Further to my earlier post on this issue, an additional opportunity to set the national debt in context arose last week. The Conservative group of councillors submitted an extraordinary motion using the national debt to justify massive cuts whilst also reassuring residents that ‘Intelligent Commissioning’ and other actions left the council in a good position to handle the cuts.
Well this motion had to be amended, and so I submitted a detailed amendment, as you can see here.
Unfortunately the amendment fell, because Labour sat on their hands for the vote. Thankfully the motion as a whole also fell. Still Labour need to seriously reflect on what they stand for before coming to the next council meeting.
My speech to the amendment is copied below. I got no response to my final question as Conservative councillors ranted on about other things, if you can bear to watch on the webcast.
Speech proposing amendment to Conservative public debt NoM
21st October 2010
Yesterday George Osborne announced as part of the comprehensive spending review that not only would, according to the Local Government Association, local authority budgets be cut by 25.5% but that the cost of borrowing for councils would also be increased by 1%.
This authority and its officers are going to be squeezed beyond all reason. Yet, as benefit cuts bite and the economy suffers from the ill-considered government slashing of public services, our residents will need us more than ever.
Our amendment makes abundantly clear that the current UK national deficit is by no means sufficiently alarming to justify these unprecedented cuts. The deficit is not particularly large by historical comparison, the interest charges are a reasonable proportion of our GDP and the repayments are owed over many years. We include a number of ways in which the deficit could be reduced through tax and benefit reforms, but not public service cuts.
To echo a certain high street store – These are not just cuts, these are coalition government cuts. With lashings of hypocrisy and soaked in misleading statements.
What we are witnessing are not just a few efficiency savings. We are seeing the utter abandonment of whole swathes of our society. At the slightest hint of stormy waters the coalition government are chucking people overboard shouting to them “if you can’t afford to survive then you’re on your own.”
Frankly Mr Mayor, the administration have some gall presenting this motion reassuring residents in the face of this economic and public sector catastrophe.
I urge members to support this amendment. And I finish with a question – did any of the members on that side of the chamber actually check the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s lurid claims about the scale of the deficit, or did they just swallow it – hook, line and sinker?