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Economics

‘Heroes’ helped to help themselves!

I have just listened to the Budget Debate and quite frankly am growing more and more tired of the political point scoring arena that Parliament has become. It was unbridled electioneering, totally populist and I am sure none of us are fooled.

The implied nonsense that Belize are now cooperating with UK tax authorities to ensnare Michael Ashcroft when he has done nothing contrary to current tax laws was pathetic. Do they think we have forgotten that the Labour Peers Paul and Cohen are also non-domiciled for tax purposes? To use the Budget which should present a sober look at the Nations books for such gerrymandering is an insult to the shareholders/electorate they purport to serve.

I therefore exercise my right to express an opinion and to look objectively at how the current ‘management’ are looking after my interests; after all I have been obliged by them over the years to contribute lavishly  to their misguided vision for our wellbeing!

Quite simply if this was an AGM and I was a shareholder with voting rights I would back a motion to sack the lot of them based on performance. In that sense I cannot wait for the forthcoming election to register my vote of no confidence. I am particularly unhappy at the parlous state of our benefits-driven society. The Conservatives are at least offering some reasonable solutions to tackling the welfare state thanks largely to the excellent work undertaken by Iain Duncan Smith’s think tank the Centre for Social Justice. The Party are undoubtedly more compassionate than they were in the Thatcher era and, unlike Lord Tebbit’s solution for the unemployed “get on your bike and find a job”, contemporary caring Conservative Policy prime facie is to ride alongside!

I watched Channel Four News last night and was captivated by John Snow interviewing some of the good folk of Luton; a large number of his interviewees stated that they wouldn’t vote. How many times do politicians need to hear that people don’t bother voting because of the mess they have made of our democracy before they listen to vox pop and try to understand our frustrations with politics and politicians? Our Cobden Centre colleague Douglas Carswell MP sets out the reasons why people have disengaged in ‘The Plan’ the book he co-authored with Daniel Hannan MEP. They correctly deduce that voter apathy is mainly due to the inability of politicians to effect change. Carswell quotes doorstep comments such as “you’re all the same”, “it doesn’t matter how I vote, nothing changes” and “you make promises but you never deliver”. Carswell and Hannan go onto unpack the route that led to this apathy and make some sound policy recommendations to effect rapid change but, sorry chaps, this is not rapid enough for me so I have decided to go one step further motivated in part by the following:

  1. (updated)Approximate UK Income Tax receipts £146bn versus welfare payments £196bn. However well the Chancellor spins these numbers this shareholder ain’t happy!!
  2. Benefits saved Tax and NI gained per person returning to work >£8000 per annum (source CSJ). ((NI – National Insurance is a clever idea that helps citizens save for benefits, retirement and other social needs. It is run by the Government in much the same way as Bernie Madoff ran his quaint little investor scheme except, as it is run by the state, it is entirely legal. Therefore none of the people running it will be held accountable and go to jail for 150 years when the shareholders realise that all of their money and more is being spent straight away and not invested for their future benefit.))
  3. NHS cost per capita £860 per annum this doubles for the unemployed perhaps because they constantly need to prove they are sick to continue receiving benefits as well as the inherent problems some genuinely face to their wellbeing by being unemployed. For a thorough evaluation, read the CSJ reports.
  4. Pure and simple, ‘helping one another’. do you remember that old-fashioned and now outdated idea ‘neighbourliness’?
  5. The parable of the talents: Matthew 25:14-30 so good it was repeated in Luke 19:12-27.

It is entirely correct that a caring, prosperous and civilised society should look after those unable to fend for themselves but when in 1945 Atlee’s Post War Labour Government began implementing the recommendations of the 1942 Beveridge report they weren’t up front about this creeping socialist agenda that has led to an unacceptable reliance on state handouts sadly not by the deserving in society but the most devious who often exhibit brilliant cunning and guile at exploiting our overly complex system. Oh that those talents could be harnessed elsewhere for good! Others newly unemployed soon see how they work the system and join their ranks. “Up to three generations of some families have never worked and are entrenched in economic dependency” this is oft rolled out, well known and needs proactive solutions. We can trust some politicians like Iain Duncan Smith, Philippa Stroud, Steve Baker, Douglas Carswell and Frank Field amongst others to make their voices heard in the corridors of power but we should not sit back and wait for them to legislate a way out of this mess.

I have come to the conclusion that instead of raging at the machine we should attempt to solve our own problems in our own communities and not rely on politicians and the state.

Why? Simply because problems like unemployment are corrosive not just to those going through the process but to communities, society in general and we as ‘shareholders’ cannot afford to fund it anymore.

This thought process and the closure of my own business due to the downturn allowed me the time to set up a Job Club in my home town Edenbridge, then neighbouring Oxted, now Richmond Borough and soon Sutton. I have also founded a charity GB Job Clubs to train and resource other volunteers to set up clubs in their own communities. This was all inspired by a Conservatives Social Action seminar on ‘How to Start a Job Club’ in March 2009.

Remember David Cameron’s speech to the Open University on May 26th 2009 advocating localism? The Conservatives have been very proactive in encouraging social action as this doesn’t require legislation or an election to implement. Iain Duncan Smith encapsulated this when he said,“Our approach is based on the belief that people must take responsibility for their own choices but that government has a responsibility to help people make the right choices.”

Well said Sir, however, I come from the viewpoint that the Government is not there to provide everything for us; if we take control of our own destinies then we might actually wrestle some control back from the state who continue in their desire to nanny us from cradle to grave. If we serve ourselves more and rely less on state provision we can shrink Government, yep that’s right fewer politicians, dismantle quangocracy, reduce red tape oh boy the list goes on! Maybe in time we can insist on a reduction in the funds we are required to invest to keep UK Plc afloat!

I recently compared notes with some fellow Job Club leaders and between our six clubs discovered that we had helped 105 folk back to work over the last six months. If the cost/saving benefit is £8000 per annum per person we have saved the exchequer and more importantly ourselves as tax payers/shareholders £840,000 per annum. That is the result of only six Job Clubs run voluntarily at little or negligible cost to anyone. That’s right there is hardly any cost involved in setting up and running a Job Club and we don’t want ‘government funding’ or put it another way some of our tax bucks back! Why not? It would probably require our application and subsequent performance to be assessed by one of those quangos or an army of civil servants wrapping us up in red tape and emasculating our ability to deliver.

GB Job Clubs now has 25 ‘Get Britain Working’ inspired Job Clubs listed on the Directory page of its website, www.gbjobclubs.org. If the success rate of our six clubs is replicated in all 25 , we would save ‘ourselves’ £3,500,000 per annum. How about 500 clubs up and down the country each succeeding to get just one person per month back to work that equates to a saving of £48,000,000.

Now I like numbers like this and, as a shareholder, they excite me! Detractors will point out that finding people jobs is reliant on the economy and that £48m is a drop in the ocean in an overall spend of £185bn. I know, but every single person we have helped is worth much more than money. We are seeing lives transformed by opportunity and communities in a small but visible way impacted by helping one another and this is undoubtedly great for social cohesion. This can spread like a virus. Just imagine that, instead of aspiring to be in gangs and earn illicit money from delivering drugs, the new role model is someone in a community who has set up his/her own business and can legitimately employ someone.

I have used GB Job Clubs as a launching pad for a microfinance and mentoring project named the Jericho Programme where we incubate small ventures in communities up and down the country. The first pilot scheme is now underway in Edenbridge where we have backed two heroes from the Job Club to start their own garden maintenance business. It takes guts to wean yourself off state support especially when you have three children as is the case with one of our entrepreneurs but they are going for it with gusto. All it has taken is encouragement, support from a mentor, a small loan for equipment, a van donated by the local council and the goodwill of a community. Cobden Centre founder Toby Baxendale has joined me in funding six such projects in the UK and once we can prove they work we will set about raising funds and recruiting fellow mentors to empower these latent entrepreneurial heroes that exist in our midst.

We can’t cure all our problems ourselves but we must take more control of socio-economic issues where we are able. We will reap great dividends and that has got to be great news for all shareholders!

2 comments to ‘Heroes’ helped to help themselves!

  • Miles

    Stirring stuff, we have encouraged a Me culture in our communities, and the only solution is for some of us to invert the M to make a W and enourage others to see that We can make the biggest difference.

    Local action is more important than organised politically motivated change (although it can help, it rarely does!). I often reflect that the war time generation have the warmest memories of people caring for one another and friends often comment on the generosity and warmth of welcome from those in the poorest communities on the planet, where welcoming a stranger is considered to be a blessing to the household, and yet these places have negligible material wealth.

    Wealth it seems can be a dependent drug, and yet shared suffering leads to generosity. We must work together to restore hope, optimism and self determination to our communities, so that we can make the most of the wealth of opportunities which exist today, we have such freedom and yet so few gain the benefits of it.

  • Jane Gould

    I heard a definition of Community this morning. “Where good friends & wise people turn their chairs Inwards & talk well. ” Job clubs exemplify this ethos. .

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