A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The buck stops with Brown

Someone ought to remind Gordon Brown that the massive crisis that rocked the economy was caused by the privately owned banks not by the Civil Service or any other part of the public sector. This government has treated the financial sector with kid gloves. No matter what its excesses, from irresponsible gambling with other people's money to mind-boggling bonuses for the favoured few and sickening displays of ostentatious consumption, this allegedly Labour government cannot hide its deep conviction that financiers are a special breed. Banks are too important to be allowed to fail or to be taken into democratically accountable public ownership. But steelworkers, carworkers, fishermen, building workers, call centre staff, postal workers, bank staff and workers in many other industries can be dumped on the scrapheap with nothing more than a "how very disappointing" from Baron Mandelson and the rest of the new Labour crew. And, when it comes to civil servants, far from "how very disappointing," Labour's front bench competes with the other parties to outbid them on how many "bureaucrats, pen-pushers, back-office staff" it can get rid of to save the economy.

It's only two years since Brown had some of the more loathsome creatures that populate the Labour benches guffawing out loud when he announced that 96,000 Civil Service jobs would go as though this trumping of a Tory policy ace was a great leap forward. While most people were incandescent with rage over the bankers' outrageous conduct, the government is pointing in a different direction. It's aiming at the Civil Service, with Brown fulminating against a "culture of excess" in reference to salaries of over £150,000 and bonuses of £50,000. These are certainly among the higher end of salaries across the spectrum of wage-earners, but they are dwarfed by the seven-figure salaries and bonuses in the City. And while the government boasts that it will cut 20 per cent or £3 billion from the senior civil servants' pay bill over three years, it ignores its own responsibility in pushing up Civil Service costs through its obsession with public-private partnership, which has cost, in the Ministry of Defence alone, no less than £6bn on failed IT projects and private consultants. Nor is it simply the highest-paid civil servants who are bearing the brunt of ignorant comment by right-wing politicians.

Tory frontbencher Liam Fox recently launched a grab for the headlines by telling bereaved families who had lost loved ones in Afghanistan that British soldiers were dying because they are ill-equipped while civil servants were being paid £47 million in bonuses. These were not bonuses but one-off payments that had been insisted on by the government as a cost-saver, taking the place of a pay rise so as not to affect pension entitlement. And the vast majority of the Civil Service "fat cats" getting these one-off payments have an average annual salary of less than £20,000 and each received about £300. It is disgusting that a Labour Prime Minister - a Labour Prime Minister - implies that Civil Service excess is reducing money that should be spent on health, schools, policing and social services. He, of all people, knows that it is his own refusal to tax fairly the banks, big business and the wealthy and his obsession with supporting US foreign wars that leaves too little to spend on manufacturing, services and welfare.

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