Wigan Borough People’s Charter – Discussion Forum

At our launch meeting we agreed to schedule a discussion on a revised ‘Wigan Borough People’s Charter’ which it is hoped might form the basis of both a common ‘Left’ local election Manifesto in the May 2012 elections and provide the framework for ongoing joint campaigning work across the Borough, alongside the national ‘People’s Charter’, by all those who claim to be ‘of the Left’.

Here is the last draft of it. Please feel free to pass comment on it and to suggest revisions of it. Also to comment on other people’s comments and proposals.

* No to cuts in our Council or other local public sector services. No to school closures and private business sponsored ‘Academies’, PFI Mega Schools or similar proposals which seek to hive off part or all of our public services to the private sector, and/or in the case of PFI, put us in hock to private companies, who will charge us exorbitant fees for decades to come. Defend our Fire Service! Defend the NHS! Defend Royal Mail!

* No to cuts in Council jobs and making local authority and other public sector workers work more for the same or less! Increase the minimum wage. For jobs and decent living standards for all!

* For a major increase in state & municipal investment in the Wigan area to help defend existing jobs & to create new ones. Rather than a guided busway few want, we support the call for a new heavy rail link for Leigh, Tyldesley and Mosley Common to Manchester and Liverpool, as well as for a new rail station in Golborne.

* Stop the asset-stripping/selling-off of Council owned land and property to the private sector. Build 15,000 new ‘affordable’, ‘carbon neutral’ Council-owned homes across the Borough to help tackle the growing problem of homelessness on the one hand, and to help get local construction workers back in to work on the other. Also to help reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming and to fight the growing threat of climate change which threatens us all.

* Additionally, to help tackle the threat of climate change, increasing traffic congestion, and to create jobs and put money back into ordinary people’s pockets, we call for an improved and expanded public transport system that is fully integrated, publicly owned and free at the point of use. All these things to be paid for out of system of progressive taxation which sees the banks, big corporations and the rich generally pay the most and the poorest pay nothing.

* End the so-called ‘arms-length’ management of our publicly owned Housing Stock. Abolish Wigan & Leigh Housing Ltd and restore the responsibility for the management of the Borough’s Council Homes directly to the Council, or alternatively to a new body or bodies, elected by and accountable to local people.

* Improve our existing GP surgeries, clinics and NHS facilities. Stop the huge waste of money on “Super-Clinics’ few want, and which result in most patients having to travel farther to access their GP. Restore the A+E unit at Leigh Infirmary. Fight the closure of Wrightington Hospital or any other local hospital or NHS facility. Fight the hiving off of the NHS to the private sector.

* For real local democracy not the current sham that passes itself off as such. For the introduction of proportional representation in all local and national elections and the right of re-call of all elected officials, so that Councillors and MP’s, if necessary can be removed from office in between elections. MP’s also to be paid no more than the average wage of their constituents plus reasonable out of pocket expenses. All current Councillors allowances to be frozen. All additional amounts paid to Council Cabinet members and Committee Chairs to be axed under current circumstances along with all other profligate spending by the Council.

* We say “Power to the People!” Devolve power and responsibility downwards, give people the right to run and administer their own affairs in their own communities via the establishment of more town or parish councils.

* For the abolition of the remote, overly large current Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council set up and its replacement with two smaller ‘slimmed down’ local authorities, one centred on Leigh in the east of the current borough, and one around Wigan in the west.

We are wanting to involve everyone in the Wigan Borough prepared to stand up and fight, in what we are seeking to do, in the process of which we hope to re-vitalise our grassroots organisations, including our union branches, local community organisations and local trades council.

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5 Responses to Wigan Borough People’s Charter – Discussion Forum

  1. Paul Beachcroft says:

    Yep I think the document needs extending to include references to actively working towards the establishment of community or neighbourhood based energy co-operatives, land sharing and other green initiatives that will benefit local people both environmentally and financially. Also I think we need something in it around the defence of the ‘greenbelt’ and opposition to the usual types of unsustainable and multi-national sponsored building and energy exploiting developments that we continue to see within the local and wider community. No to a continued reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels, no to fracking and similar environmentally damaging energy schemes etc….

  2. Stephen Hall says:

    I agree Paul. I think we can work on some appropriate wording and then add the lot to the Charter.

  3. I think the charter needs to include more than a narrow Wigan dimension, particularly given the current international crisis of capitalism at the financial level and the developing one at an economic level. How about including something along the lines of those below which are extracts from a recent article. ‘Currencies not the Problem’ at critical-mass.net..

    1. Cancellation of the ‘Odious’ State Debts.

    For the last 50 years, governmental debt in all countries, particularly in Europe and North America, has been rising, whilst income has been falling. As businesses left Europe and North America for low-wage countries, unemployment rose and income tax-payments fell. This economic fact was not created by the working people of Europe and North America, nor was it caused by the denomination of the currency. The crisis we all face is a crisis of the entire system and therefore, as noted above, cannot be cured by changing the name of the currency or by bailing out bankers and bond-holders. The growing difference between the shrinking amount of state income and growing state expenditure has been filled by government borrowing from the issue of government ‘bonds‘. These ‘bonds’ much of them used to fuel immoral, if not illegal wars, and weapons manufacture amount to ‘odious debts’ that were not democratically sanctioned by their respective citizens. For this reason, they should be rejected and cancelled by the populations of Europe and North America as part of their anti-austerity campaigns. What really needs ‘saving’ are the jobs and welfare of millions of ordinary citizens. Rejection and cancellation of the state debts will eliminate the need for austerity and free up resources for alternative employment projects.

    2. The abolition of financial speculation.

    It is not difficult to demonstrate, in clear and concise terms, that a considerable amount of the present problem has been caused by the existence of financial speculation and the creation of fictitious capital. It is very much in the public domain that the collapse of the banking system and its bail out in 2008, was as a result of financial speculation in the area of ’toxic mortgages’ packaged within the US and European derivatives markets. This entire industry is – even in normal times – an increasingly parasitic outgrowth fastening onto the production and exchange of goods and services. Over the last two decades it has mushroomed uncontrollably. This sector represents the economic equivalent of an invasive cancer continually eating away at a healthy body until a critical juncture arrives and the entire body finally collapses, having been destroyed from within. That juncture has again arisen and the political surgery necessary to campaign for is the complete removal of this damaging cancerous growth. Ending financial speculation will ensure that any further or future economic activity will not be distorted or jeopardised.

    3. The establishment of Popular Democracy.

    It is clear, throughout the entire world, that the existing forms of democracy are a complete sham. Citizens are at best allowed to vote freely once every few years, for who shall staff the Senates, Parliaments or Congresses. At worst their votes are influenced by big money, tall tales or rigged by despots. No citizen gets a say in what is spent of their tax-money, nor how it is spent or where it is spent. All the important decisions effecting the livelihood, welfare and well-being of millions upon millions of people are taken by a small coterie or political oligarchy of elite agents with economic and social ties to those with the largest amounts of wealth. The political system is thoroughly corrupt and systemically corruptible. Changing the ‘faces’ that staff it, changes nothing substantially. It is the political system itself which needs changing. A form of popular democracy such as the local and national People’s Assemblies which successfully emerged for a time in Argentina needs to be campaigned for, created and sustained. A more popular form of democracy, will ensure that any future developments in any field will have to have the backing of the majority.

    4. The defence and democratisation of Public Services.

    High quality, well staffed public services are essential to the well-being of any developed community. Public services in general are not a drain on social productivity as is often made out. Indeed many, such as education, health, sanitation, leisure services, libraries etc., add to the productivity as well as the efficiency of economic life and the pleasures of social life. The usefulness, responsiveness and value of public services can be improved if they are made less hierarchical, more egalitarian, more client focussed and jointly accountable to their employees and clients. The levels of staffing, remuneration, pensions and entitlements for ordinary should become the base line for all forms of employment. The ‘right to work’ is supposed to be enshrined in international law and should therefore be enforced. In addition, all human beings who work should be entitled to decent living standards and security in old age. The intellectual and practical defence of re-vitalised, democratised public services and the establishment of egalitarian co-operatives is the only way to ensure these rights and should be part of any anti-austerity and pro-employment campaign.

    5. Unity: Overcoming divisions.

    It is obvious that the powers that be, who wish only to retain the existing system and continue to profit from it, will wish not only to distract, but also to divide. The existing divisive ideologies of superiority, such as those based on; race, nation, gender, religion or political sect, therefore need to be combated. Working people of all ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations or political persuasions have more in common than these secondary differences, which should be respected, but not be predominant. One axis of a divisive strategy will be to play upon, and actively promote divisions based upon these differences. Sectarianism, both religious and political are particular dangers to any unified campaign. And only a unified campaign has any real chance of success. For this reason, considerable efforts will have to be made to both combat the ideologies and to include authentic, grass-roots representatives of various sections within any overall campaign. Certain people, will assume they have superior qualities which warrant them greater access to decision-making and/or leadership positions. This should be guarded against for at least three reasons. First, it will alienate many potential supporters. Secondly, one or two people’s intelligence cannot be as ultimately effective – on any question – as that brought to bear by larger numbers. Thirdly, a movement accustomed to relying on established leaders is easily misled or rendered helpless with the leaders possible removal. For these reasons the utmost democracy should be practiced at all levels in the structure of any emerging campaign.

    R. Ratcliffe (October 2011.)

  4. Stephen Hall says:

    Hi Roy, I think we would all agree with you that we need to have policies that go beyond Wigan and indeed Britain. I think as a group we are working consciously towards that. In the first instance however, we decided to adopt The People’s Charter as our national platform, and as our proposed basis for a national re-alignment of those on the Left wanting to work consistently together, including at the elections.

    The People’s Charter is some way off a ‘full-bloodied’ Green Socialist programme to tackle the crises we are facing, or as detailed as what you have written concerning the few issues you have above. The national campaign around it also suffers from a number of deficiencies and problems, not least sectarianism yet again, however, it is the only platform, that we are aware of anyway, that everyone on the Left (both inside and outside of the Labour Party) has endorsed. It is also the only national platform which has not only won widespread official union support, but is also official TUC policy as well. If building the fight back against the Government’s and employers’ offensive, along with fighting for a Government that might actually implement the Charter isn’t the basis for some form of practical unity on the Left, then I really don’t know what is.

    Our calling and fighting for a People’s Coalition around the whole of it, or even aspects of it, in opposition to the Tory/Lib-Dem Coalition of the Bankers and ultra-rich, and our proposing it as the basis of broad green-socialist-left alliance at the elections, provides us with the possibility of engaging not only with those ‘leaders’ and forces on the Left of the unions and the Labour Party in the here and now, and with those looking towards these forces to take the lead in the unfolding struggles, but also to potentially put substantial pressure on them for the entire ahead of us. Further, it also allows us to engage with those to the Left of Labour, including the Green Party, around TUSC and anyone else serious about forging a genuinely broad, democratic and pluralist political alternative to Labour at the elections, on a more ongoing basis, and for whom in most cases the national People’s Charter will be merely a starting point.

    The bureaucracy of the TUC and most of the unions will be against fighting for the Charter on any level, so will Labour’s front bench, but it is TUC policy and perhaps that of a majority of the unions affiliated to the Labour Party, so we might want to ask why this is so? There’d maybe no need for us to stand in any elections either, if Labour was itself fully committed to implementing the Charter in the interests of the mass of the people should it be returned to office, rather than instead wanting to make us ordinary folk foot the bill for the financial, political, socio-economic, and growing environmental crises we are facing, simply over a longer period than the Tories and the Lib-Dems would.

    Whilst the concrete demands of the People’s Charter don’t go anywhere near as we might want them to, they along with the basic principles of the Charter (see: http://www.thepeoplescharter.org/index.php/charter-principles) are nevertheless incompatible with the continuance of Capitalism under present conditions, and any serious fight for them therefore would have to grow over into a fight to overthrow of Capitalism regardless of its limitations, for the mass of people to come out of the struggle victorious, something we would obviously want to prepare them for the eventuality of beforehand.

    From the standpoint of promoting Left unity it also struck us, that a good starting point would be something the Left, allegedly, ALL agree on already, rather our advancing yet another national Charter or programme which they likely won’t for one reason or another. If we all already agree with it, then surely that means there’s no need for months of long-winded debates and endless wrangling on what we should all unite on the basis of. All we need to do is agree to do it as soon as practically possible, and get on with collectively fighting for it as a People’s solution to the Capitalist crisis – the basis of a People’s Government that will serve the interests of the mass of the people rather than being one subservient to Capitalism! For those outside the Labour Party, especially at the elections, that will likely more often than not mean including by standing against Labour candidates who don’t support the Charter on a tactically astute basis.

    A consistent fight for the demands and principles of the People’s Charter has a double edge, in that it might not only help to better ‘expose’ our so-called official ‘moderate’ and ‘right-wing’ TU and Labour Party leaders as increasingly supporters of the existing order, but also demonstrate to everyone on the Left, as well as hopefully broader new layers that will emerge as the struggle unfolds, who is, and who isn’t serious about Left unity in practice, as well as with regards to their support for the Charter or indeed anything else.

    Didn’t Marx also in a letter to LaSalle that “One step of real progress is better than a hundred programmes”.

    If someone can come up with a better proposal for a practical basis for Left and a wider ‘People’s unity’, then I think we’re all for listening. Sadly, I find many on the Left want to duck or alternatively justify why they are all for unity in words and on paper, but generally promote the opposite in practice – the result of a universal fear I often find, of an alien middle class mentality influenced and inflicted minority of the existing Left, of the likely more genuinely proletarian majority class view which might prevail were they ever to be part of a much broader than themselves democratic, pluralist and grassroots driven movement, alliance, coalition or party of, by and for the mass of the people. As events unfold they will surely be increasingly seen as being part of the problem rather than part of the solution!

    As events unfold, also more and more will the mass of the people come to understand what actually needs doing.

  5. Stephen Hall says:

    Reblogged this on Wigan Borough Green Socialists and commented:

    Don’t forget to give us your views on our proposed platform for a unified Left of Labour slate at the May 2012 local elections. If you fancy standing as a candidate, then you should get in touch a.s.a.p.

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