Thursday, 3 March 2016


Since the 'economic crisis of 2008 and the eye-watering sums taken from the public purse to bale out the banks, the predominate political narrative in the United Kingdom has been the need for austerity.  Central to the government's 'austerity' programmes has been the controlling of and reining in of public expenditure.  The sub-narrative has been the support of 'hard working families' and clamping down on the benefits system, within which, so goes the narrative, lurks an unnumbered horde of feckless skivers and cynical cheats.  Too many people, it is claimed, have chosen, or at least have settled for what is portrayed as a 'cushy life' on benefits.
In the course of the past year the Dundee Fairness Commission has taken evidence from experts in the fields of welfare, employment, education, health and housing.  The evidence has clearly shown that, far from 'all being in it together', as the predominate narrative goes, the gap between the comfortable and the vulnerable has widened dangerously.  Thanks to the skill and efforts of agencies in the town like Faith in Community Dundee the Commission has been able to hear at first hand the voices of vulnerable people, our fellow citizens.  The Commission's report which is now at the stage of being drafted, has been fundamentally shaped by these voices which have put living breath and throbbing flesh on the bones of the evidence of the experts.  The Commission has heard an alternative narrative!
Although in every aspect of life there are cheats and skivers to be found, the Fairness Commission has heard compelling testimony to just how hard people on benefits or low pay have to work to survive.  They have to survive in the face of suspicion and stigma and all too often being treated as 'rubbish'.  The challenges of everyday life are like mountains to climb loaded down by the weight of low income, erratic income, going without food, afraid of the costs of heating, the worry of the cost of the school day, bus fares, rents and sanctions that leave many desperate and dependent on food banks.  It cannot be right!  The rigmarole around being ill or disabled seems to tower like a colossus over the illness itself.  A changing face of work that seems more like a revolving door than an escalator to better things, a benefits system that seems like a maze without a map, a system designed to trip people up.  We should stand in awe of the burdens people in poverty have to carry rather than judge on how they carry them! 

Monday, 1 February 2016


At a meeting of the Pensioners' Forum last Friday, Cllr. Willie Sawers, the administration's finance spokesperson, sought to defend the Council's proposed budget.  There were 3 principles guiding their choices, he said:
  1. to protect front line services.
  2. to have no compulsory redundancies
  3. to keep the Council Tax freeze.
The meeting had some sympathy for the Council in the face of the brutal cutbacks being implemented by the Westminster and Holyrood governments.  It was acknowledged that the local administration was doing what it thought was the best way to manage the massive decline in the resources available in the public sector.  However, it was crystal clear that the Pensioners' Forum were saying that the administration has to do more than manage decline.  It was time for the Council to embark on different policies that would restore the jobs and services being lost.  There has to be the political courage to say the Council Tax freeze has run its course and that the better-off must pay higher taxes.  If the Council is on the side of the people, if they stand on a manifesto of protecting the most vulnerable they have to fight back against the policies of austerity which hurt the poorest and most vulnerable the most.  Mr. Sawers was told unequivocally 'Enough is Enough'.
The following day, Saturday 30th January, hundreds turned out in a driving blizzard to march and attend a rally in City Square.  Their attendance despite the relentless snow, far more than words could convey, said, "Enough is Enough"!