Press release: Medway Greens give mixed response to report on Medway’s debt problems

While we welcome the report by the CAB on the extent of the debt problems in the Medway Towns being issued at long last (a report which was ludicrously undertaken in partnership with Wonga, a debt inducing pay day loan company) it is disappointing to see that, once again, the victims are, in effect, being blamed for their unfortunate situation.  A call for further education, while of value, fails to appreciate all the causes of Medway’s debt problems.

Education in managing home budgets is of little use in combating the loss of a job, or to cope with further clampdowns on top up work benefits, paid out by the state to subsidise firms who pay poverty wages; or to cope with unreasonable sanctions imposed by job centres; or to cope with living on a zero hour contract.  We take issue with the suggestion by the CAB, backed by CAB CEO, and now Labour Councillor, Dan McDonald, that people need to “learn to realise their own responsibility in getting out of debt” in light of the promised 12 billion Tory cuts.  We must acknowledge that many local people don’t have enough money to live on in the first place.

While we would of course support any help that can be provided to people in debt, and welcome the initiative to evolve a more streamlined approach in helping people, what we really need in Medway is a campaign for a Living Wage.  People working full time should be paid enough to live on. We also need to challenge the despicable and unfair continued cuts to the welfare system, under the guise of a failed economic model, that are likely to make things impossible for even more people who live in the Medway area. Additionally we would like an explanation of why the report was held back until after the election, due to Dan McDonald standing as councillor.  Surely the people of Medway had a right to the results as soon as they were available!
Furthermore we must not forget that it is a combination of Labour and Tory government administrations that have got us into this mess in the first place with the deregulation of the banks and promotion of casino capitalism. The debt misery that is affecting so many people in the Medway area is a symptom of our whole bubble built economy which relies on rising house prices and further debt to survive, and makes it impossible for people on average incomes to have their own stake in the property market, without pushing themselves to the limits.  In 2013 CAB reported that seventy families a week in Medway were in the process of having their homes repossessed!Not many people realise that 97 per cent of money is created by banks out of thin air in the form of debt (see for more information).  This gives the banks enormous power over our lives. Yes we need tighter regulations to counteract unscrupulous lending, but what we really need is an overhaul of the whole banking system. We need banks to work for the good of the real economy, rather than the inflated financial markets.  This would start with a separation of retail from investment banking, and end with money being created by a democratic public body rather than the banks that rob us blind.  Democratic control over money creation would allow money to be spent on things we really need, like public services, support for small businesses, community owned energy producing initiatives and even a basic income for all, so that food banks are a thing of the past.  Locally we do need to encourage small ethical lending cooperatives, such as Medway credit union, and we welcome the CAB providing space for the credit union.  However, it is also time to go further than a blinkered narrative that covers the cracks and hides the real causes of debt in a story of personal failings. What we need is a proper discussion on how we can make our banks and our money system work in the interests of all.

Clive Gregory
Medway Green Party Co-ordinator

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