Banksters are “socially-useless” shocker!

Lord Turner is the head of the FSA (that’s the Financial Services Authority, not the Food Standards Agency).

If the Tories win the next election, he’s toast and so is the FSA which will be abolished, its powers returned to the Bank of England.

So that’s probably why he’s giving strong views on taxing banks – the kind of talk that gets frozen out of polite society in the City, I expect.

The kind of reforms Turner suggests could save the capitalists from their chaotic system – but would hurt them in the short term by imposing costs to implement the regulation of apparently speculative or dangerous activities.

Transnational corporations are lobbying against proposed EU regulations on derivatives which would require deals to go through a clearing house.

In the UK, however, there’s nothing tough planned for the transnationals. The government might be talking up food sovereignty, the transition to low-carbon manufacturing, and so on, but there’s no plan to put the casino-capitalists on a diet.

Response to Turner’s views are revealing:

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, asks what would replace the City as a source of employment and tax revenues. So, at least he’s willing to consider alternatives if laid out before him.

The Shadow Chancellor has remained silent. For obvious reasons. No one would believe a Tory Chancellor would crack down on big business.

London’s buffoonish Mayor, Boris Johnson, is perhaps the only UK politician willing to leap to the defence of the City.

An unnamed London banker is quoted in the FT as saying “It is just illogical to want to shrink one of your most important industries,” unless it happens to have led to the destruction of all your other industries, I suppose… He goes on to say: “If you want to turn London into a Marxist society, then great.”

Yes, comrade. Great! Full marks for hyperbole.

“Saint” Vince Cable of the Lib Dems has welcomed what Turner has said, stating that that “competitiveness” arguments cannot be used to defend the status quo:

“If you are engaged in behaviour that is dangerous to the wider British economy, it is right some sectors may have to contract,”

However, Nick Clegg, the Liberal leader, has said that taxation would be unworkable as a way of shrinking the City as global agreement would be required.

It was interesting to observe President Nicholas Sarkozy of France revealing his tough plans for reform to bank remuneration – which will only be implemented if there’s a global agreement. Which in political terms, is a win-win deal. If the rest of the world says non, he wins; if the rest of the world says oui, he wins.

What changes do I suggest, then?

Well, given that the financial services sector could not exist without the taxpayer support that has been given, the government should ensure that restructuring takes place with the following modest reforms:

* Voluntary redundancies only, and terms and conditions respected for the pay and pensions of bank staff on low- to middle-incomes. Workers in the financial services industry should not be made to pay for the greed of their employers.

* Executive pay, pensions, and other benefits should be capped at all financial institutions – even those in which the government has no shareholding. If executives want to flee elsewhere, let them – there are plenty of talented people willing to take their place and be justly rewarded.

* To prevent future banking crises, the nationalised banks should be mutualised rather than be privatised. Mutual financial institutions – the credit unions, building societies, and Cooperative Bank – have served their members/customers and behaved responsibly.

Unison witchhunt continues

Note to Unison leadership – the organization is a trade union, not branch of the Labour Party. Harassing Trotskyists will not endear you to the membership.

The first charge against the four Unison members (pictured below) is that they produced a leaflet at the annual conference of Unison in 2007 which questioned why the Standing Orders Committee had ruled out key motions from being debated. Simply highlighting this on a leaflet resulted in the first charge of an “attack on the integrity of the members of the Standing Orders Committee.”

Glenn Kelly, one of the four, Branch Secretary of Bromley Unison and Unison national executive, addresses the Reclaim the Union fringe meeting at Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

Glenn Kelly, one of the four, Branch Secretary of Bromley Unison and Unison national executive, addresses the Reclaim the Union fringe meeting at Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

The second charge relates to the use on the leaflet of a well known Buddhist proverb and cartoon of the ‘three wise monkeys’ (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.)

The four have been charged with “Failing to show due care in not anticipating that someone might take offence [from the leaflet]”.

On 17 July Unison’s disciplinary panel delivered their verdict and then scuttled off to consider the sentence. The result should be known in a couple of weeks.

Onay Kasab, another of the four charged, is Branch Secretary Greenwich Unison. Here he addresses the Socialist Party fringe meeting at Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

Onay Kasab, another of the four charged, is Branch Secretary Greenwich Unison. Here he addresses the Socialist Party fringe meeting at Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

The attacks on the four Unison members found guilty have nothing to do with these trumped up charges and everything to do with eliminating any opposition to the Unison leadership – and specifically any opposition from the Socialist Party which the four are members of. Five Unison members were originally investigated but charges against the member who was not in the Socialist Party were dropped!

Socialist Party members in Unison have consistently argued that the Unison leadership should put their members before the interests of New Labour, who receive huge sums of trade union money but then attack public sector workers, many of whom who are members of Unison.

Suzanne Muna, Branch Secretary Unison Tenant Services Authority, and another charged, speaks to the lobby of Unison disciplinary hearings against the four Socialist Party members, photo Alison Hill

Suzanne Muna, Branch Secretary Unison Tenant Services Authority, and another charged, speaks to the lobby of Unison disciplinary hearings against the four Socialist Party members, photo Alison Hill

This is a classic witch-hunt. Some Unison members have already been expelled and others are under investigation for opposing the leadership.

The two-year investigation and hearings into the four Socialist Party members now found guilty have caused widespread anger towards the Unison leadership. The Defend the Four campaign has attracted huge support within Unison and the wider trade union movement.

Brian Debus, Branch Chair Hackney Unison, the fourth Socialist Party member charged, addresses Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

Brian Debus, Branch Chair Hackney Unison, the fourth Socialist Party member charged, addresses Unison conference 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

All supporters of the four are called on to flood Unison headquarters with protests against this blatant witch-hunt. The charge of racism in particular, no matter how its framed, could not only jeopardise their union membership but also their employment chances.

This witch-hunt is a disgrace to the trade union movement. All four have a long and proud record of fighting racism and fascism in the workplace and the wider community.

Send your protests now to Unison HQ: Unison, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ . Telephone: 0845 355 0845


Also send to: Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858 London E11 1YG.

See also:

Glad to be gay, ashamed to be Anglican?

Let us pray for the repentance of Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, who is a troubled soul.

If he’s not knocking England’s Muslims, it’s our gay compatriots…

The editorial in today’s Morning Star, A message to the bigots, on the bishop’s response to Pride.

There’s a message to all of us contained in the distasteful pronouncements of the Bishop of Rochester at the weekend.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali delivered his considered opinion of what he believes is a proper, Christian attitude towards those who do not share the conventional sexual orientation that his church espouses.

And that message was every bit as detestable as the Islamist fundamentalism that justifies jihad and terrorism as weapons in a battle for religious rectitude.

It bears about the same relationship to the attitude of everyday Christians as jihadism bears to the attitude of everyday Muslims. And that is none whatsoever.

We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude them, said Bishop Bigot.

“But they are going to have to repent and be changed.”

Everyone with any involvement in the peace and anti-war movements has had experience of working with active and committed Christians of all denominations or none.

And, from a socialist perspective, that experience is generally a positive and optimistic one, of working with people with a different motivation, but with a commitment to the human race, to the shared values of respect for life and of toleration of difference.

It’s a meeting of minds with people who do not necessarily share every principle that we espouse, but who have enough courage to join in solidarity over the things on which we agree and to develop mutual understanding on those points which may divide us.

It is a celebration of mutual respect and a working agreement that there are shared aims which are common to people of very different life experiences and have a value which transcends the proscriptions with which those who would divide us hedge us around.

There is a lesson for Dr Nazir-Ali in our shared experiences.

It is a lesson that he, and all the bigots of all religions or none should take to heart.

And that lesson is that the human race is greater by far than the narrow, prejudiced and perverted caricatures that the merchants of dogma would turn us into.

Half a million people gave the lie to the bishop at the weekend on the streets of London.

The queers and the queens, the bears and the dykes were joined by the trade unionists, the communists, the socialists and the militants from a dozen different fields in mutual solidarity to celebrate people’s right to live as they are, not as they are expected to be by their lords and masters, temporal or spiritual, in this narrow, proscriptive, capitalist society.

The Tories and the Establishment are falling over themselves to appear gay-friendly.

However, that’s not through tolerance of difference, that’s through a cold appreciation of the electoral advantages to be gained.

But take the mask off and you have the crusader, the figurehead who would thrust onto you the conformity of intolerance and the rigour of convention – provided that that conventionality suits the prejudices that still hold sway in a reactionary Establishment.

There’s a lesson for socialists in the bigotry of the bishop and the unity of the half-million people on the streets of London whom he railed against.

And that is that solidarity and tolerance are principles which unite us. Given unity, all the distasteful orthodoxies that are built to control us are powerless to do so.

That unity takes work to achieve, tolerance to establish and patience to build.

With it, we are invincible but, without it, the Nazir-Alis of this world will divide, weaken and dominate. It’s our choice.

Visteon workers fight Ford liars

An inspiring response to economic destruction:

Occupy! Fighting for jobs at Visteon plants

The leader of the attempted occupation of the Visteon plant at Basildon (component supplier to Ford) speaks to Socialist Appeal. After the ending of the occupation, the workers have maintained a twenty-four hour picket on the factory. Belfast and Enfield remain occupied.
I was the former deputy convenor at Basildon up to 2003. I am affected personally by the threatened closure. I, like other pension holders, find my pension is in receivership with the government. It was our duty to come here in solidarity with the present workforce and with the former workers and pension holders.  We arrived here at 10am on the day after closure was announced. There was divided opinion as to whether to occupy. The advice from the union (Unite) was that occupation would be illegal.
We then took a vote on whether to ignore that advice. Two dozen of us voted to ignore the advice and occupy. I led the occupation through a back gate. We got in completely unhindered. We occupied the plant from 10 onwards, conducting radio interviews and generating publicity for the occupation.  When we were discussing at the gates at 10am against the argument that occupation would be illegal, I argued that if the Chartists hadn’t committed illegal acts we wouldn’t have universal suffrage; that if the Tolpuddle Martyrs hadn’t broken the law and been transported, then we wouldn’t have a trade union movement; and if the suffragettes hadn’t fought the law, women wouldn’t have the vote.  It is better to break the law than break the poor, as the slogan from Poplar Council in the 1920s reminds us.
With the smallness of our numbers, there was a build up of police during the course of the day. There were about 120 police in riot gear, with police dogs barking and a lot of intimidation. They were walking through the factory and peering into the board room, which we had occupied. A police negotiator turned up and told us we’d all be arrested. Five of the 24 decided to go up on the roof, as had happened at Enfield, where they had 80 on the roof. The roof here was unsafe and that didn’t give us confidence, and what with the smallness of our numbers and concern about being arrested, we voted to end the occupation. So we walked out in a dignified manner to tremendous applause.
Although the occupation didn’t succeed, it gave our cause tremendous publicity. We were having discussions throughout the day with the workers while we were occupying. We were discussing the reasons for the collapse and the question of the whole capitalist system, which has caused the crisis.  Waterford
In Belfast the police hadn’t been near the plant. The factory is in the Falls Road and they’d made no attempt to interfere. At Enfield they got a court order, an injunction, against the occupation. However the injunction had a technical mistake in it, so the occupation continued. The whole question of the occupation was inspired by the occupation of Waterford Glass in the South of Ireland. There have been massive demonstrations in Dublin, and movement in unprecedented numbers throughout Ireland. The idea of occupation spread to Belfast and from there to Enfield and to Basildon, where we have had a partial success. The occupations have been an inspiration to all workers.
The whole idea of occupation came from tactics used by the labour movement in France and also in the USA. General Motors at Flint, Michigan was occupied in the 1930s. There were sit-down protests to establish trade unions at Flint. Workers draw inspiration from other movements. This could be repeated on a large scale. The lessons have been carried from Waterford to Belfast and then to Enfield and Basildon. The tradition of occupation has started in Britain and will  be firmly established.
The closure is not just because of the crisis but because of management taking advantage of the crisis. They are doing what they are doing to make a profit. They have deliberately run the company into the ground, and moved jobs to Slovakia where the wage differential with British wages is 7:1. This is a prime example of capitalists squeezing workers and trying to squeeze, cajole and drive down conditions.
A document has been retrieved from Companies House by the local MP. Visteon management set up a new company on January 28th.They have the deliberate aim to bankrupt us and then reopen as Visteon Automative Products, as a new company with the same machinery and a new workforce with lower wages and conditions. This is the ugly face of capitalism. There is only one way to end this profiteering. We have to occupy and take production of goods into our own hands. The solution is nationalisation under workers’ control and management. There must be production for need, not profit. In other words get rid of the capitalist system, which is rotten to the core.

Ford Liars!

Documents leaked to the Belfast Telegraph reveal that Ford made cast iron guarantees to Visteon workers that they would not lose out when the new components supplier was spun off in 2000.
“Accrued seniority and all existing terms and conditions, in particular pension entitlements, will be transferred to the new employment contracts,” the documents state.
“For the duration of their employment, terms and conditions will mirror Ford conditions (including discretionary pension in payment increases) in the respective countries (lifetime protection).”
The agreement also noted that before the full spinoff Ford employees working in Visteon activities were eligible to volunteer to be reassigned to Ford and that all collective agreements, including investment and employment security agreements, would be fully adopted by the new company.
Davy McMurray from Unite said the documents are proof Ford has ongoing responsibilities for its former employees.
“How they can say there were no guarantees is beyond me,” he said.
Ford asserts it is under no “legal or moral” obligation to help Visteon UK employees.

Another public service reform is possible!

Not the catchiest of slogans, that. But, you get the picture, hopefully.

Following on from her 2003 book, Reclaiming the State, which was about reforming the public sector through greater involvement by workers and the general public, Hillary Wainwright has a new book published by the socialist pressure group Compass and Unison, the trade union….

Public service reform … but not as we know it!

How do you save money, improve services, involve the unions and strengthen democratic control at the same time? In Newcastle, they have come up with an alternative to privatisation that achieves all these objectives, as Hilary Wainwright reports

The need for convincing alternatives to market-led politics is urgent, especially as the government continues to defer to the financial markets rather than challenge them. Lord Mandelson’s determination to part privatise Royal Mail is the most high profile rebuff to what should be a common sense moratorium on handing anything more to private business.

There are many unsung alternatives that people are creating as they refuse the idea that market-driven policies are the only way. Take the Royal Mail itself. Go behind the union-bashing and you’ll find that the Communication Workers Union and the management of Parcel Force, a subsidiary of Royal Mail, are constructing a model of industrial democracy that has turned this public organisation around from near collapse, showing that a democratically managed public sector company can provide better value for money than most of the private companies with which it now has to compete.

What if we systematised and drew broader lessons from such practical experiments?

A laboratory of public service change
I was fortunate enough last year to be able to study, from the inside, a self-consciously public process of public service reform. I squatted in an empty office in Newcastle’s civic centre for several months interviewing the staff, management and trade union activists responsible for a five-year programme of modernisation of the council’s IT and related services, and with it improvements and savings in the systems of collecting council tax, delivering benefits and making its services accessible to the public. What gave the process its special character was people’s pride in transforming these basic services as public servants, following a hard-fought struggle against their privatisation led by the city council branch of Unison.

‘It wasn’t about resistance to change,’ explains Tony Carr, who was the full-time Unison rep for the staff involved in these services. ‘It was about controlling your own destiny and not having someone come in and manage us through change.’

Such an explicit effort at publicly-led reform created an ideal laboratory to test and elaborate the hypothesis that democratisation rather than privatisation is the most effective and appropriate way to modernise and improve public services. In testing this, my intention was also to explore exactly what are the specific mechanisms of change driven by democratic public service goals rather than by profit maximisation.

Keeping it public: a strategic campaign
This explicitly and determinedly public-driven programme of internal reform was the outcome of a struggle between 2000 and 2002 to keep these strategic services public. At stake for a private company was a £250-million, 11-year contract. For the staff and the union, it was 650 jobs and the quality of strategic services on which other council departments depended and that could be a base for public-public partnerships in the region.

The strategy of the Newcastle city council branch of Unison to keep these services public had five essential elements, all of which laid down foundation stones for the democracy of the transformation process itself:

1. First, building on a tradition of participatory organisation, the priority was to involve members in every step of the campaign: from mass meetings and the election of reps when market testing was first announced, through industrial action against privatisation, to the reps directly scrutinising the private bid and contributing to the ‘in-house’ bid.

2. The second element in the strategy was to intervene in the procurement process and campaign for an effective in-house bid. ‘We had to recognise that even though we were against the whole concept of market testing, if we actually wanted to win an in-house bid we had to intervene at that level from the beginning,’ says Kenny Bell, then convenor of the Unison branch.

3. Third, campaigning meant reaching out to the public, building popular support for a general opposition to privatisation. ‘Our City Is Not For Sale,’ declared the banner leading several demonstrations of trade unions, community organisations and dissident Labour councillors.

4. Fourth, although the union filled a political vacuum in standing up against privatisation, Unison no more wanted to take the final decisions about who should deliver services than it wanted management to do so. The aim was not to substitute the union for council officers but to make the council genuinely ‘democracy’- led.

The pressure on the elected politicians eventually paid off, with the council passing a resolution insisting that alternatives to privatisation must be found.

5. Campaigning was little use unless it was grounded in strategic research. Key to the success of the Unison branch was the work of the Centre for Public Services, which in the course of 30 years of collaboration with trade unions and community organisations has honed a participatory method of work that shares skills and intellectual self-confidence. The CPS’s work had an impact on members’ consciousness as well as on trade union strategy. For Unison shop steward and housing benefits worker Lisa Marshall, collaboration with the CPS on investigating the bid of the private sector rival was a turning point: ‘As we looked over their bid, we found a lot that we knew could be done better. From then on I felt confident about what we were trying to do keeping it in-house.’

This leads into the final component of Unison branch thinking: the leadership treated their members as skilled people who cared about their work. Josie Bird chairs the branch: ‘We recognise that our members want to provide a service. It’s not a romantic idea that they live to work. No, they work to live – but it does matter that it’s a public service that they work for.’

The campaign was successful. The in-house bid drawn up by management in agreement with the unions was clearly better public value for public money.

In 2002, the then Labour-run council (since 2004 it has been Lib Dem) gave it the go ahead and borrowed £20 million to invest in it on the basis that savings would eventually more than pay back that investment. Jobs would go but without compulsory redundancies and with exceptional resources for training and redeployment.

Why union strength is vital to democratic reform
The union campaign laid the basis for real staff engagement in the process of change. The union was involved at every stage, from selecting new managers to discussing every significant change. ‘It’s our job to keep the management accountable, not so much to the staff but to the change’ was Kenny Bell’s description of the unions’ role.

‘The union keeps us honest.’ Ray Ward, the senior manager who led the changes, echoes the point from the management’s point of view. It’s a collaboration but the union has retained its power to act independently and to escalate a conflict if necessary. And the management knows this. The union wouldn’t be trusted by its members if it could not. The result is an experiment in industrial democracy with real benefits in terms of quality of services and the best allocation of public money.

By 2008, net savings of £28.5 million had been achieved, projected forward over an 11-year period. Every area of service has improved significantly, from the speed and accuracy of benefit payments to the high levels of satisfaction with the new call centre and the ‘one stop shops’ for all council services for which community groups have campaigned for years.

The role of the union in these achievements requires emphasis because although there is now widespread talk of the ‘empowerment’ of public service workers, there is scant recognition of the necessity of a well-organised and democratic trade union to achieve it.

A break with traditional managerial elitism
But it takes two to tango for change. And the nature of the City Service management team was important too. (City Service is the name of the new department that brought all the reformed services together.)

‘It’s the people, stupid’ has been the slogan of City Service. People’s capability and commitment are assets to be realised, not costs to be cut. This focus on people, on encouraging them, believing in them, has been systemic to the transformation. Management is about ‘coaching not commanding’. Initiative and responsibility has been pushed away from the centre, layers of supervision have been eliminated and replaced by support. The dynamism of the department lies in working across its different sections through project groups involving all those with a relevant angle on a problem to come together to resolve it.

All in all, City Service transformed the centre of its organisation from a traditional model of local government management into a hub from which management supports numerous, largely autonomous projects and activities. A new kind of public sector organisation has emerged, with a leadership role that is more about facilitation and developing a shared direction than it is about exercising control.

The kind of people who made up this leadership is revealing. Ray Ward for example, first chose to work for local government, aged 16, because it was ‘a good place to sleep’ after nightly gigs in a rock group! In 2003, many years later, with much experience as a senior manager but not forgetting his own early experiences, his goal was to reorganise Newcastle’s management systems to enable council staff to exercise their creativity in their day jobs, in the service of the public.

He recruited Kath Moore, who had transformed Newcastle’s school meals system through involving the cooks and kitchen staff. She saw one of her missions as to release the staff expertise buried beneath the hierarchies and procedural fetishism that is too common in local government – as in much of the public sector. City Service management’s ability genuinely to engage the staff in designing the changes, not simply accepting them, was a special key to their success.

A common vision
A precondition of this success of a decentralised system of management in an organisation facing huge challenges has been a clear common vision of high quality publicly-delivered public services. Every aspect of the transformation programme was geared to and judged by that goal. This shared goal provided a basis for motivation and common purpose, a mutually accepted reference point that avoided drift and helped to overcome conflict. It enabled the management and union leadership constantly to move the process forward.

The shared vision also served to dust off and bring to the fore a public service ethic that normally lies dormant or reduced to a matter of formal rhetoric. There was an active thinking through of what this meant in practice so that it became a practical force for change.

The political economy of democracy
There was a financial foundation to this revitalised public service culture. The goal was to maximise public benefit rather than to maximise profits. Again the determinedly public-led nature of the transformation process threw the distinction into sharp relief in every key relationship.

Consider relationships of scrutiny and democracy. Ray Ward sums up the difference: ‘The private company can say that as long as we are adding shareholder value, share prices are looking good, profits are looking good, we’re okay. We can’t do that. The level of scrutiny is much higher, quite rightly because it is public funds.’ If it is to be more than an empty or self-serving bureaucratic formula, the goal of ‘maximising public benefit’ rests on the importance of democracy as a live force, driving the efforts of everyone in a public organisation.

Until now, the focus on strengthening local democratic control over public money has focused on strengthening citizens’ participation. The Newcastle experience takes our thinking about democratisation further by opening up and democratising the normally hidden, taken-for-granted internal processes of managing public resources. As long as the internal organisations of the public sector are top-down, fragmented and semi-oblivious to the real potential of their staff, all the participatory democracy in the world can be soaked up and defused or blocked by hierarchical structures and bureaucratic procedure. The process of internal democratisation, therefore, is a matter of economic as well as political importance, creating the conditions for a public sector business model that lays the basis for a political economy of democracy.

When we get into the detail of such a new political economy, an important practical implication of maximising public benefit is minimising, if not eliminating, the amount of money spent on institutional relationships that are not intrinsic to the delivery of a service. This is one of the costs of outsourcing and privatisation.

Time and time again I asked Newcastle staff what it would have meant if this relationship (whether at the highest level between the council’s treasurer and City Service managers, or in the daily provision of a frontline service such as the call centre) had been with a private company instead of ‘in-house’. Repeatedly the answer came that it would have meant all sorts of extra charges – for making changes to respond to needs or problems not foreseen in the original contract with the private company –and a lot of time diverted to negotiating these charges and changes.

City Service did have a relationship with the private sector but it was only where the public sector did not have the capacity to do something itself – for example, with the procurement of the IT hardware needed for the modernisation programme. Here the relationship was very much on terms set by the public sector, including a ‘guaranteed maximum price’ contract to ensure there was no unpredicted overspend. Another aspect of the relationship being on public sector terms was the rigorous transfer of knowledge from the private company to public sector staff who worked with it. So often it is the other way round, with knowledge being privatised and re-presented as a profit-driven tender the next time round. Countering the depression

The service reforms in Newcastle’s illustrate in a modest but practical way how the public sector can have its own criteria and mechanisms for efficiency, quite distinct from goals of profit. This story provides evidence that, with a clear shared vision, an egalitarian and professional management, a strong union and workplace democracy, the public sector generally has the capacity to make itself a highly effective steward of public money. In particular it can realise its special asset of skilled staff committed to serve their fellow citizens. This is exactly the asset that Lord Mandelson’s plans will squander.

But this story is not relevant simply to the case against privatisation; it is also fundamental to an alternative economic strategy to counter the fast-moving economic descent into a depression. Publicly-led public service reform on the basis of the kind of principles exemplified in Newcastle lays the basis for creating new and useful jobs in the public sector throughout the UK – in building council housing, caring services, youth services, environmental services, ICT, strengthening the social economy and so on – it is not as though there is a lack of things that need doing!

Depressions lead to social devastation. One foundation stone of a new, more humane political economy should be the expansion of democratically reformed public sector.

For more detail on the Newcastle experience, see Public Service Reform … But Not As We Know It, published by Unison and Compass. Available from Red Pepper at a special price of £5 or free when you subscribe for £20.