Britain is dying – action is needed now

August 22nd, 2009

As I walk about the small town in the South Wales valleys that I now call home, I sometimes reflect on how vibrant and alive this place once was. I am not going back too far with my memories, but today the town is dying.

When I first came here to Blaenavon there was a butcher, a baker, a shop that sold all manner of things including the candlesticks, a number of florists, newsagents, hairdressers, greengrocers selling fresh fruit & veg, a plethora of book shops, cafe’s ranging from a greasy Joes to a bohemian meeting place. There was manned Police Station, a Fire Station, 3 petrol stations, 20 public houses, 2 Post Offices, a swimming and sports complex and a population of around 6,500 who had painfully recovered economically from the closure of the mining industry a decade earlier.

In its day it was much larger, with a peak in population in 1921 of 12,500 supporting the string of mines that were present on both sides of the valley, the finest steel works in Britain and an Iron works that today stands in ruins and is supported by Heritage funds as a museum. The largest of the mines, Big Pit, still remains, although unproductive as it is now open to the public as a living museum.

Today however, after 12 years of Labour interference and mis-management in the Economy and the daily lives of everyone who lives here, the town is dying. The Butcher sold up, the baker has gone, the shop that sells everything now sells very little, the book shops are all gone, so are the cafes. The Police station is closed after an experiment to only have it open 2 hours a day, the Fire Station is part time, only 1 petrol station remains, 11 of the 20 pubs are gone, 1 of the post offices has been up for sale for over a year, the Swimming pool originally built with miners funds has been torn down, sold to developers (who intend to build a new police station?) and an increasingly confused population wondering where their next job and income is going to come from.

Pushing them further are the regulations, the interference in their lives, the touring DVLA vans with the ANPR camera, the host of newly installed CCTV poles, the mass of double yellow lines, the cut back in bus services, seeing Heritage grants diverted elsewhere, seeing their public buildings sold to developers, lack of toleration for any minor infraction of the rules, a lack of police presence.

The town itself has for many years been used as a training ground by the utilities companies, with more test holes dug and road patches laid here than anywhere else I have ever seen. Ex miners and their families had retrained as carpenters, electricians, builders, window fitters as they followed government advice and gained work from the rise of the social housing trusts that sprang up in surrounding towns and villages, that work is now dry as the funds are no longer flowing. The majority of those who still work are in public sector jobs or with companies that support the public sector.

That the people of this town have a work ethic goes without saying, given the opportunities they are hard working, given the opportunities they are adventurous as they have proven in rebuilding their lives after the mine closures, but yet again the rug is being pulled from beneath them by the very politicians who say they support them. It is soul destroying to see a town where nearly 40% of the population is on benefits of one kind or another sinking slowly because the disposable incomes have gone, and over the past 10 years the entire local economy has become dependent on government work or companies that provide services to local government or quangos, even then there is only enough to survive the daily payouts.

This situation is not unique to the one place where I live, it is repeated in town after town right across the UK, consequently to look from the bottom up we can see this country dying on its feet. That vital element in the recovery of any economy, the sustainable element, disposable income, has either gone or is diminished to such a level that everything begins to grind to a halt.

The Libertarian Party sees the recovery in a very different light to the other political parties. We do not see that bailing out banks and factories with taxpayer funds is either desirable or sustainable, nor is the latest Conservative idea of community work for benefits (pure communitarian not conservative). We do not believe that central and local government should be the only employers, further increasing the burden on taxpayers to sustain this huge monolithic spending machine.

People here do not want more state involvement, they do not want more debt through bank loans to survive, and the few businesses that are left want to be able to survive and grow on profits, not bank loans, and to do this they need customers.

Libertarians want to see people who are working keep their earnings, not working on half pay, giving them the disposable income to spend in the Butchers, the bakers, the candlestick shop, the pubs and all the other shops in the area. We know that this will mean replacement and replenishment, providing orders and growth to the factories and support businesses, who in turn will need to order and buy more raw materials. This is how the local, and in turn the national economy will recover.

In order to do that, we have proposed along with major reforms in monetary and fiscal policy, a range of far reaching manifesto items not least of which is the initial reduction and then elimination of income tax, not fiddling around the edges of tax policy, but scrapping it altogether. Putting money back into the powerhouse of any economic strategy, purchasing power.

In order that businesses can rise to this challenge, and survive afterwards we also propose scrapping many of the regulatory controls that currently restrict both the opening of new business and the sustainability of SME’s. A huge reduction in Corporation Tax, setting it at a 10% flat rate and including a commitment to investigate the possibility of a 5 year exemption from Corporation Tax for start-ups (not deferment, an exemption).

We know that 10 factories paying the headline rate of corporation tax of 28% will not sustain the economy of this area, but 50 factories paying 10% will. Growth will be self sustaining as more people enter the workplace to support that growth, there will be more disposable income being spent, spurring even more factories and business to support and service that spending. The best bit however is that it can be done without reliance on bank lending, as it will be real money flowing up the chain, real profits creating that growth.

When growth is based on turnover in this way, taxation receipts will actually rise through volume, rather than decrease as it is at present by taking an ever bigger percentage of a diminishing pie, allowing everyone to gain and remove the need for government to borrow.The current level of spending by Government cannot continue, and the Conservative and LibDems are already to committed to either maintain or increase spending in many areas. This is unsustainable. Only today the PSBR (Public Sector Borrowing Requirement) has been released for July. In one month alone government has overspent and had to borrow the unsightly sum of £8.016 billion. That means the government was over-spending by more than £258 million per day last month, which is living beyond our collective means by more than £10 million an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (H/T Guido) This means that the productive parts of our economy can no longer support such a huge government, the overspending and the restrictive regulations. (To give an example of how desperate these regulations have become, read this, punishment for attempting self help)

I look forward to the day when with the help of the Libertarian Party this small town that I live in can enjoy once again the vibrancy that it once knew, where it and its inhabitants can again be proud and self sustaining and above all self regulating as we diminish the power of the state to interfere and control.


The Libertarian Party (UK)

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