SSP Refuses to Play Politics With People’s Lives

Student Protests

It has been another busy few weeks for members of the SSP in Edinburgh, as we joined the student protests against the attacks on higher education.  The Tory/Lib Dem government sought not only to further Labour’s erosion of universal access to higher education but outright destroy the courses that they deemed unworthy, such as the humanities which they withdrew 100% of funding from.  By marching through city centres and occupying universities and schools the students have shown us all that resistance is possible, as in the space of a month they turned an issue broadly ignored by the mainstream media into one that nearly brought down the government.

Despite losing the vote the students have pledged to continue their protest, both against the travesty that has taken place and against the innumerable other Thatcherite travesties that the government plans to inflict on the country.  The SSP sees the organisation and passion shown over this past month as an inspiration, and it is only through a continuation of this struggle by workers of all sectors that are under attack that victory can be won.

Royal Mail Not For Sale

One such fight that is beginning to build is the Tory/Lib Dem plans to privatise the Royal Mail by selling it off to incompetent Dutch company TNT.  This is something that the SSP knows a little something about, since we spent much of 2008 and 2009 campaigning against Labour’s attempts to do exactly the same thing.  So weak was the government’s case then that it was an easy argument to win, with 96% of the Scottish public agreeing that the Royal Mail should remain in public hands instead of sold off to private sector profiteers who will gut the service much as they have in other countries.  We were successful then, just as we were when Labour tried to privatise it in 2005 and when the Tories tried to privatise it in 1994, and with good organisation and the public behind us we plan to be successful again.

Fuel Poverty, A Stain on Our Nation

The cold weather has once again highlighted another issue that the SSP has campaigned vigorously on in the past — energy prices.  We all remember the oil crisis of a few years ago, when the energy companies used high oil prices as a convenient excuse to hike up the prices that we pay to unprecedented levels.  However, this has since been laid bare as the fraud it was.  Oil prices have plummeted and, as expected, energy prices have continued to rise, providing the companies with record profits year on year.  These make for nice bonuses for their executives, but it is working people across Scotland who have to pay for them.  When the SNP were elected they pledged to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland, and today what do we see?

“In 2009, about 770,000 homes were said to be in fuel poverty, spending over 10% of income on heating, compared with 618,000 in 2008 and 293,000 in 2002.” [1]

This is a hideous condemnation of our society and the SSP refuses to accept the neo-liberal argument offered by the major parties that the people of a country are powerless to improve their lives against the greed and blackmail of billionaire executives.  This is an issue that we will be campaigning on heavily as we move further into winter and millions of Scots face the realities of Tory/Labour/SNP/Lib Dem ideology.

End The Occupation of Afghanistan

Through all of this we have continued to campaign on the major issue of Afghanistan.  As the leaked US diplomatic cables shed new light on the rampant corruption amongst the warlords, drug-barons, fraudsters and thugs that the UK/US laughably calls a government, it is more important than ever to highlight the farce that is leaving hundreds of British soldiers dead, tens of thousands seriously injured (physically and mentally) and the over 50,000 Afghan civilians dead.

If these are the sorts of campaigns that you are interested in — rejecting the neo-liberalism of the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour where profit for a few takes precedence over the social needs of the many — then why not get involved and come along to our next branch meeting this Thursday?  It takes place between 7:30pm and 9pm (and time for drinks afterwards if you are so inclined) at Nelson Hall Community Centre, 5 Spittalfield Crescent, Edinburgh, EH8 9QZ (corner of St Leonard’s Street and Bernard Terrace).

You can get in touch with us at EdinburghSouthSSP@googlemail.com.

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Campaign Against School Closures

Burdiehouse Primary

Following discussion with parents from Burdiehouse Primary School at the last branch meeting, SSP members distributed leaflets across the local area yesterday, urging the council to keep the school open.  Details of the leaflet can be found on Colin Fox’s blog.

City Council’s Black Hole: Black Hole Developing in Edinburgh City Budget Driven by recession, Trams and SNP Policy

Financial Black Hole

Written by Raphie de Santos (http://www.leftbanker.net)
First Published 24th August 2009

Appeared in the SSP Regional Newsletter of September 2009

A black hole is opening up in the Edinburgh city budget that could eventually lead to the city going bankrupt.  A combination of the recession, the Trams project and the SNP’s policy of freezing the council tax is opening a deficit that is being filled with job cuts, wage cuts and cuts in services. This is unlikely to be enough to fill the growing gaping hole in the city’s finances.

The current 2009/2010 revenue budget of £1042 million (m) is made up of £225m collected from council tax and £816m form central government. The central government amount will be cut back in real terms in 2010/2011 and even maybe in absolute terms. This is because the government itself has a massive deficit from baling out the banks. So far they have spent £350 billion (b) on direct and indirect (quantitative easing) bailouts. They are liable for another possible £700b from their insurance of the banks’ toxic assets. They have to reduce this deficit by issuing more debt and cutting public services, jobs and wages. It is unlikely given the depth of the recession and long-term plateaus of much lower economic activity that they can repay the debt from increased tax revenues.

Therefore, they will be forced to make additional prolonged cuts in services to repay this debt.

At the same time the recession is biting hard in Edinburgh. Unemployment has increased by nearly 7,000 – 5,000 jobs in finance – over the last eight months in Edinburgh. This is more than two times the rate of jobs losses in the rest of Scotland. The total for 2009 is likely to reach at least 10,000. This would mean an approximate shortfall in council tax of £10m. On top this is an increase housing benefit and mortgage payments which will be met by a combination of City and government finances. This would come to another £50m. There is also a reduction in business rates as businesses go bust. The total shortfall is in the region of £65m or 6.5% of the total budget.

The second hole in City’s budget is from the collapse in the City’s land sales. The recession was in the end a bubble in residential and commercial property. This has bust with a sharp contraction of bank credit after the banks losses to the property market, individual and corporate loans and derivatives’ trading. The City had previously kept council tax rises down by the sale of this property. This has now disappeared. For example, the Meadowbank stadium was valued at £18m prior to recession now the price on offer is £6m with no offers. Property companies are themselves in financial trouble or are unwilling to start new developments with the fall in property prices and the tightening of credit and increasing levels of unemployment.  This lies at the root of the crisis in the Trams project.

The Trams project was essentially a carrot to developers to redevelop the Leith docks area with residential and commercial property. The plan was that the quick air-conditioned tram system could whisk the new well heeled residents of Leith Docks to the city centre and their highly paid jobs and exclusive shops without spending too much time in the company of the indigenous residents. It is in effect the ultimate bubble project. But given the recession these property developments are not going ahead. The City had hoped to raise money from these companies and the sale of City land to fund up to about £55m of the cost of the tram project. With costs spiralling up this needs to be about £90m. The Scottish government will not come in with any further money as they themselves face severe cuts from Westminster as central government grapples with paying for the huge deficit that has been run up in bailing out the banks.

This means that the City council faces either blindly going ahead with the project until the money runs out, or make massive cuts to pay for the shortfall and/or raise the council tax. They would need to make a 30% increase in council tax to pay for the shortfall in the Trams budget and the reduced council tax revenues from the effects of the recession. Is this what the City of Edinburgh’s “modernisation” of pay is all about? It is a way of cutting costs and absolute wages through the back door. Instead, if the SNP had not made their promise of freezing council tax and if they had introduced a progressive local tax, then this problem would have been much smaller.

All of this is likely to lead to huge conflicts between City of Edinburgh council and its employees and the public who use its services and the contractors building the Trams. In the end somebody will have to be pay for the hole. The building contractors will use the courts to recover any outstanding monies from a finished or unfinished Trams project.

The City’s employees and the public who use their services will have to unite together to stop big business and the inept councillors from walking away from this mess Scot free otherwise the effects of this recession will be even more harshly felt by the people of Edinburgh.

That is why we must all unite behind the bin men as they are first in the firing line of the City council’s offensive against the people of Edinburgh.