Updated: Jan 1
This article discusses: our first economic priority - protecting vulnerable people; who is going to pay for it; relying on ourselves to change the world around us with a new sense of civic pride and duty; the objectives of putting more money in our pockets and that money to be worth more; the questions that must be asked to Southend Council; quality job creation through facilitating seeds of industry; increasing the power of £1 in Southend by reducing council fees and charges; and then concluding on the future.
In summary, I would look for a local economic policy that is underpinned by:
Looking after vulnerable people
Looking after people in financial difficulties
Funding top public services
Low council tax
Increase residents wealth
Creating jobs and quality careers
Starting seeds of industry
Re-starting our markets
Re-igniting Southend High
No corruption, waste, politically favourable spending or self-indulgence
Total transparency on where our tax is going
Tax policies that encourage growth
Local councils to retain more of what it raises
Protect all council assets from private investors who neglect their duties
Ensure council assets are maintained to a high standard
The first Economic Priority: Protecting Vulnerable People
Life is vulnerable.
Not to panic anyone, but anything could happen to us within a moment.
I know that I would wish to have a safety net available so that I could still live contentedly in the next moment it were to be life changing.
And by vulnerable, I am defining as anyone who is dependent on others in order to be able to live.
While it is easy for affluent people to think they will not ever need to rely on the vast majority of public services and the welfare system, anything can happen financially too.
Everyone is susceptible to financial ruin and private health care, private education, luxury properties, and even those who enjoy private security, may be lost overnight. It is therefore imperative for the safety net that is the NHS, social care, welfare, state schools, social housing, and the police to be given adequate funds to provide a great service.
Moreover, by creating a system that offers people the chance to be healthy and fulfil their potential, the whole of society benefits. Rather than people committing criminal acts to make money or survive, they focus their energies on invention, innovation, creation and imagination.
So, here should stand our first broad economic policy. It must protect the vulnerable, both mentally, physically and financially.
This principle in the UK already happens of course. Though there is a difference between being forced to put on these services to striving to put on the best services for the betterment of society.
Being forced results in the bare minimum pass mark, which is what we have got. Striving for the best means working backward from an agreed ideal and acting with pragmatism whilst battling against financial and people constraints. It could take a lifetime to achieve 50 more beds in Southend Hospital for example, but at least anyone who votes for us knows that is where we are going.
The next question is who is going to pay for this?
This really is a question for the national elections, and as Confelicity is a national party, we will be putting forward a manifesto that would look to address these issues in the future.
Even so, in view of sharing some of the thinking behind the local economic view, it is worth briefly explaining some of the thinking, as it directly relates to how we will work around the shortfalls we clearly have to endure in Southend.
We would have to look at who has the money, and as obvious as it sounds, well, rich people. Not in the normal sense to you and me. Not lawyer-rich or doctor-rich. Not business-person rich or even footballer-rich. I am talking about the super-rich, the 1 %ers, the ancient money - the ones that own all the resources.
So, what do we do? Simply take their money?
If we reached into their pockets and took all that was needed would that not do the trick?
Let’s hit the tax rate for those earning more than £1m to 95%.
Problem solved; all issues are taken care of.
If it were that simple, then perhaps.
The people that are born into families that have been part of wealth and power for generations know exactly how to maintain and expand their wealth.
Whether you support Jeremy Corbyn or not, it was a genius-turn-of-feat through the utilisation of large sections of the mainstream media, that the establishment turned a pacifist into a terrorist, due to Corbyn and his compatriots forming the beginning of what would have been a threat to their wealth.
The establishment’s way of life was under threat, and this is just one small example of what can be done.
Before they let it get that far their options are tax loopholes and tax havens, which all the great and glorious were shown to be part of when the Panama papers were published, and/or threatening to leave the country altogether, removing all their potential investment from the UK.
The truth is, if the UK thinks it will ever be able to tax the super-rich to pay for a fairer society, there will never be one.
The thing about money is that it can run through hands like water.
There is no insurance for giving, so no one is ever going to pay back the wealthy person if ever they get into financial bother, and so no rich person will ever give over what they do not have to. They are merely playing within the rules of the game, and they would prefer to be winning.
Basically, we cannot rely on them to help the 99% of us and we should stop asking.
It could be argued the only reason Britain has been given what it has is because of the movement that ended up forming the Labour Party in 1900.
Had it not been for those people grouping together under the one banner to fight against destitution and death, the rights, services and welfare that we all take for granted may not exist today.
Their purpose still exists as rights gained can be easily eroded given the right propaganda campaign (such as losing elements of rights to protest using groups such as Just Stop Oil as scapegoats).
Unfortunately, the people who now occupy Labour’s banners have very different lived experiences and cannot possibly represent their cause adequately.
The problem is that they have been too successful - whether in opposition or power.
They have brought millions of people out of poverty, including themselves.
They have bred aspiration. And aspiration includes being wealthy - like it or not.
True Labour people are working class, and their class forms part of their identity. Some believe they cannot have wealth or even work in management because that would go against who they are as a person.
The conflict in the Labour Party is that the generations of people between their party's founding and those who lead today is that most who occupy the top positions have very little idea about genuine poverty and deprivation. They have been brought up on the entitlement of enjoying life and fulfilling their potential, and have only maintained an eye for compassion and a social conscience through perhaps being one or two generations off working class. (There are also those that simply studied at university and are politically ambitious and ‘chose’ Labour as their vehicle.)
There are at least two parties within the Labour Party, and whilst they may be able to paper over the cracks every fifteen years or so in order to get into power, they will always be torn by those that see ambition and wealth as good and those that see it as the enemy.
There is no one right, only the 'right' relative to an individuals values, but with Confelicity we are clear: be as rich as your ambition and hard work takes you, but pay your fair share (no loopholes, schemes and scams), and let that fair share be spent without waste, self-indulgence or corruption, and on fulfilling the potential of society.
The point is that it took a national political movement fuelled on destitution over a 100-year period to shift the establishment to what it is today and so we basically have to do it ourselves. Interestingly, money may not even be the answer.
Civic Pride and Duty
Have you ever walked past a piece of litter on the street and thought this place is a s**thole? And then, be honest, have you ever picked it up?
This thought of disdain is self-inflicted. Yes, we pay for services, but there is never going to be enough money to fix Southend in the way we want it.
It is time to think differently.
As said, we should no longer rely on the super-rich to give up any more of their wealth as they are legally forced to by the government - they won’t and will not do it.
We have been on our own and we did not realise it.
They provide just enough to avoid us grouping together as before and starting some kind of revolution, whilst denying the funds that are so clearly available when observing the appalling waste of public funds.
The linchpin of our economic policy rests heavily on Southend resident’s own sense of pride and what we are willing to do to improve the world around us.
This is not charity or volunteering, this is civic duty born out of pride for our city.
A child struggling in maths can be shown by a Southend resident who understands the concepts in 30 minutes. 30-plus students in a class will no longer matter. The knowledge has been passed on. The child understands.
We need more police. There are already several excellent schemes in place yet so few know about them nor take them up. We could have unlimited protection if even 1000 people fancied giving up just one hour a week.
Many have opened their homes to Ukrainians - which is incredible - but what about for people in Southend?
The eldest in society can be helped with their shopping or just kept company by the youngsters who have much free e.
No money involved - just civic duty.
And this is merely to aid the public services we have in place, not replace them.
In an ideal world, in an ideal city, our citizens would have been taught from school age that to give your time to others is a civic duty that we all must perform in moments where the need is there.
As adults, this is more difficult. Still, there are many of us out there that are willing, we just need a bit of push and/or a bit of signposting.
Those that currently participate in charity and volunteering are particularly special because they do so without any education of this kind.
Whether through heart, head, spirit or soul, they put themselves forward. Their attitudes, if extended throughout Southend, are the secret to dealing with the damage of today.
It would not be a religious calling nor should it impede on a career or family life.
The details would need careful consideration, but the ultimate goal would be worthy of moving this forward.
Where it is written that if you’re good at something, you have to charge for it?
This is a practical, real-world change that could easily be implemented tomorrow.
And what’s even better, much of this already exists. It just needs real backing and real leadership to drive it forward.
Whilst a civic pride movement will change our city for very little, there remains the facts of life and one of those is that we still need money!
Putting more money in our pockets and that money being worth more
Being that our lives are dependent on the money we have in our pockets, the Southend Confelicity economic policy should strive to put more in there and have it worth as much as possible.
Not the most inspiring entrances into a revolutionary, all-conquering, game-changing economic masterpiece I humbly accept!
Money is an ugly subject, and whether you are a person that strives not for money but for happiness or that you strive for money for happiness, either way, it tends to help.
In Southend, we need far more than we have, both individually, but more generally as a city.
We need to double the capacity of Southend’s health and social care services, double Southend’s education services, double the number of police, vastly expand social housing, re-pave and re-lay our entire pavement and roads network, pour heavy investment in starting seeds of industry to create quality careers, modernise our sewage system, and transform Southend High Street by offering severely subsidised rents to local people who might want to start a business.
The point here is we need as much as we can get and it to be worth as much as possible.
Ok, so what exactly are we going to do?
As it stands we are in a position of ignorance as to what Southend Council intends to do. Although our party has a general outline of our ultimate goals, we need to know certain answers from Southend Council to provide a detailed assessment and subsequent plan.
Questions to be asked to the current administration
The questions below ask about how the council is funded, the reasoning behind it, their economic plan and how it has improved the local economy.
The questions we will be asking the council are:
Southend receives around £200m of grant funding from central government. What is the reasoning behind the amount of grants Southend receives? Is there a calculation?
What is Southend Council able to do to ensure we receive the most amount of grants possible?
What is the maximum amount of grants Southend Council are able to get?
Why has Southend Council lost so much in grant funding over the last 10 years, and what could Southend Council have done to prevent this?
What specific policies are in place to grow the Southend economy?
What have been the measurable results of the economic policies of the council?
How many jobs have been facilitated by the council’s economic policies?
What policies have been put in place to encourage people in Southend to start their own business? What has been the result?
Where can we find, to the penny, exactly where our tax has been spent?
Southend Council receives £90m in council tax. What polices have been put in place to increase tax revenues aside from increasing parking and council tax itself? And how much in total does that equate to?
Southend have lost considerable economic assets in recent years. What should have been written into the contracts for the Kursaal, Seaway, Queensway, Marine Plaza, old Odeon building and Fisherman’s Wharf to ensure they were not left derelict?
What must be in the contract to legally ensure that these situations will never happen again?
Southend Council had acquired Victoria Shopping Centre for £10m, plus an expected £2m on fixes. What was the expected profit/surplus? What is it currently? What is the forecast over the next 3 years? How long is it expected until it pays for itself?
Should the council continue to acquire property as a means to raise revenues?
Of the £20m of capital funding that was cut due to the £16m overspend in the ….. budget, what was specifically lost? Why those items? Why were they budgeted in the first place if they were so expendable?
What, if any, would you have considered to be wasteful spending?
Why, when 2% of council tax was increased for adult social care, did we see a further £9m overspend?
What have council tax payers got for the increase of 3%?
What could be lost in the budget to reduce the burden on council tax payers?
These are the questions that I would expect a local government to be able to answer with relative ease, though I did not see any of it in their manifesto.
They are certainly questions that I feel need to be part of our manifesto, though we won’t be able to address issues surrounding central government grant money.
The following discusses how we will grow jobs, local business, whilst reducing the tax burden.
Growing Jobs through facilitating seeds of industry
Basic economics is taking resources, transforming them into something people want or need, and selling them on at a profit. Be it a physical resource or service.
This we know already, but it really is as simple as laying on the facilities for people to be able to enable themselves to be economically productive.
We have already done this in our colleges and schools, this concept merely needs to be extended into working life. Be it recording studios, art studios, computers and servers to develop tech, factories with facilities to manufacturer food, science centres to develop innovations and so on.
In the event people like what they produce and start buying it, they may then require more people to help them and pay them to do so. Suddenly you have jobs. With the employees pay comes money to be spent in other businesses. And then we have a thriving economy.
On paper it really is that simple. The government, local or national, just needs to facilitate this to happen.
Yes, this requires money and it cannot be done overnight. But this is the only way this is going to happen.
A pragmatic view will need to be taken as to the pace of infrastructure build and which areas to invest in first, so miracles cannot be expected.
Although I am suggesting this to be a publicly funded programme, private investors would be welcome.
There may well be some philanthropists out there who want to help, and it is worth exploring. This, however, should not be relied upon.
This is not charity or a social enterprise, this is a very specific way of growing the economy using the talents of Southend residents to do so.
The next step would be to gear up Southend to think in entrepreneurial ways. Silicon City or Hollywood are two examples that are entrenched in cultures that produce people that think they can do it too.
This does exist in Southend.
Most people I know don’t even know what they want to do after their education finishes.
They fall into jobs they never wanted and wake up each day thinking how to get out of it.
We have so few people to look up to, and so a great philosophy needs to bleed into the local education system, that when people leave college or university they will have a natural path so as to continue their talents and make a living doing what they love.
We need to make it so easy to start businesses as it was when schools helped students apply to college or university.
This, of course, will not be for all. But it will at least provide a genuine, practical avenue in which they can achieve their ambitions if they so wish.
A business hub will accompany the start-ups all along the way providing legal, financial and business support to ease the burden.
One hugely underestimated loss from our city was York Road Market.
Yes, it was tatty and in dire shape by its end, but markets are where entrepreneurs get to cut their teeth.
This idea is as old as time itself, and it could be re-started overnightthe . The markets in Southend High Street are ok, but we need to be looking at the best markets in the UK to work to a better model. Borough Market and Covent Gardens are two very obvious examples. But even places such as Greenwich Market is enough. Small, but unique.
Like everything Confelicity is associated with, we will look at ideal future and work backwards. This would be a thriving economy with quality careers and hubs of different industries run by local people built on brownfield sites. External investment will flow in because Southend has become a city to be a part of.
However long this might take, we would be on an economic path of growth.
Value of the pound in our pocket?
The major issue of the day is how much £1 can buy.
Be it house prices, energy or a basket of goods in the supermarket, for some reason our money is really starting to lose value quickly.
The people leading the strikes to increase pay should know that the root of the problem are price increases, not low wages. Companies will just pass on the cost and in a years time any pay increase will be wiped out.
The factors that cause inflation are far outside the scope of a local political party.
However, there are certain areas within the council’s control where prices could come down.
We would look at reducing costs for the following:
Council housing rents
Reduce parking charges across the city all year round
Reduce the price of The Pier entrance
Remember, the council is not here to make money. They are to balance the books whilst providing for services we pay for through our taxes.
By now you may be thinking how will these reductions be paid for? You may think we would be heading for a Southend version of Liz Truss!
At this point, I should say that although I believe in all of us paying our fair share for great public services, it has become obvious that our fair share is either being spent wastefully, incompetently, self-indulgently or dare I said it, unscrupulously.
I no longer believe that my money is in hands of impeccable trust, and until we are able to see real-time data as to exactly where each penny is being spent, I think we are better off trusting ourselves with what to do with it.
So, it is not low tax out of an anti-fairer society, it is low tax out of a lack of trust in those decision-makers trusted to ensure it is spent wisely.
To the point of Southend’s Liz Truss, there will be no cuts until the first step is taken into the wild journey that is the depths of council spending - without the need of paying expensive consultants - and see what we find.
If it turns out that the budgets are indeed impeccable and there is not a penny wasted, then fair. However, through no one person’s fault, I strongly suspect this not to be the case.
A case in point is the £20m that has just been slashed from the capital budget. They had to do this because of the £9m overspend on adult and child services and £3m inflationary costs, but was that £20m really necessary in the first place?
Maybe it was. I doubt many of us knew what it was being spent on and how many of us would lose out that the money is no longer there. As it happens, some of it was being