December 31, 2013

Bill Esterson



A short review of the old year shows a mix of ups and downs. 

Nearly half a million households with disabled people living in them have been affected by the bedroom tax and many more people both in work and looking for work have also been hit by perhaps the cruelest tax of modern times. 

Comparisons have been drawn with the hated poll tax but the bedroom tax hurts the poorest in our society. 

It doesn’t save money as people have nowhere to move to either. In Sefton just 18 one and two bedroom properties were available in August for the 3,600 people who were chasing them. 

No wonder one national newspaper headline described, the "Big lie’ behind the bedroom tax: Families trapped with nowhere to move face penalty for having spare room".

Then we saw figures from the Trussell Trust which showed that over 500,000 people are using food banks. 

The figure in 2010 was just 41,000 yet again we had a government in denial, so much so that the Conservative minister responsible refused to come to the House of Commons for a debate on foodbanks called by the Labour Party. Instead he left it a junior minister who ignored many facts including that many of those using foodbanks are in work on low paid jobs, often part time or zero hour contracts. 

And thank you to everyone in Maghull, Aintree, Formby and Crosby who has supported the foodbanks in Sefton. Thousands of hungry people have really needed your help and will continue to do so unless there is a dramatic change of policy for the poorest in our country.

And we saw the crisis in A&E in the summer with the prospect of a much greater winter crisis all because of £3billion spent on a re-organisation of our NHS which no one voted for, money which could and should have been spent on patients and which instead has seen 6,000 fewer nurses in the health service. 

At the same time, the government has made massive cuts to social services budgets.

The Conservatives of course are not alone in being responsible for the bedroom tax. The Lib Dems had a chance to vote to scrap it when Labour called a vote in parliament. And the Lib Dems could also have opposed the policies which saw a massive rise in the number of people using foodbanks. 

Sadly, the Lib Dems failed to oppose the bedroom tax and have supported the cuts and the attacks on disabled people, on people on low pay and on people out of work and desperately trying to find decent well paid jobs. 

Possibly worst of all, the Lib Dems have propped up this Conservative government while the NHS has been rocked to its foundations by cuts in services and reorganisation. Perhaps 2013 will be remembered as the year that the Lib Dems support for the Conservatives saw the start of the real problems at A&E, the worst crisis in the history of the NHS. 

The Lib Dems are certainly propping up a Conservative government and that includes the Lib Dem MP in Southport and all his and Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem councillors across Sefton.

But there was also hope in 2013. 

Hope that there is a better way to try to address the global financial crisis which hit every country in the world in 2007. Rather than paying off the deficit on the backs of the poor we could start with a guaranteed job for all young people. We could get the construction industry moving again by investing in affordable housing for our young people and for those people wanting a smaller property. And we could freeze energy prices while the industry is properly regulated so it works for the ordinary people of this country and for the majority of businesses in this country. 

Labour has proposed these measures and we would cut business rates for small businesses too to help kick start a recovery for the majority of people in this country not just the few. 

And we would scrap the bedroom tax as well.

Our approach would help the many not just the wealthy few. 

The Conservatives with the full backing of the Lib Dems are standing up for the energy companies and for their friends in big business. 

In 2014, Labour will stand up for the ordinary people in this country. We will continue to suggest practical measures like the energy price freeze to help reverse the cost of living crisis. And we will do all we can to put an end to this government’s assault on the majority of people in this country.

I hope you have a happy and peaceful new year.