Featuring alongside Billy Bragg

Oh, what that could have meant …
Duetting on “Lover’s Town Revisited” which was on my Radio Nottingham featured 8 tracks.
Having him sing my updated version of his “Days Like These” – “liking Facebook is not enough ...”.
Instead, we’re both in a Guardian video. He’s saying he’s not sure about another referendum and wants a peoples’ assemblies. I’m saying we need to learn from Ireland on how to do a referendum for a result we can all get behind.

The editor cleverly has a man saying people are saying they know when they don’t, then Billy Bragg saying we need an People’s Assembly, then me saying we probably need a 3 option vote, but don’t know how to safely do it, and then the street cleaner saying put the 5 best speakers on a platform to lead a decision.

Billy Bragg, at 3:24, 26 seconds –
“I don’t support People’s Vote. I think it will be divisive. I would prefer, rather than having a referendum, that we have a People’s Assembly, so that we can debate the issues, we can all have our voices heard and come to a decision through deliberation rather than a one-day winner-takes-all referendum cos what we need to get out of this is some kind of consensus and a People’s Assembly will start the process of bringing people back together again.”
then me at 3:50, 43 seconds –
“I think one of the genuine problems is that I don’t know how you carry a referendum that isn’t one or the other. And yet it feels like that’s what we need.
People who want to come out as quickly as possible deserve an option.
The people who actually think May has done the best she can and they deserve a voice [option].
And those of us who felt … our future is properly in Europe – we feel we deserve a voice [option] as well, … so how do you safely conduct a 3 option ballot, cos I don’t know how to do that and what I am impressed by is places like Ireland where they’ve had the referendum and they’ve made processes on how to pose the question and then get an answer that people can accept.”


I’m also recorded talking about poverty –
At 2:38, for fifteen second –
“There’s new kinds of poverty.
And it’s time people woke up and realised just what’s going wrong in our society,
cos in 10, 15, 20 years’ time, we’ll all be saying why didn’t we do something about it,
and we’ll have to do the whole Blair – Brown thing all over again.

Castle Marina advice surgery

Rehearsing bus services, the needs of the boating community, road safety, cycle lanes, tow paths litter and rough sleeping, oh and Brexit. 
With Lilian Greenwood MP, and Councillors Sam Webster and Georgia Power.

Published 26th March; a postscript from Cllr. Webster on the W1 and L5 services; I was going to put it in a comment, but the comments facility doesn’t take images.

Full council – March 2019

A budget is agreed, but little joy as it expects £23m of savings in much needed public service to be found.
The national financial settlements are unfair, biased against the cities and towns of the North and the Midlands, and the Conservatives are setting themselves up to take more money to give to rural areas.

A slightly different budget from the Conservatives this year. Instead of avoiding any Council tax increase, they propose an increase 1% lower than Labour’s. Clearly picking up some points from officers and the majority group, but drawing different conclusions, they propose spending £3 million on pump-priming investments on social services, by selling shares in Robin Hood Energy, covering the gap whilst waiting for share sales with draws upon reserves. Loads of risks – value of share yield, savings from extra investments, timings etc.
They had to be pressured to confirm that they wouldn’t sell off Nottingham City Transport, but I still think they would.
N Post article.

I am always struck by the basic element of sound financial management, which is that during a period where you are expected to look after more people in need during a time of cuts, you need to maximise the Council tax base to meet the need.

Meanwhile, we again expose Nottingham city centre Conservatives for their false claims and less than relevant priorities for city centre residents.

Bizarrely, the Conservatives again call for Hansard style recording of full council, without putting the idea in their budget proposals. Even stranger, the Conservative leader joins in a tribute to the 16 retiring Labour Councillors, before his Deputy piles in to say they’re all being driven out by people with ideology.
I say – “you’ve got to have a belief.”

Official photos of retirees
We paid tribute to Betty Higgins, with Brian Parbutt giving a speech; Graham Chapman makes a point in the budget debate; thanks expressed to this retiring, including Malcolm Wood, John Hartshorne, Brian Grocock, Ginny Klein, Glyn Jenkins, Jackie Morris, Steve Young, Cat Arnold-Adamds

Financial Discipline and Raising the Tax Base

The Treasury Management Strategy and Capital Strategy report went to Audit committee on Friday 22nd February where its recommendations were noted. Questions were asked on preparations for a financial crash and management of group accounts.
We were mindful too of External Audit making high level points on –
– medium term financial strategy;
– governance in relation to management of capital;
– arrangements for governance and monitoring of subsidiary companies.
The Audit cttee got no press coverage – even with a double sized agenda – and I’m aware that the glamour and reputations come with spending; the notoriety more often comes with discipline.

People proclaim that no-one wants to pay taxes or levies; and indeed Gordon Brown set out to say he was against tax and spend. I saw Barbara Castle take him up on it.
But you do want a framework to bring sense to the spend.
Betty Higgins told stories of how committees found out on their individual budgets on a special day, implying they weren’t part of the financial planning process at all.
Michael Cowen – once Labour, then defected to the Conservatives (and infamous for losing Ashfield), was tax and spend in 1981 – “What do you need”.
Cowan wrote a paper on financial planning in 1973. Decrying “budgets set around the calculation of rate poundage and simple control of expenditure than than of policy”.
Of course, post 1985, budgets have had to be balanced by law. 

Much of budgeting was already set against a policy framework was in place when I arrived on the City Council.
But it was certainly a big theme whilst under a Labour Gov’t – they wanted to see returns for the extra money they were providing.
And we did have to work on a spending discipline – expecting departments to keep to their budgets.  

Zero-based budgeting was a fad, so as to avoid salami slicing. 
But it was so much easier under a Labour Gov’t. Whilst in five years, I cut an average of £5 million extra each year, all of the budgets saw an increase in spending to meet the challenges of improving schools, helping people in need and cutting crime.

I feel no envy for colleagues who have had to work at finding £23 million of cuts,
– massive cuts
– growing social need
– financial sector not offering easy wins.
Must be hard to make strategic changes in such an environment.
But still we strive for new ideas and aims in the new manifesto.

Maybe the Conservatives will have something to say about new ideas – or even previous ones such as privatising Nottingham City Transport.
(They said they wouldn’t.)
Instead, it was mitigating the council tax increase by 1% with one off-spends? 
And proposing a £3 million investment package on social services by raising money from selling 50% of Robin Hood Energy shares. Yep, announcing as share sale with a price months in advance.
All those Conservative lectures on how to do finances!
Nationally, as bad –
– Grayling losing £2.7 thousand million;
– desperately late preparation for Brexit on March 29th
The Conservatives’ explicit national policy was to reach zero deficit and then cut debt;
– cuts to do it.
National targets on deficit, dropped and replaced by a new target twice time and now on the third time, no target at all
National debt doubled.
“Austerity Now over” – except it plainly isn’t.
The strategy has always been –
– put people back on private services;
– break manual labour’s terms and conditions for easier profit;
Meanwhile Conservative councillors say – “What about the capital rich and revenue poor”!
Out of touch with the needs of our city. In part cos they won’t measure poverty properly anymore.

I think McDonnell could add to his finances ambition, and the existing ways of showing how extra money will be found. 
By embracing financial planning and consultation over the priorities.

1945 ain’t a bad place to start
– full employment;
– and end to homeless;
– quality education for all;
– quality health and care for all;

And now –
– proper jobs, terms and conditions;
– meet the challenges of the global economy;
– meet the challenges of climate change;
– equal opps. 

I meanwhile am proud to have been part of Labour Group who fundamentally understand the key elemental priority of boosting the base to pay for the services that help those most who are most in need.
It may be the most basic element of financial strategies, but I’m proud we’ve done it.

(Based on a speech I made at full Council.)

For a kinder politics

Three claims in particular distress me about the claims being made by MPs leaving the Labour Party to create an Independent Group.
1. that Labour are putting their policy views ahead of the needs of the country;  
2. that politics is broken;  
3. that politics needs to address the needs of our times, (of the 21st Century), and it doesn’t.
–  
To which –
1. that Labour are putting their policy views ahead of the needs of the country;  dressing up differences in vision for the country as betrayal is often cited but is anti-political;  and charges like this were made against New Labour when we were in power too; 
2. that politics is broken; party politics deciding affairs is the fundamental test by which you assess whether we have a free society;  party political allegiances are under strain at the moment, but that’s cos the referendum took away simple party loyalties away from MPs and cos the decision to Leave was ambiguous about how to leave; 
3. that politics needs to address the needs of our times, (of the 21st Century), and it doesn’t;  except this is another anti-politics charge that has been made for decades, indeed probably from the time of Cock Robin.  And my main response to them is that Labour’s policy responses are much stronger responses to the challenges of today.

Polls are reporting lower scores for the Conservatives and for Labour with 10 points or so for the Independent group, to which I’m either surprised  or underwhelmed and I’m not sure which.  Cos on the one hand, 10 points is a lot and on the other, the SDP had much higher scores when its was launched in 1981.  
It is perhaps inevitable that social media responses – where people can make statements without being held to account – might be more trill than is warranted, but the trillness Is not not good for us in the Labour Party, as has been shown by –
– the Parliamentary Labour Party giving those leaving a round of applause, clearly believing they have been treated badly and that many of them are receiving poor treatment too; 
Tom Watson’s statement, with a particular emphasis on Luciana Berger being a victim;
– most tellingly, John MacDonnell dropping plan A (Monday – they all need to resign as MPs and stand for fresh elections) and adopting Plan B (Tuesday – the national party needs to listen to the concerns raised)
– Barry Gardiner expressing regret at the treatment of Luciana Berger MP by anti-Semites from the front bench.

Because there has been conduct in the party and from outside the party against MPs that has been too brutal.  Some of it has been anti-Semitic.  A lot of it has been macho.  Some of it – e.g. votes of no confidence in their MP by branches using emergency motions and thus not informing all branch members – has been wrong in principle and according to the rules of the Labour Party.  
So we should acknowledge that we can improve.

If we’d adopted a listening approach – 
– we could have refrained from saying MPs who have changed parties should resign their seats – 1) only 4 out of the most recent 64 have; 2) we need people in Parliament to be voting on Brexit; 3) people get elected as individuals; and everyone who stands know that they stand on that basis; elected representatives are just that and are not delegates to be withdrawn;  and there are no mechanisms yet designed that can make a delegate approach work; 
– we could have refrained from saying people have made decisions to leave lightly – cos people who have been elected have invested significantly in the Labour Party and for years, and cos they have deep convictions too;  indeed the testimonies of roots and life stories was the strongest part of the launch on Monday;
– we could have refrained from suggest they are careerist – especially when I think they’ve done something that will end their careers as MPs at the next election; and because people say this of all representatives;  it’s actually a dig at the way a free society decides who decides and a way of stopping people think about the issues;
– we could have refrained from saying MPs are mandated by the party national manifesto, cos before the Summer of 2015, loads of MPs were congratulated by not standing by the manifestos of Blair and Brown;
– we could have refrained from saying a vote for a Labour candidate was a vote for the Labour manifesto; cos whilst a win gives the party the opportunity to implement the manifesto, we certainly don’t say vote for the manifesto or don’t vote for us at all; and in 2017, we actually said, don’t vote for Theresa May, she’s not a good PM, has had a terrible campaign and she des not offer string and stable government.  
And we could do without those rolling out defences of those who have been anti-Semitic (e.g people haven’t been, or the favourite – “I’ll say what I want when being critical of Israel and no code is going to stop me”); cos the Labour Party has a problem (and it’s annoying cos we are supposed to be the best at being anti-racist).

These analyses look cruel, shrill, out of touch and condoning of very poor bullying and racist behaviour. Having a tin ear rather than listening.

Smarter to celebrate the ambition we have – including re-implementing levies on banks that have cost public services £5,000 million and created the space to campaign against further proposals to cut Corporation tax by 2% at a cost public services £8,000 million.