Recent years have shown why we cannot leave our fate to market forces - Andy Brown

Wherever you look and whatever you look at things that we all expect to work simply aren’t working in the ways that most of us believe they should.

There are kids in Yorkshire with toothache who can’t get an NHS dentist. Each year it is harder to get an appointment with a GP who knows you. There are currently two GP surgeries closing each week at a time when the population of our communities is rising and getting older.

It is currently the hardest time ever to buy a first home and even harder to rent something decent and affordable. Thousands of new houses are going up on green fields that local people can’t hope to buy on a local salary. The typical new home built in our county costs ten times the typical Yorkshire salary. Getting a rental home is even harder.

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Promises that life up north would be improved and that we’d be steadily levelled up have proved to be exactly that. Promises. The reality is an increasing neglect of the north. An over-focus on financial services work in the south has been accompanied by the loss of much of the north’s basic industries and a failure to develop enough new ones.

Accident and Emergency sign. PIC: Chris Radburn/PA WireAccident and Emergency sign. PIC: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Accident and Emergency sign. PIC: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Our environment is being treated like a free sewer. Water companies that we used to own have taken billions out of our pockets, hiked bills outrageously and utterly failed to invest for the future. Over half of Yorkshire Water is owned by a Hong Kong based investment firm with the bulk of the rest owned by the Singapore government and an Australian pension fund.

Bus services are eye wateringly expensive for most to use and infrequent. New high speed railways start being built from London, run up astonishing costs and then get abandoned before they’ve not even been half completed.

On top of all this many ordinary people have experienced real problems trying to afford to buy basic essentials such as food or heating. Whilst the government spent over £50bn subsidising fuel bills just two oil and gas companies pocketed record profits of £69bn by hiking prices to exploit the crisis.

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These failures are not a coincidence. They are the direct outcome of a belief that greed is good and that our leaders shouldn’t try to organise anything. The dominant political theory is the daft idea that everything should be left to market forces and those who work on behalf of the public can’t be trusted whilst those who take profits out of public services are somehow helpfully efficient.

It is a theory that simply doesn’t work. There is such a thing as society. Communities, particularly local communities, matter.

Under the guidance of extreme free market philosophy the best interests of investment bankers have become more important than the provision of affordable housing, good public transport and a well-resourced NHS.

As an ultimate act of folly we have allowed our entire planet to be destabilised by pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere that we are on course to double the amount that existed before the industrial revolution. As a mathematical and scientific certainty that is driving changes to our climate.

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The current plan of world leaders is that we will stop making that problem worse in 26 years time. The leader of the United Nations has just told us that we aren’t sticking to that plan and that the reason for such slow action is that the oil and gas companies which profit from this have been paying for propaganda that tells us it is fine to move at a snail’s pace. It isn’t. Moving slowly is desperately dangerous.

Leaving our fate to market forces has also led to the pollution of the entire planet and even our own bodies with a layer of microplastics that we can never remove. It has casually destroyed much of our wildlife and natural environment.

Our priorities have to change. We learned during lockdown the importance of community. Our trust was cynically betrayed but we need to reconnect with that sense of shared involvement.

A successful society is one where people can trust each other. It is one where we are not ashamed to run things on the principle that they help the community, not the bottom line.

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We can build for need, not always for profit. We can cut people’s energy bills by helping to insulate homes and put solar on roofs. We can get Britain back at the forefront of technology by being pioneers in new greener ways of doing business. We can save our NHS before it is too late. We can stop polluting our wonderful local environment.

But we can only do these things if we dump the dangerous theory that markets always and everywhere produce a good outcome.

It remains to be seen whether the new government will have the courage to do this.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has told us that the spending plans of the new government are tighter than during the toughest years of austerity. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Andy Brown is the Green Party councillor for Aire Valley in North Yorkshire.

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