Ludlow Campaign for Fairness (LCCfF)
Looking at many of our local problems and experiencing understandable frustration, it is evident that many of them stem from problems “upstream” not only at county but at national and even global level. Why are our public services in disarray? Why has an entire generation seen its chances of ever owning their own house evaporate? Why are there huge and increasing disparities of wealth and income? Why has there been such wariness and defeatism across the political spectrum over acknowledging these scandals, let alone trying to tackle them?
Ludlow Campaign for Fairness (LCfF), now affiliated to P4L is a local response to this situation. In 2012 Churches Together Around Ludlow published a report “Ludlow Under Pressure” which outlined the impact which the economic recession was having on the more vulnerable members of our community. But there was evidence of more widespread disquiet about the effect which policies at both local and national level were having on our community and a sense of powerlessness felt by many. A group of local people came together to consider what might be done. We felt there should be a challenge to the dominant narrative with its concentration on market competition and the shrinking of the state. The group felt that “Campaign” captured a determination to challenge rather than simply provide a forum for debate. It has no party political affiliation but shares a determination to uphold the democratic process and to maintain an ethical stance in the face of social injustice.
For several years, first under the coalition and then under the last conservative government, there was a relentless preoccupation with reducing the financial deficit, leading to the policy of austerity. We were told by David Cameron that we were “all in this together” while the squeeze on public services and benefits tightened remorselessly and at the same time the life style of the comfortably off continued unimpeded. Those fortunate enough to own property enjoyed a steady increase in wealth through property inflation, while those who did not saw their chances of ever doing so receding. The effect was a widening wealth gap not only between classes but between generations. The safety net of affordable housing had been removed by the sell-off of council housing under the Thatcher government a few decades earlier. Paradoxically, local authorities now have to spend large sums of money on private rental accommodation or even on buying back what had been sold off, at an inflated price.
All politicians pay lip service to the NHS while it slides into ever deepening crisis, largely because a smaller proportion of GDP is spent on it than in other developed countries.
Shortly before his dismissal as Chancellor, George Osborne had to admit that his attempts to meet the targets he had set to reduce the deficit had failed, despite the colossal damage caused by Austerity. But he had not been seriously challenged by the opposition in those years; indeed Labour seemed keen to boast they could reduce the deficit as well. Now the issue of the deficit has been quietly dropped while the damage caused by Austerity persists, as does the well founded suspicion that, rather than being financially driven, Austerity has been motivated by an ideological drive to shrink the state, consistent with Neo-liberalism.
We have mounted a series of public lectures addressing these and related issues. Topics have included the NHS, the governance of companies, trust in public institutions, fair taxation and the creation of money. We have also had local campaigns: we lobbied Shire Hall to protest the conversion of the Council into a quasi-commercial venture (IP&E) and we campaigned to maintain the County Council’s support for the Foyer, which offers accommodation and help to young people in difficulties. Both these campaigns were successful.
We believe the future lies in a combination of local initiatives addressing local problems with continued scrutiny and questioning of the dominant narratives underpinning social injustice, notably the unfettered free market, privatization and de-regulation.
Given our shared hopes for the wellbeing of our community and our concern over threats to it, we felt it was the right time to join forces with P4L and look forward to continuing co-operation with it.
Sandy Robertson, Acting Chairman, LCfF.