Something truly arrogant about leaving the voting public completely out of the biggest public service decision in generation to then laud your bid to become mayor as a “genuine exercise in democracy”. Only Salford City Council out of the ten GM local authorities wanted to put the decision to have a mayor and ultimately devolution to the public vote. In true Labour tradition Andy Burnham comes to Oldham to set out his mayoral vision for Greater Manchester and Oldham choosing to avoid tax paying voters in favour of a sanitised selective audience who he invites to inform policy. Are the captive audience at university campus Oldham supposed to take example from his ethos in their future professions, apply for every high profile job in central and local government until you get one. In this scenario we would see an exodus of skilled people away from Oldham as they choose to move on rather than persevere, as a matter of fact that is what people already do. So Andy gis a job Burnham rolled out his well publicised and recycled five point plan just as he rolled out his five point plan for Labour in 2015 when defeated by Jeremy Corbyn:
- Identifying the specific sectors which will drive the future prosperity of Greater Manchester and making them an explicit priority.
- Nurturing the development of GM-wide clusters around those industries, inviting universities, businesses big and small, colleges and other public bodies to join.
- Develop public-private funding streams to support the development of those clusters, working with local councils and other funding agencies.
- Ensure that Greater Manchester leads a much-needed revolution in technical education, starting with the establishment of a UCAS-style system of apprenticeships;
- Build a business culture in all communities of Greater Manchester with a new scheme to fund start-up units in schools to be made available to ex-students.
A lot of wishful thinking and identifying mechanisms that should have already been in place for years but absolutely no substance. How can you have a GM wide cluster? By its very nature a cluster cannot encompass ten local authority boundaries. I will identify, I will develop and support, I will nurture, I will build a business culture in all communities. If your selling a vision of Greater Manchester as a whole it’s probably not best to hint at community specific solutions. Oldham is a disjointed borough where women can and do suffer from culturally maintained inequality and misogyny. If you cannot tackle these inherent prejudices for fear of losing votes then you should not have any local government job.
Oldham suffers from decades of Labour party local control which has built a culture of unaccountability, entitlement, dependency, non-contribution and external blame. Oldham does not have the skills because it did not need the skills not even basic language skills. Labour took the social security system and turned it into an income stream rather than a safety net. Official EU eurostat figures released in 2014 show that ‘poor’ families in the UK paid less in taxes than people resident in every member state of the EU other than Ireland & Malta. Indeed one need only take a look at Oldham Council’s workingXtra scheme for social housing tenants. This gave tenancy priority to people working, volunteering or caring for others. The working element only needed one person per household to be working and they only needed to be working sixteen hours. This works wonders for reducing non-working household statistics and hides the scale of underlying tax credit, housing benefit and other payments dished out in Oldham. Tax credits cost over £170 million a year in Oldham and Greater Manchester pays over £1 billion in working tax credits annually. People without children, not entitled to tax credits, bear the brunt of suppressed pay and lack of career choices which results from such high localised benefit levels. It is these so called supplementary benefits that have fueled the unsustainable mass unskilled migration from the poorest countries in the EU to Oldham in recent years with families of four to eight children being the norm. Andy Burnham offers no solutions nor details of how he will provide up-skilled employment to areas where 35% of the population are children. At the last election Labour wanted to increase tax credit payments not reduce dependency, rewarding high fertility is a national outrage and it is not mirrored in any other country.
By revealing his democratic vision to the young and the Labour party faithful Mr Burnham can gloss over and avoid questions on the undemocratic devolution process where local politicians decided not to give taxpayer’s a vote. It is also worth noting that despite the huge expansion of the city of Manchester which has the quickest growing population in the UK, between 2005 and 2015 they only managed to increase taxes collected by 1%. Combine this economic failure with an inept Labour Oldham where vast demographics have been allowed to feign contribution but in reality take thousands annually directly from the tax system for their entire working lives and you have a recipe for industrial scale social disaster.
Recent socialist attempts to overturn every democratic outcome that does not suit their purposes belies a return to their communist origins. The illusion of democratic choice as in the Greater Manchester mayor vote is akin to being given a death sentence and then being allowed to select your own executioner. Oldham’s position in this new local order will undoubtedly be to supply menial workers to Port Salford, Manchester airport, Trafford Park and Logistics North.