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Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Austerity is here to stay,” says Jonathan Davies, director of the Center for Urban Research on Austerity at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. New York Times Part Three


What follows is the third and final part of an article published by the New York Times on May 28th 2018. We have not edited this in any way so please accept USA spelling.  This is Part Three. Part One may be read here and Part Two here.

Dominic Barber and his family get significant help from the food pantry at the community center in Everton. Credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

An Unlikely Villain

The political architecture of Britain insulates those imposing austerity from the wrath of those on the receiving end. London makes the aggregate cuts, while leaving to local politicians the messy work of allocating the pain.

Spend a morning with the aggrieved residents of Prescot and one hears scant mention of London, or even austerity. People train their fury on the Knowsley Council, and especially on the man who was until recently its leader, Andy Moorhead. They accuse him of hastily concocting plans to sell Browns Field without community consultation.

Mr. Moorhead, 62, seems an unlikely figure for the role of austerity villain. A career member of the Labour Party, he has the everyday bearing of a genial denizen of the corner pub.

“I didn’t become a politician to take things off of people,” he says. “But you’ve got the reality to deal with.”

The reality is that London is phasing out grants to local governments, forcing councils to live on housing and business taxes.

“Austerity is here to stay,” says Jonathan Davies, director of the Center for Urban Research on Austerity at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. “What we might now see over the next two years is a wave of bankruptcies, like Detroit.”

Indeed, the council of Northamptonshire, in the center of England, recently became the first local government in nearly two decades to meet that fate.

Knowsley expects to spend $192 million in the next budget year, Mr. Moorhead says, with 60 percent of that absorbed by care for the elderly and services for children with health and developmental needs. An additional 18 percent will be spent on services the council must provide by law, such as garbage collection and highway maintenance.

To Mr. Moorhead, the equation ends with the imperative to sell valuable land, yielding an endowment to protect remaining parks and services.

“We’ve got to pursue development,” Mr. Moorhead says. “Locally, I’m the bad guy.”

The real malefactors are the same as ever, he says.

He points at a picture of Mrs. Thatcher on the wall behind him. He vents about London bankers, who left his people to clean up their mess.

“No one should be doing this,” he says. “Not in the fifth-wealthiest country in the whole world. Sacking people, making people redundant, reducing our services for the vulnerable in our society. It’s the worst job in the world.”

Now, it is someone else’s job. In early May, the local Labour Party ousted Mr. Moorhead as council leader amid mounting anger over the planned sale of parks.

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