30 March 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: Should councils be buying up so much commercial property?
Investing in commercial property seems like a good wheeze when times are good but can turn sour.
The main problem, though, is the baleful effect of commercialisation of life generally – it reduces everything to matters of business, of profit and loss. Our communal life should not be monetised, and making councils function as investment companies pushes us in that direction.
The slashing of central government support for local government means that all councils have to cast around for other sources of income. For the past decade this country has been suffering under austerity imposed by a succession of right wing governments for whom this is a win-win strategy. They achieve their aim of shrinking the public sector and at the same time expanding the private. Making councils behave as commercial investors increases the impact of this and perpetuates a mindset that can only see things in terms of a balance sheet.
The nub of the attitude is the right wing elite’s dislike of the public sector. Tax, on this view, is bad, because it looks too much like re-distribution, taking from the (supposedly deserving) rich and giving to the (supposedly un-deserving) poor. Profits from commercial activities, on the other hand, are somehow acceptable because in the right wing universe, that is how money ‘should’ be made.
The Green Party emphatically reject this. Our public authorities should be publicly funded. We don’t want our communities run according to the profit motive. More than this, the steps we need to take to address the Climate Emergency require that we act together for the good of all. That needs a healthy and vibrant public sector. Market based solutions simply aren’t going to work in time.
Our response was written by Jeremy Caddick. Jeremy is your Green Party parliamentary candidate for Cambridge in the event of a snap general election. He is a local campaigner and the Dean of one of Cambridge's colleges.