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Andrew Price

Local Councils

Where the Money Goes

(May 1980)

From Militant, No. 504, 23 May 1980, p. 7.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The estimates that the Cardiff City Council published a few months back provide an insight into the grip that money lenders can have on one relatively small local authority.

In 1979 in Cardiff, for example, 24,314 house-holders paid £5,473,215 worth of rent into the funds of the City Council.

Yet £7,533,746 was paid back in debt charges; i.e. the interest paid back on the money borrowed to build the houses in the first place.

Furthermore the city treasurer estimates that in 1981 the total rents collected will be just over £7.5 million, but interest repayments will have shot up to over £11.5 million. So much for the subsidised council tenant.

In 1979 all of the rents paid in Cardiff and almost all of the government subsidy (which of course comes from taxes levied on working people) were swallowed up in interest repayments to the financial parasites.

Of course the exploitation does not end with housing. The same report shows that rate-payers in Cardiff are still paying interest on the money borrowed to build the Guildford Crescent Baths, first erected during the reign of Queen Victoria!

In the Wales Empire poll built to cater for the holding of the Empire Games in Cardiff in the 1950s, interest repayments were almost as high as the wages paid to the workers who run the biggest swimming pool in Wales.

After years of fighting by local Labour councillors, Ely, the second largest council estate in the city was recently granted a leisure centre, which has proved to be a very well supported amenity.

Again the city treasurer reports that interest repayments were £10,000 greater than the takings in the centre in 1979.

The terrible bus service in Cardiff with its astronomical fares lost £96,000 in 1979. Hardly surprising when £350,571 was paid back to the money lenders. Just as a parting shot the money lenders took over £15,000 in 1979 on the money borrowed for the disposal of the dead in Cardiff.

Readers of the Militant will need little reminding of the events of the last year’s ‘Winter of Discontent’. Right wing Labour ministers like Owen and Ennals then took time off from praising the virtues of crossing picket lines to explain to low paid council workers that there was no money in the kitty to pay them a living wage.

Little wonder that this is the case when money lenders are robbing council left, right and centre.

And it is Labour councils and working class areas that face the greatest burden in this place of exploitation. It is precisely run down working class areas where the lowest amount of money can be raised on rates, and the greatest amount of money needs to be spent.

So Labour councils have no alternative under the present system than to go cap in hand to the financiers who bleed them white.

Instead of bowing to the dictates of Heseltine and his well oiled Tory pals and cutting services on increasing rates and rents, the labour movement should boldly declare that the next Labour government will say enough is enough and cancel all local authority debts to the money-lenders.

Finally it should be spelt out what socialist policies would mean in practice. The nationalisation of financial institutions with direct government finances to local authorities would remove once and for all the crippling burden of interest repayments.

This in turn would lead to a big reduction in rents and rates, better schools, free public transport and leisure amenities at a price people could afford. So much for the right wing argument that socialist policies would lose Labour votes.

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Last updated: 14 November 2016