Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pawn shop Britain

I have to say I have never heard a weaker or vaguer slogan than the Big Society, but even the Tories are now exceeding my expectations of them.

A think tank suggests selling off local assets (like libraries) to the local community. Well, duh, excuse me for not following, but libraries already belong to the local community, and get paid for by local people, through their councils.

Selling such assets off presumably means that rich people (who don't use public transport, or libraries, or swimming pools, etc) won't have to contribute to them any more through local taxes.

They pitch it as 'poor people having a stake in society' by presumably owning shares in a library.

Most strange.

Rather than tackle the deep divisions in society, or the appalling gap in wealth distribution, they want to further dismantle what few services the poor can still access, while not rebalancing the wealth gap.

The lowest 10% "have negative net wealth" - what weasel words! You mean they are not just poor, but in debt, surely? So how will they benefit by buying a library or a hospital? They'll have to borrow more to buy it, just like the over-priced housing, and then supposedly 'keep the profit' from running such a service. My mind reels at the nonsense of this.

Press Association article

Local Gov co uk article

I have to quote some of this for its jaw-dropping, bare-faced inanity:

ResPublica warned: ‘Meaningful assets and market entry have become the preserve of the rich.’

It highlighted that currently the poorest households in the UK have no stake in society.

The report said: ‘In fact, the bottom 10% of society has a negative net wealth. This disparity is even starker in terms of financial wealth, with the bottom half of households in Britain owning 1%, whilst the top 20% accounts for 84%.’

But the group argued this would not be solved by keeping the status quo in public services: ‘The welfare state was designed for a demographic pyramid which no longer exists and has built a culture of passive dependence which Beveridge never imagined and would have abhorred.’

The report added: ‘Public assets can and, wherever desirable, should become community assets, owned mutually or by individual shareholders or stakeholders in association with communities.

‘We have an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations for a truly popular and meaningful “Big Society” by simultaneously capitalising civil society and spreading ownership.

‘More importantly, we have an opportunity to achieve a bottom-up prosperity that builds resilient and independent communities capable of providing individuals with sustainable exits from poverty and entrances into wealth and well-being.

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