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National debt and deficit leaves Southend to do it for ourselves

Much of the blame for the current local government fiasco that is unfolding in Southend is blamed on severe cuts to government grants that have taken place over the last decade.

This is a valid argument, so I thought I’d take some time to look at national government finances to see why this is so.

Are they holding back on us?

Are they holding treasures and refusing to share them out?

Well, no - it turns out we’re unimaginably broke.

We are spending £billions more than we have to keep the country going and we’re in £trillions of debt costing hundreds of billions.

The current national situation is so bad that you’d almost think it was done on purpose, as it is hard to imagine this result being a conscious strategy.

The UK generates immense riches, £515.9 billion in the last quarter alone according to the ONS, but still there is no money left.

Southend itself has a significant budget, yet we are being consulted over closing six family centres and cuts to dementia services.

Nothing makes sense, but absolute conclusions can be drawn. 

There are people in powerful positions, both in front and behind the scenes, who are crippling our country.  It doesn’t really matter for what reasons - whether nefarious or not.  It doesn’t matter whether they are Tory, Labour, or reside somewhere in the civil service or abroad. It doesn’t even matter if there are people unknown to us who are pulling the strings from behind the curtain.  The only thing that matters is the country is suffering.

Whoever is behind it, be it institutions or individuals or both, they have been overstepping the mark for decades, but now we can’t even get our bins collected, our grass cut or see a GP, people normally too busy battling through their own lives to think about politics, are seeing the results outside their doors and in front of their noses affecting the way they live day to day.

Speak to anyone and no one is satisfied and they are getting restless that no one is doing anything about it.

Yes, the Tories have monumentally turned everything they’ve touched to stone, but it goes far beyond them.  Labour can’t turn it around.  The people in modern Labour don’t know how to generate wealth - only how to reach into pockets.

Here in Southend, Labour were about to charge people to park in our parks; evict JazzUk; cut the grass once a year under ‘re-wilding’, charge to go to the loo; and increase council tax, fees and parking charges by between 5% and 10%.

And yet, in its simplest form, the country and our city should be easy to run.  Spend only what you’ve got and invest only in what will create wealth without going into unmanageable debt.  Look after those without, and ensure those ‘with’ continue to put money back into the economy to ensure growth. All the while protecting the environment and maintaining great public services in health, housing and protection.

Instead, those in power, through waste, corruption and incompetence, have accomplished a general government gross debt of £2,537,000,000,000 (£2.5 trillion) equivalent to 100.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). And in the last quarter alone have blown the budget by £24bn, equivalent to 3.8% of GDP.  It has been forecast that the Treasury will spend £110bn on debt interest in 2023 - the highest in the developed world.

Any solutions?

I think it unlikely there is anyone who can pull our country back from the financial abyss, so it seems we must go it alone somewhat, as central government grants continue to stagnate.  Whilst we must pursue relentlessly as many grants as we can get, we cannot simply put our hands out and say we deserve more just because we have seen a reduction of 90% over the decade - the money is long gone.

Southend might be luckier than others because the Tories may wish to give us more knowing they can win the two parliamentary seats, but unless the national financial situation changes by some miracle, we are a little bit on our own.

Yet still, we cannot allow ourselves the excuse to cut services, jobs and we must avoid bankruptcy at all costs.  We must work around these inept people at the national level and find our own solutions.

Pay, Volunteering and thousands more

As I have previously said, cutting the pay at the top of the council will save between £5m to £10m whichever way you organise the numbers.  We can only pay what we can afford and so I reiterate the importance for a pay review (see:

And then we must look to volunteering, civic pride and civic duty.

We need to inspire and organise Southend’s almost 200,000 residents to volunteer anywhere from an hour a week to anything more to the areas we will never be able to pay for. 

The volunteering community are pivotal for the survival of many thousands of people already, but just think what we could do with millions of extra hours?  I am not talking about replacing people, only work that is additional, but it would be game-changing.

Of course the question is why should we? We pay enough so we should already get these services. But to repeat: We are £2.5 trillion in debt. Our deficit was £24 billion last quarter. We will be paying £110 billion in interest payments. Southend has a deficit of £10m and they are consulting on closing dementia services and family centres.

I am afraid that the only way we can solve this is by doing by ourselves.  (See pledge 36 in our manifesto: People like our own Lee Clark and many others lead the way in giving to Southend. It can be done, we just need some leaders to pull it all together.

Having said all that, there will be thousands of ideas from Southend residents that could help, and now more than ever, is the time to get involved! No one has the monopoly on great ideas and you may be sitting on a few that might just change the game!

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Brian Ayling
Brian Ayling
27 dic 2023

The truth hurts but we know millions suffer while Government senior employees enjoy benefits, salaries and parachute payments beyond imagination. The system is broken but, at least, one person, is prepared to denounce the awful mis-management of our Country. Power to the people.who support radical change.

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