Croydon Communist Party Launches Campaign for May 2014 Local Elections

Media Release

Croydon’s Communist Party announced today that it will be fielding three candidates in the May 2014 local elections.

Launching the campaign, Ben Stevenson, Communist Party National Secretary and prospective local election candidate for Bensham Manor, said, “Croydon residents need a genuine alternative to the relentless austerity, public service cuts and total lack of accountability offered by the Tories. They also need more than the platitudes presented by Labour about more transparency in council meetings, more effective working with the voluntary sector and cleaner streets in Croydon. Frankly, the blather expressed recently by Tony Newman about these issues is a smokescreen. Of course, we support giving back as much influence as possible to local people and communities. But Labour in Croydon are offering the same cuts in services as the Tories, with a bit of window dressing to obscure their impact. For a start, if they were serious about restoring democracy in Croydon Council they would abolish cabinet government, which is anything but democratic, and re-empower councillors. And they would fight for properly funded public services provided directly by the council.”

Labour’s talk of ‘difficult choices’, ‘priorities’ and providing public services ‘differently’ misses the point. The dangers of going down the ‘cooperative council’ route pursued by Lambeth and other councils are well known. Residents are faced with an impossible choice. Either support the provision of vital local services such as children’s and youth facilities and libraries by volunteers, with all the impact that has on the quality of service delivery and the jobs of the staff themselves, or see them disappear.

Ben Stevenson said, “Croydon clearly needs decent local services which reflect local needs. We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking we need offer a balanced budget within centrally determined funding constraints. The Con-Dem Government has made a political decision to use a crisis of capitalism as cover for permanent austerity and a wide-range assault on the welfare state and all the social gains made since 1945. Local government as we know it is set to disappear as totally unnecessary funding cuts result in the termination of discretionary services and even statutory services face a ‘death of the thousand cuts’. Why not consider the positive role of a ‘needs budget’ to resist Tory austerity politics. And simply say ‘no’ to the forced implementation of the cuts?”

John Eden, prospective local election candidate for Selhurst said, “Croydon Labour Party’s manifesto for the May 2014 elections provides a clear illustration of their failure to offer a vision for Croydon which presents a genuine alternative to endless austerity. Our community faces job losses, inadequate housing and all-out assault on local services. I look forward to the challenge presented by this election, taking the fight to the Tories and explaining to local people that there’s a future worth fighting for based on a socialist political and economic strategy.”

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. John Eden is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
4. Dr Peter Latham is the prospective candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
5. Croydon Communists recently published a well-received pamphlet on housing issues in the borough, ‘Decent Homes for All – End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now’, which is available on the website or by contacting us direct.
6. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

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Croydon’s Communist Party Publishes New Pamphlet to Highlight the Growing Housing Crisis in the Borough

Press Release

Communists in Croydon have published today a pamphlet on the growing housing crisis in the borough, Decent Homes For All: End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now!

Ben Stevenson, Croydon-based National Secretary of the Communist Party, said, “Local politicians are clearly failing to meet the housing needs of those least able to defend themselves: the poor, the vulnerable and the socially excluded. Meanwhile the number of new houses being built is falling to an all-time low. The only significant building projects that get the green light are those that promise yet more luxury apartments in an attempt to lure high earners away from Central London. An entire generation of people in Croydon are being systematically denied their right to decent affordable housing.”

“This new publication seeks to explain the why and how of Croydon’s housing crisis. Private rents continue to spiral out of control, well above the rate of inflation, while the Tory-led Government’s cuts to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance for tenants in the social and private rented sectors, allied to high unemployment, is creating significant homelessness in Croydon. This publication is just the first step in raising awareness of the issues, starting a genuine debate involving all sections of the local community and mobilising support for local action.”

The supply of social housing in Croydon is woefully inadequate. Years of neglect by the local Tory council, along with central New Labour and Tory Government housing policies, has left Croydon with a smaller housing stock then almost any other London boroughs. Even the Council’s own Housing Strategy admits that Croydon is ill-equipped to meet housing need.

Instead of trying to solve these problems, Croydon council have been spending more and more money providing ‘temporary’ accommodation in B&Bs. Not only are the conditions often cramped and squalid, but children suffer as they have no place to play or do their homework. This is a massive waste of taxpayers’ money.

Mr Stevenson said, “I think this is a shocking indictment of a supposedly civilised society. Britain has the seventh largest economy in the world. We can clearly afford to build decent homes for all who need them. Instead, we are failing those least able to defend themselves. We should be building homes for people. Not forcing them to squeeze in to modern day slums for months at a time.”

The Communist Party invites all local campaigning organisations and housing advocacy groups to take part in a joint campaign to develop a better understanding of the problems faced by Croydon residents, raise awareness of the issues and help develop a local action plan to improve housing provision in the borough.

Mr Stevenson concluded, “Croydon is facing a real housing crisis. Statements by Tory Councillors indicate they neither understand the depth of the problem nor care about the impact on local people. Poor housing is linked to child poverty, family breakdown and mental illness. We need, as a matter of urgency, to campaign for a significant council house building programme, an end to the bedroom tax, an end to council house sales, compulsory requisitioning of long term empty properties and rent controls in the private sector. Only the Communist Party offers these and other progressive policies which matter to ordinary working people.”

Notes to editors:
1. Copies of the pamphlet, Decent Homes For All: End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now!, can be downloaded here: Croydon Communists – Housing Crisis or obtained by phoning 0208 686 1659 or e-mailing croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

Problems at HMRC

The Public Accounts Committee’s report on the failings of HMRC begs the question whether, as currently constituted, it is actually fit for purpose. The payment of tax in Britain by the super-rich and transnational corporations is now largely voluntary, and TNCs like Google and Starbucks comply with our tax rules only when it suits them. The revolving door between HMRC and the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who recruit former tax inspectors to secure their expertise and regularly advise HMRC on the formulation of tax policy, leaches privileged knowledge and undermines effective tax collection. As soon as one abusive tax avoidance scheme is closed by HMRC, then another emerges. Up to 40% of the annual UK finance bill deals with such schemes, a huge waste of public resources.

The tax avoidance problem has been compounded in recent years by a significant re-structuring programme at HMRC. This switched its focus from tax collection to ‘customer relationship management’, particularly for the bigger corporations. This fundamental operational change lies behind the recent ‘sweetheart deals’ with major transnational corporations which have saved them billions in unpaid taxes and short-changed the Exchequer. To do its job effectively, HMRC needs to be effectively tasked and properly resourced. It makes no sense to cut the part of government that brings money in. Increasing resources would clearly deliver significant results: HMRC professionals bring-in as much as twenty times their employment cost.

Allied with the introduction of a robust General Anti-Avoidance Rule, as proposed recently by Michael Meacher, and radical steps to close tax havens, this would give HMRC a fighting chance. Tax evasion and avoidance in the UK is a serious problem, which requires a serious solution. As the late Ken Gill said, “You pay tax and you buy civilisation.”

IFS Report on Growing Inequality Highlights Nature of the Con-Dem Project

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has just published a report which concludes that the days when each generation could expect to be better off than their predecessors is ending, as living standards decline for those born after 1960. This will come as no surprise to those struggling with real-term pay cuts, benefit reductions and above-inflation increases in food, rent, travel costs and utility bills. But the publication of the report comes at a difficult time for the Government given the palpable growth of inequality in today’s Britain.

The significant decline in the proportion of national income going to wages since the 1970s as capital rakes-in an ever larger slice of GDP; the explosion in house prices since the 1980s, following the deregulation of the banking sector and the easy availability of credit, leading to speculation and a growing disconnect between house prices and average wages; and the steady erosion of pensions as employers shift the risk from themselves to workers and the government refuses to support a decent state pension all indicate the depth of the problem.

In his magisterial history ‘The Age of Revolution’, Eric Hobsbawm referred to the French liberal economist Henri Baudrillart, who described the formal recognition of inequality as one of the three pillars of human society – the others were property and inheritance. The Conservative-led Government clearly shares this perspective and would dearly love to return us to Victorian levels of inequality. As the next election approaches, there’s an increasingly shrill note to its efforts to destroy the welfare state, undermine trade unions and demonise the poor. But we still have 17 months to go till we reach the election. They can do a lot of damage in that time as they pursue a ‘slash and burn’ approach to the many political and social gains made by the working class since 1945.

Socialists understand the true nature of the Tory project and the dangers inherent in the current crisis of political representation, where Labour are content to offer little more than an ‘austerity-lite’ version of Con-Dem policies. But there’s hard work to be done to raise awareness of the issues across broader society. Let’s be in no doubt: Britain needs a genuine socialist alternative to this venal, parasitic ruling class!

Chris Guiton

Labour’s Failure to Grasp the Privatisation Nettle

The news that Royal Mail workers have voted four to one in favour of industrial action against the impact of Con-Dem privatisation plans, throws into sharp relief Labour’s continued refusal to grasp the opportunities handed to it on a plate to scupper the Royal Mail sell-off. All it would take is a public commitment to its re-nationalisation after the next election. But this is of a piece with its failure to support the return to public ownership of the railways, energy and water. This should come as no surprise to socialists.

What’s curious, though, is the logic behind their feeble efforts to appear a bit more radical, without dropping their essential support for a pro-business, neoliberal ideology. This is destined to fail, as no amount of recalibration of a fundamentally flawed regulatory system can address the substance of monopoly power and the loss of vital infrastructure that used to belong to us all.

As Bertolt Brecht famously said, ‘If you fight you might lose, if you don’t you have already lost.’

Chris Guiton

Government Lies – Why We Need a Mendacity Index

Ten years ago a liberal US journal, the Washington Monthly, published what it called The Mendacity Index, which rated Reagan, Clinton and the two Bushes for their propensity to tell ‘the most serious fibs, deceptions, and untruths’. No surprises as to who won!
 
The news that the Con-Dem Government is, just to take a few recent examples, rushing the profoundly authoritarian Lobbying Bill through Parliament, claiming that ‘transparency is the theme’; pressing ahead with the shameful privatisation of the East Coast line on the basis that  franchising was a ‘force for good in the story of Britain’s railways’; and continuing to force through the marketisation of the education sector in the guise of ‘putting children’s interests above ideology’ offers pause for thought.
 
We all know that this rotten Government is the most ideologically right-wing administration seen since the 1930s. But the sheer scale of their deception since they took power is breath-taking. Trade unions, campaigning organisations and progressive political parties already do a good job taking issue with the Government’s divisive policies and dishonest messages. But, as the media is dominated by the right in this country and Labour continue to struggle to articulate a genuine socialist alternative, maybe there’s a case for implementing a running Mendacity Index in the UK. While this has a slightly light-hearted flavour to it, it would surely help efforts to hold the Con-Dems to account; challenge their untruths; and undermine their attempts to manufacture consent for endless austerity, deepening inequality and politics by the rich for the rich.  
 
Chris Guiton

Labour Bites The Hand That Feeds It

The report today on the latest anti-union manoeuvring by Ed Miliband includes the choice news that he has appointed Phil Wilson MP to his team to lead the effort to win support for the ‘reforms’ to the Labour Party/trade union link. Wilson is an arch-Blairite, the man behind the abandonment of the nationalising principles of the original Clause IV and Progress stalwart. This provocative action deliberately cements the perception that Miliband sees this as his ‘Clause IV moment’, where he sets out to pick a fight with core party supporters. As polls indicate a significant drop in Labour support, does he, or anyone else in the shadow cabinet, actually know what Labour stands for any more? Can he explain why he is following a Tory agenda? Are we, in fact, seeing the Strange Death of the Labour Party?

Croydon Communists At People’s Assembly

Croydon Communists turned out in strength to represent the party at Saturday’s People’s Assembly at Westminster Central Hall. Over 4,000 delegates from trade unions, political parties and anti-cuts groups gathered to hear a range of speakers including Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, the comedian Mark Steel and writer Owen Jones talk about the need to defend public services, challenge the Con-Dem Govrnment’s totally unnecessary austerity programme and support a progessive alternative.
 
Len McCluskey said, “If it is right to strike against austerity in Greece, in Spain, in France, then  it is right to strike against austerity here. When Unite members are ready and willing to take that industrial action to  make the politicians change course, then we will not let the anti-union laws get in our way”
 
Delegates participated in a range of workshops, including protecting the NHS, tackling the housing crisis, defending local democracy and developing tactics for the anti-austerity movement. The discussion was lively, the quality of debate was high and the sense of engagement by people was very strong.
 
Ben Stevenson, past parliamentary candidate in Croydon North, said, “It was inspiring to see people from across the trade union and labour movement building coalitions, networking with comrades and planning practical actions to fight this vicious, cynical Government. Contrary to what the bourgeios media tell us, there is an alternative, based on fair wages, decent homes, investment for jobs and taxing the super-rich and transnational corporations. This is the start of action to build a broad movement across Britain. We look forward to working with local progressive forces in Croydon to continue the fightback!”  
 
For more information, see the People’s Assembly reports on the CP website:  www.communist-party.org.uk or go to http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/ – where a full report will be posted shortly.
 

Croydon Communists Launch Campaign to Tackle Housing Crisis

Press Release

Communists in Croydon are launching a campaign to tackle the growing housing crisis in the borough. Ben Stevenson, past parliamentary candidate in Croydon North said, “The supply of social housing is woefully inadequate, with many people ending up in sub-standard B&Bs and hostels. Years of neglect by the local Tory council, and central New Labour and Tory Government housing policies, has left Croydon with a smaller housing stock then almost any other London boroughs. Even the Council’s own Housing Strategy admits that Croydon is ill-equipped to meet housing need.”

“Local politicians are clearly failing those least able to defend themselves: the poor, the vulnerable and the socially excluded. Meanwhile, with the number of new houses being built falling to new lows, the amount of affordable housing is shrinking and prices are effectively out of reach for an entire generation. Private rents continue to spiral out of control, well above the rate of inflation, while the Tory-led Government’s cuts to Housing Benefit (HB) and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for tenants in the social and private rented sectors, allied to high unemployment, is creating significant homelessness in Croydon.” he added

Commenting on a recent Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, Mr Stevenson said, “Instead of trying to solve these problems, Croydon council have been spending more and more money providing ‘temporary’ accommodation in B&Bs.” “Not only are the conditions often cramped and squalid, but children suffer as they have no place to play or do their homework. This is a massive waste of taxpayers’ money. We should be building homes for people. Not forcing them to squeeze in to modern day slums for months at a time.”

In parallel, London councils are rapidly accelerating the rehousing of homeless households outside their home boroughs. Croydon, by no means the worst case, has seen 911 households relocated to the borough since 2009/10. This is not the fault of these people, who are at the mercy of their ‘home’ councils, themselves under pressure from central Government, but it breaks up families, uproots people from jobs, schools and friends, and adds to existing pressures on already stretched local services in the receiving council.

Mr Stevenson said, “Croydon is facing a real housing crisis. We need to take practical steps to campaign for a significant council house building programme, a reversal to the cuts in Housing Benefit, an end to council house sales, compulsory requisitioning of long term empty properties and rent controls in the private sector. I want to invite all local campaigning organisations and housing advocacy groups to take part in a joint campaign to develop a better understanding of the problems faced by Croydon residents, raise awareness of the issues and help develop a local action plan to improve housing provision in the borough. If you would like to get involved in some way please do get in touch. And help us decide where to focus our campaign activity by completing, and circulating via your networks, the short questionnaire attached. This can also be completed on our website: http://www.croydoncommunists.org.uk

Notes to editors:

1. A new report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, ‘The Housing Crisis’, throws a disturbing light on the scale of Britain’s housing crisis and the sharp rise in B&B spending by councils as the homelessness crisis intensifies. The gross cost of temporary accommodation in Croydon has risen dramatically from £1.4m in 2009/10 to £8.1m for 12/13, with further, significant rises projected for 2013/14. Official guidance says B&B accommodation should be avoided ‘wherever possible’. Lack of privacy, and amenities such as cooking and laundry, means it is ‘not suitable’ for families with children or pregnant women ‘unless there is no alternative accommodation available and then only for a maximum of six weeks.’
2. Ben Stevenson is 28 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
3. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.
4. The party plan to produce a comprehensive pamphlet on housing issues in the Borough later in the year as well as organise a public meeting of all interested organisations.

End Media Bias in Discussion of Tax

It was reported after last week’s budget that the Institute of Fiscal Studies had warned of potential tax rises of up to £9bn that might be imposed after the next general election to limit further cuts in public spending. It’s intructive to note that whenever the media report on these issues the assumption is usually made that such tax increases will take the form of rises in income tax or VAT.

But why not debate the role of corporation tax? We’re now heading for one of the lowest rates in the developed world. At its peak, in 1973, the rate was 52%. The United States still operates a rate of 40%. This ‘race to the bottom’ not only deprives the Exchequer of much-needed revenue, the further reduction of corportion tax to 20% in 2015 is expected to cost £750m, it also shifts the tax burden to those least able to afford it. Businesses rely on Government to provide the enabling factors which underpin their ability to operate, including a transparent legal framework; a healthy, skilled workforce; and an effective transport and communications infrastructure.

The recent cuts in corporation tax should be reversed for the biggest companies. And Labour should seriously consider reviewing its tax policy to consider how best to return to a more equitable, progressive tax system.

Chris Guiton