept the sacrifices of sharing a city with millions of tourists. Yet we don’t feel that wealth with the high cost of living and the poverty pay. The Council’s support for exploitative employers has led to profits from Edinburgh’s assets being siphoned away. A £10/h living wage will boost spending by keeping more of the profits in the pockets of the people who work hard to keep our city going. If profiteering multinationals don’t want to step up and pay a fair wage, then we should support local businesses who will.

Building Council Houses

The SSP demands the immediate increase of the Council’s housing stock to provide state owned, affordable housing to meet the current need. Most homes that are built in Edinburgh are private apartment complexes that inevitably end up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords, many of whom have little affiliation to our city or Scotland. Tenants are forced into a low-quality market with inflated rents because of the number of landlords looking to buy. Edinburgh is at breaking point in the demand for low-cost housing and for most young people, owning a home in this city is fantasy. Private tenants are the most likely Scots to be in fuel poverty – caused by sky-high rents and bills and low pay. Housing is a need that the council should provide for. We welcome the council’s recent investigations into rent controls but current proposals under the Housing Act (2015) will not prevent rent increases, nor do they prevent landlords hiking up rents in-between tenancies and do not sufficiently protect tenants from eviction. Tenants should be empowered to stay in their homes until they decide to leave. Radical rent controls should be implemented to reduce rents and depreciate house prices to aid in the council’s acquisition of stock.

There are thousands of people waiting on council houses; yet the Council built 32 council houses in 2016. 10,000 council houses need to be in Edinburgh in a 6-year period to meet our assessment of the National housing crisis and targets to meet demand. Council houses need to be built to the highest environmental standard and have a front and back door. An ambitious building project will create thousands of skilled jobs, regenerate our communities and reinvigorate economies outside the city centre.

For a No Cuts Budget

The City of Edinburgh Council must stand up for Edinburgh’s working class majority by defying the austerity attacks from Conservatives in Westminster, being implemented through Holyrood. The Council’s marketing boast of ‘efficiency’ savings which in reality represent thousands of job losses and critically poor public services. The Scottish Socialist Party believes that Instead of offering false ‘choices’ between cutting local schools or community facilities, teachers’ jobs or street cleaning, elected councillors should be initiating genuine forums where People’s Budgets could be debated, based on local needs and priorities. Underpinned by an expansion of funding from central government, rather than annual cuts. We can use democratic tools to force a reverse in the national economic policy that is harming our city.

If you would like to support the SSP’s submission, then you can take part in the City of Edinburgh Council’s consultation.

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Indyref2 strategy was based on “Wrong Issue, Wrong Time”

Responding to the First Minister’s statement today, retreating from her previous timetable for indyref2, Scottish Socialist Party joint national spokesperson Colin Fox said:

“Behind the First Minister’s much-anticipated climbdown over indyref2 is an acceptance of the Scottish Socialist Party’s warning that the strategy she announced on March 13th was a serious error of judgement.

“We warned then that reducing independence to a tactic in the Brexit negotiations was a very serious mistake. She has been forced into this retreat today because she chose to go for a second referendum when we were behind in the polls and over Scotland’s EU membership.

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Rebuff to May makes a Second Election likely

Commenting on the general election SSP joint National Spokesperson Colin Fox said:

“The over-riding fact in this General election is that Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid for an increased mandate has failed and her credibility is now in tatters.”

“The gains made by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour shows that despite years of denunciation socialist ideas such as public ownership, workers rights and a publicly-owned NHS are highly popular and this must be welcomed.”

“Given the parliamentary arithmetic a second general election must now be a strong prospect.”

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Independence offers our only escape from a Zombie Government

“A campaign is underway in the Scottish media to portray Ruth Davidson’s Tories as the ‘real’ winners of this General Election north of the Border despite them being again comprehensively rejected here” warns SSP national spokesman Colin Fox.

He continued: “All the polls suggest the Tories will win this General Election at UK level with a big majority. But they also conclude this will occur despite being rejected in 90% of Scottish seats.”

“This ‘zombie election’ threatens Scotland with another nightmare – 5 more years of a right-wing Tory government with no mandate north of the Border. We didn’t vote for them last time or the time before that, we will not vote for them on June 8th either and yet we are set to be lumbered with them yet again.”

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Corbyn echoes Tory rhetoric on Independence

Scottish Socialist Party National spokesman Colin Fox described Jeremy Corbyn’s anti independence manifesto as “Deeply disappointing and underlining why Labour is in such deep crisis in Scotland.”

“Pro independence socialists have a great deal of sympathy with the many progressive and forward thinking policies Jeremy Corbyn advocates in the Labour manifesto.”

“However his failure to understand the National Question in Scotland is glaringly obvious. He is left sounding exactly like Ruth Davidson and Theresa May. Nor does he appreciate that the same political forces supporting him in England are largely in the ‘Yes’ camp here.

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SSP demand public ownership of Caledonian MacBrayne

Today’s meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party national executive committee unanimously agreed the following statement on the issue of CalMac ferries.

“This meeting of the SSP national executive committee – on behalf of the entire SSP membership – demands that the new Scottish Government reject Serco’s bid to take over CalMac ferries, and instead keep the service under public ownership and control through CalMac.

CalMac and Carry OnWe demand they do so on the basis of no loss of jobs, pensions, terms or working conditions for the workforce, and no reduction in services to the communities dependent on the ferries. We further demand that if necessary, the Scottish Government defy any interference on the part of EU bureaucrats or others, in order to carry out the overwhelming desire of the Scottish people to keep CalMac ferries public.

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“SIGN OR BE SACKED” say the capitalist gannets!

richieby Richie Venton

‘Sign or be sacked’ is the dictatorial motto of many employers right now, as they issue workers an ultimatum to accept slashed wages and conditions or be sacked. That’s the approach of B&Q bosses recently as they hacked thousands of pounds off many workers wages to compensate for the miserly 50p premium on the minimum wage for the over-25s.

Now Newsquest, owners of a string of 29 Scottish newspapers – including the Greenock Telegraph, Dunfermline Press, Alloa Advertiser, Dumbarton Reporter, Carrick Herald – have applied the same dictatorial methods. They’ve demanded staff sign up to new contracts that include loss of a day’s annual holiday; longer contractual hours of work from 35 to 37.5 hours a week, with no increase in pay; reduced pension contributions, and sick pay slashed by up to half.

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SSP Response to Osborne’s 8th Budget

Tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor. George Osborne’s 8th Budget as Chancellor was just like the other seven. Only the dates and details differ.

colin_foxIn response to what could have been Scotland’s shortest and final UK Budget, SSP national spokesperson Colin Fox said: “With UK National Debt at record levels George Osborne cut UK corporation tax, already one of the lowest in Europe, to just 17%. You would have thought there had been no public outcry recently over his failure to get Google, Starbucks, Amazon and other multinational companies to pay any tax at all.

Even under the ghastly Thatcher Government corporation tax was three times higher (52%). These Tories continue to shower neo-liberal finance capitalists with rich rewards. Osborne has also cut business rates and raised the level at which people pay the 45p top rate of income tax – the single biggest and broadest handout to the top 10% since Nigel Lawson in 1988.

His way to pay down the UK’s record breaking debt of £1.6trillion involves reducing taxes for the wealthy and reducing the income of the poor. He announced £3.5bn of public spending cuts including a £1.3bn cut in benefits to the disabled.

Dark clouds are gathering for Osborne however. The faltering world economy and anaemic growth rates throughout Europe imperil his financial prospects. Britain’s economic growth is weak as water and weakening. It may be higher than most other EU nations but it is based in finance capitalism, not the wider productive economy.

For millions of working class people toiling to make ends meet in minimum wage jobs, zero hour contracts and carrying their own record levels of personal debt Osborne’s 2016 budget is merely the latest slap in the face. The best of them will face up to the need to resist this political assault, get active and join the struggle against this neo-liberal nightmare.”

Renfrewshire SSP’s Sandra Webster adds:

sandra_webster“Today was a budget for big-business and unreconstituted Thatcherism. There was little detail where the £3.5bn of public spending cuts will be found apart from a pledge to carry on with cuts to disability spending. In the cold statistics, there was no mention of the impact of the reassessment of PIP (Personal Independence Payment) which will mean many disabled people and their carers will find their incomes slashed.

A sugar tax on fizzy drink was announced (although fruit juice will be exempt). In a manner like a teacher addressing an unruly class. he said he expected the costs would be passed onto the buyers. There was no mention of hidden sugars present in fruit juice or that which is used to flavour cheaper, low quality highly processed food which is all many can afford to eat.

I have never been so glad to live in Scotland where education is devolved as English schools are set to transform as academies. Which groups will make a financial killing from children’s education?

The question I still ponder is ‘Why are we still paying for the actions of the bankers?’

This was a budget for the pals and cronies of the Tory party not one for working class people who will pay for tax breaks for business. Cuts will continue at national and local levels. After all we are only economic units, not human beings.”

Lead photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 (Flickr)

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