The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has developed an interactive map showing that between 2014 and 2018, Cornwall Council sold off 349 spaces for more than £25,608,398.
Nationally, the figure is 12,000 public spaces disposed of by councils since 2014/15 amounting to of £9.1 billion from selling property.
These are assets that we the public once owned, some of which were donated by philanthropists with the express intention of contributing to the public good, not for private gain and certainly not for lucrative property development that only the well off can afford.
However don’t blame Cornwall Council!
The findings lay bare the spiralling impact of eight successive years of austerity, leaving services shut and buildings closed. Councils have been forced to take ever more desperate measures to stay in the black as their funding from central government has been cut by about 60% since 2010.
Quantitative Easing for Banks, austerity for the rest of us
The responsibility lies squarely with central government. And To those who will say that austerity was an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of the global financial crash and the need to tighten belts, they need to understand this:
Between 2011 and 2014, the Conservative government electronically created £445 billion of new money – over three times the annual NHS budget – and gave it to the banks. This was through a programme called Quantitative Easing or QE. Note that this was in addition to the estimated £500 billion bank bail-out package by a Labour government in 2008. The bail-out by the Labour government was later used by the Conservatives to wrongly blame Labour for ‘mismanagement of the economy’, even though this was a global banking crisis.
The Bank of England’s £450 Billion Quantitative Easing (or QE) programme between 2011-14 focused on buying back UK government debt (which effectively cancelled the debt since the B of E is a government owned body) as well as the worthless toxic debts that private banks and other financial institutions still held. This vast sum of money was intended to kick-start the economy based on the assumption that private banks would re-invest this money in the real economy – the small businesses, manufacturing and retail sector that produce the goods and services we all need.
They didn’t. Instead they used it to invest in property, shares and complex financial products which boosted the incomes of the wealthy, inflated house prices and increased inequality.
What is important to note is that £445 Billion was electronically created. This was public money created:
- without raising a single penny in tax
- or borrowing from the money markets
This blew apart the myth that public money can only ever be raised through taxes or borrowed on money markets. It begs the question that if there can be a QE programme for banks, why not a QE programme for the NHS or a QE programme for local government. Both the NHS and local government would almost certainly have spent the money more wisely and for public benefit.
To conclude: cuts to welfare and steep cuts to public services have always been justified by this government on the grounds that the nations credit card was ‘maxed out’ and that growing a strong economy was the priority. Yet the harsh austerity policies imposed on the public sector is in sharp contrast to the largesse afforded to banks – the very same banks whose reckless lending crashed the economy in the first place.