Mar 172016

A Multi-millionaire leading a charmed life due to commercialisation of punk has denounced the commercialism of punk.

“just by focussing a little bit of money in the right direction you can make things happen and that’s amazing” – Joseph Corre C 2009

As Joseph Corre, son of Malcolm McClaren and Dame Vivienne prepares to destroy £5,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia, Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly asks What the actual?

Fire (6)Whether or not you believe that punk is now 40 years old because of the pending anniversary of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, various celebrations are going to take place in the UK.

The establishment has acknowledged punk by having the odd event as have several museums, businesses and artists.

Some people hate this idea passionately; some are bemused that punk’s attack on the State is now something to be looked back on fondly.

In November in Camden, people will drink at the Underworld. They will listen to bands at the Dublin Castle. They’ll buy Ramones t-shirts in the market. Knox Carnochan and his band of volunteers will run Rock ‘n Roll Rescue, the charity shop selling music memorabilia (and then at closing probably spill into the Dublin Castle for some pints of Camden Hells).

Somewhere in Camden this November, Joseph Corre has announced in Rolling Stone Magazine that he will be burning £5,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia. This is a protest, or so we’re told, at the commercialisation of punk and by the state’s endorsement of same. Well, Corre would know a tiny bit about both, wouldn’t he?

Meanwhile, Knox will be doing his best with the donations that he can get.

Rock ‘n Roll Rescue’s mission is:

“We are trying to help local people through supporting food banks, then helping the womens’ refuge up in Kentish Town, helping people at the bottom end of the welfare system, and have been helping Jennie Bellstars’ Hari Krishna food van, etc., etc. An ever growing list of stuff that needs help. (Look around you!)”

Looking around you seems like good advice for at least one of us.

What Other People interested in Punk, Music and Compassion said:

“He [Corre]could have flogged it all and given the money to a charity or a good cause like Saving The Music in Denmark St. Twat! I’M FUMING!”
– Henry Scott-Irvine, ‘Save Tin Pan Alley’ campaigner

“I will just say that in my time volunteering at the shop [Rock ‘N Roll Rescue], I’ve seen a lot things that led to my little rant on why it’s not good to burn the punk memorabilia in Camden in November and why Joseph Corré is a plonker. First, because it’s history. I’ve seen the eyes of men and women light up and watched them become teenagers again as they rummage through the old vinyl, posters and magazines on offer at Rock ‘N Roll Rescue.

It isn’t long before they start telling stories of their first concert or the first time they heard a song. For many, items of punk and music memorabilia are deeply personal and in the broader sense, are a record of a brief, albeit very important part of musical history. Second, because, like it or not, we live in a Capitalist society wherein the material items we place historical or personal value on also carry monetary value.

It’s not very punk, but it’s how things are and we must deal with reality as it is. It is also true that currently, the divide between rich and poor is greater than ever. All you have to do is walk through Camden to see this. It serves no purpose to burn these items other than to prove to the ego of a millionaire, that he hasn’t sold out and to gain publicity. All of the anarchist posturing is bullshit. His parents packaged it and sold it.

He grew up wealthy, on money made off of the musicians and fans of that movement. How about giving back to the community that bought what his parents were selling? Ever have the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Jennifer Upton, volunteer, Rock ‘n Roll Rescue, Camden

I asked his press people a few questions by email:

“How you square your decision to destroy material with the knowledge people (including many punk musicians) have serious financial problems which a sale rather than destruction of your goods could do much good?

“Do you think that your own financial success is in any part due to your parents’ financial success in the punk era?

“Had you looked at alternatives such as sales/donations of your old punk memorabilia and decided that it was better to announce a public, theatrical event rather than doing something beneficial to others? (you could have given it all to Knox Carnochan of the Vibrators for his shop Rock N Roll Rescue in Camden – or done one of a thousand other beneficial thing).

“How supportive is your mother, Dame Vivienne Westwood, of your action, given her titled status?

“Ideally Mr Corre, I’d like to get you to reconsider what to me is the act of someone who’s never know what it’s like to have to go without. It seems as if a slap in the face to the poor is your response to the establishment’s acknowledgement of punk’s place in UK history.”

If an answer is sent, you’ll hear about it. In the mean time, we’ve someone who’s made their point – there is no need to follow through with the destruction. Punk is commercial. It went commercial when his dad steered it that way – for some groups. Show me how TV Smith, just for one instance, has gone commercial. Punk was commercial when Vivienne started sheltering her fashion income from taxes using overseas avoidance schemes, took a title, and paid low wages to those making her garments. I missed the part when Junior objected to these instances of punk commercialisation in his own family.

It would be good to know how and when Joseph got elected to teach us lessons in what punk should be all about. I’d really like to know that he’s just making a joke to get a story (the Rolling Stone reporter would be pissed off, but there you go). In fact, when it comes to ‘punk’ there are as many different opinions as to what it means as there were bands and fans.  Maybe his cosmetics venture isn’t selling as many £19 pound lipsticks as he’d like it to (although good on this venture for being cruelty free).

I’ve read about his hard life while researching this. He had a bad time at a boarding school in Wales (has he helped expose the school’ alleged cruelties so no one else has to suffer?). He had a tough time of it because of his parents and had a failed marriage. I guess no one else could relate to this suffering.

“My new job won’t even take my phonecalls; my mother’s throwing me out of the house; I’m at my wit’s end.”

– someone with a serious, nearly untreatable syndrome that makes work nearly impossible posted this on social media today; this woman is doing all she can to earn money and stay as healthy as she can. What would £5,000,000 do for people like this? For animal charities, the hungry, children in poverty? What message does burning clothing send to the refugees and the people who don’t have £30,000,000 in the bank unlike our patronising, would-be philosophy instructor? Not a particularly kind or punk one.

The Rolling Stone piece continues to quote our man:

“People don’t feel they have a voice anymore… The most dangerous thing is that they have stopped fighting for what they believe in. They have given up the chase. We need to explode all the shit once more”.

‘They’ might seem to have stopped fighting – if you’re Corre looking out over the battlefield from a castle. People haven’t stopped fighting – but they could use a bit of financing. Not a bonfire of the vanities.

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Oct 292015

Depression And Suicide – Is Aberdeen Really ‘The Happiest City In Scotland’? By Anne Carter.

town-house-rain-featAll over the world, people are falling prey to the terrible malaise of depression, and losing their lives to suicidal impulses. Statistically, Scotland is the worst affected part of the UK, with more depressed people and suicide attempts per capita than anywhere else in Britain.
This has consistently been the case for a good decade or so, and it does not seem to be improving [1].

Aberdeen, however, for all of its dour, grey reputation [2], appears on the face of it to be bucking the overall trend.

Unemployment in Aberdeen is low, and disposable income is relatively high for certain sectors within the town. This would seem to indicate that Aberdeen is a generally happier, less depressed area than other Scottish towns. But are we letting materialistic assessments blind us to other issues which may be of real concern to the vulnerable of Aberdeen?

Risk Factors:

There are several factors which put people at risk of depression and suicide. Unemployment is one of these, and Aberdeen has an impressively low unemployment rate [3]. Older people are also vulnerable to depression [4], and – unusually for a coastal town – Aberdeen’s elderly population is relatively low. Students and younger oil-workers on the make tend to predominate.

Low average income is also a factor which tends to affect depression statistics within a given region, and Aberdeen has a reasonably high average income. Indeed, it boasts the highest concentration of millionaires in the UK. All in all, it would seem that Aberdeen is ideally situated to avoid the depression epidemic currently sweeping the rest of Scotland.

However, to view just this broader picture is to fail to take the nuances into account – and the nuances are all important when it comes to the mental health of individuals.


Going purely by averages, Aberdeen is doing pretty well. But there is an insidious undercurrent to this ostensibly happily booming town which must be taken into account. Aberdeen has one of the most unequal pay structures in the UK [5], which means that for those at the bottom end, life is extremely hard indeed. The cost of living in this rich city is, not incomprehensibly, high, so those who do the necessary but poorly paid jobs of Aberdeen really struggle to get by.

The polarisation of wages and the general inequality means that, while Aberdeen may on average be richer and have higher employment rates than the rest of the UK, some of those adding to the employment statistics are struggling to get by on very little disposable income, comparatively speaking. As such, their risk of suicide is significantly higher than average, money issues being tremendously stressful and a big contributer towards depression.

Furthermore, Aberdeen has a significant issue with binge-drinking and alcoholism, both of which are known to enhance someone’s risk of suicide. Aberdeen’s glaring gap between rich and poor, and the general level of equality in the town means that, for those who do fall into the ‘at risk’ category for depression and suicide, they tend to be at more risk than average.

Union Bridge:

In 2013, the Council was so concerned about the high number of suicides who took their lives at Union Bridge that they held a debate upon the matter [6]. Various suicide prevention measures were proposed, including nets (the favoured option of the police) and a fence.

Between 2008 and 2013, over 100 people jumped or attempted to jump from the bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge continues to attract those determined to take their own lives – its combination of height and passing trains seeming to guarantee a speedy demise. Many more Aberdonians take their lives each year through other means.

While Aberdeen has by no means the highest suicide rate in Scotland – far from it – it is notable that the route from depression to suicide appears to be a lot faster in Aberdeen’s intensely polarised socio-economic environment. While we may ostensibly be the ‘happiest town in Scotland’, it may be worth appreciating that the flipside of that happiness is not nice. Aberdeen is not invulnerable, and we need to look after those who are suffering within our community.

[1] BBC News, “Scots suicide rate highest in UK”, Aug 2006

[2] Tim Pauling, “Aberdeen named the most dismal town in Scotland”, Press And Journal, Feb 2015

[3] Kevin McKenna, “Aberdeen is the happiest place in Scotland…and that’s no joke”, The Guardian, Nov 2012

[4] PsychGuides, “Living With: Depression In Older Adults”

[5] Neil Lee, Paul Sissons, Katy Jones, “Wage inequality and employment polarisation in British cities”, The Work Foundation, May 2013

[6] Iona Paterson, “Suicide Rates Force City Council Debate”, The Tab, Oct 2013

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Nov 282014

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP

Emergency food for local people in crisis Tesco Ellon Aberdeenshire

Christian Allard MSP (right) with volunteers at Ellon Tesco food collection in July

SNP MSP Christian Allard is backing the fifth Neighbourhood Food Collection organised by Tesco in stores across the North East.
From Monday 24th November to Saturday 29th November, Tesco stores will invite shoppers to donate an item or two from their weekly groceries to help those in their communities who are struggling to afford to eat.

The collection is being run in partnership with foodbank charity The Trussell Trust and food redistribution charity FareShare. As well as hosting the collection, Tesco will also “top-up” all food donations by 30%.

Since November 2012, Tesco food collections have helped provide 15.3 million meals across the UK.

North East MSP Christian Allard will be volunteering at the Turriff store on Friday 28 November from 10am.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“Volunteers at The Trussell Trust make a vital contribution to lives of families struggling to feed themselves in the North East and beyond. I am always happy to lend a hand whenever I can.

“The rise of foodbanks is unacceptable in a country as prosperous as Scotland, but the work of local volunteers is inspiring.

“While their efforts should not be necessary I know that they are greatly appreciated by those in need, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

“I look forward to joining local volunteers in Turriff on Friday and helping out with this important task. I will be encouraging people to be as generous as they can with their donations.”

Christian will attend the Turriff Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection from 10 am on Friday 28 November.

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Nov 212014

By Bob Smith.Seagulls - Credit:  Fred Wilkinson

Come freenly seagulls shite on heids
O fowk fa did some affa deeds
Saying gless boxes full oor needs
Shite on them aa
On fat cats fa are fair lax
On peyin their full whack o tax
An affshore accoonts use ti the max
Shite on them aa
Binge drinkers fa blight oor toon
An on oor streets they div fa doon
At wikk-eyns some like ti moon
Shite on them aa
Aulder weemin wi peroxide hair
Tho roots are showin they dinna care
Growein auld they fin hard ti bare
Shite on them aa
Bad drivers leave their abodes
Unleashed upon oor city roads
A danger ti cyclists and wee toads
Shite on them aa
Developers fa wee boxes bigg
Be it Portlethen or near NiggAboot the kwintraside dinna gie a fig
Shite on them aa
Some cooncillors an some MSPs
Fa tell us aa sic bliddy lees
Bring them doon  upon their knees
Shite on them aa
Fowk fa bide in Rubislaw Den
Foo the poor live they dinna ken
An dinna forget the money men
Shite on them aa
Come ye freenly seagulls flee
Ower the toon twixt Don an Dee
Ony modern architects ye div see
Shite on them aa
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Jun 272014

With thanks to Gavin Mowat, Constituency Assistant to Christian Allard MSP.

Alex Salmond MSP with Stephen King (food bank manager) at the opening of Aberdeenshire North food bank in Inverurie, March 2014crop

Alex Salmond MSP with Stephen King (food bank manager) at the opening of Aberdeenshire North food bank in Inverurie, March 2014.

Alex Salmond and Christian Allard are backing the third Neighbourhood Food Collection organised by Tesco in stores across the North East.

From Thursday 3rd July to Saturday 5th July, all Tesco stores will invite shoppers to donate an item or two (or more!) from their weekly groceries to help those in their communities who are struggling to afford to eat.

Since launching their first Neighbourhood Food Collection in December 2012, Tesco will have helped to provide some 10.2 million meals to help Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK.

As well as hosting the collection, Tesco will also “top-up” all food donations by 30%.

On March 24th 2014 Alex Salmond officially opened the Aberdeenshire North Foodbank in Inverurie. Volunteers from the Aberdeenshire North centre will be participating in next week’s collections at Tesco stores in Inverurie, Huntly and Ellon and are looking for people to help them hand out shopping lists to customers and to pack and sort donations.

Mr Salmond said:

“Aberdeenshire is one of the most affluent parts of our country, but even here there are people who can fall through the cracks and suddenly find themselves in challenging circumstances.

“Though the rise in foodbanks is a disgrace in a country as prosperous as Scotland, the work of local volunteers is heartening – demonstrating the best in community spirit.

“I’d encourage those able to give of their time next week to lend a hand with food collections at their nearest Tesco store and for shoppers to donate what they can to help those in need.”

Christian Allard MSP for North East Scotland will visit the Tesco store in Ellon next Friday (4th July) where he will meet with and assist volunteers in asking shoppers to donate some food.

Commenting, Mr Allard said:

“I look forward joining local volunteers next Friday in Ellon and helping out with this important task. I will be encouraging people to be as generous as they can with their donations.

“Foodbanks are incredibly important in assisting families but they should not be necessary, especially in prosperous areas like the North East. In this part of Scotland there is considerable wealth and I am sure people visiting Tesco on Friday [4th July] will have kindness to match.

“I have seen the empty shelves in North East foodbanks that has been caused by a rise in demand. I know the volunteers and staff at these charities do a tremendous job and this is a fantastic opportunity to support their efforts.”

According to the Trussell Trust, the number of people who used foodbanks in Scotland between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2014 rose to 71,428 compared to 14,332 people in the same period from 2012 to 2013 – an increase of 400%. The charity cites benefit changes by Westminster, delays to welfare payments and low income as the main reasons behind people seeking support from local foodbanks.

Volunteers are invited to help at Tesco stores in Inverurie, Ellon and Huntly from 9am to 5pm from 3rd to 5th July and should contact or 07967 364600.

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Mar 062014
Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

North East MSP, Christian Allard made a speech on 4th March 2014 in the Scottish Parliament where he blamed the rising use of foodbanks in Aberdeen on the implementation of Westminster welfare cuts.

Speaking in the chamber about a recent visit he made to a foodbank in Aberdeen run by Instant Neighbour, Mr Allard said:

“In 2012 the organisation [Instant Neighbour] gave 1,343 food parcels to people in Aberdeen. The following year, this had increased by 127% to 3,051 food parcels.”

“What explanation is there for such an increase, if not for the implementation of the welfare cuts from Westminster?”

The SNP MSP explained that when he visited the foodbank it had run out of food due to high demand. Mr Allard also pointed out Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe and asked members to imagine how it would feel to be destitute in one of Europe’s richest cities.

He went on to say:

“This year we have the opportunity to vote Yes for a better society, a fairer society, one that doesn’t waste taxpayers’ money on a programme of welfare cuts, but a society that recognises that we contribute and that we require support at different points in our lives.”

Christian Allard’s speech begins at 45.30:

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Feb 142014

By Jonathan Russell.

Homeless manThe idea of criminalising begging takes us back to the dark ages. Laws are already in place to deal with aggressive begging and Breaches of the Peace and obstruction.

Criminalisation will only increase the problems of those begging, their inability to pay fines will just increase the numbers in our prisons and it is not cost effective.

The problems of Union Street declining has not been caused by beggars, as in the past begging took place whilst the street flourished.

The decline of Union Street is primarily due to planning decisions to increase the amount of retail outlets beyond Union Street, with its inevitable consequences. We do need to deal with the challenges that begging brings but good interagency work and alternative provision by homelessness agencies is the way forward.

Not all begging is benign but, at a time of austerity and food banks, the issue we should be tackling is poverty not begging.

In the current climate, where thousands of families are reliant on food parcels handed out by the churches, and social problems caused by austerity policies are increasingly on the rise, many cases are genuine.

It is hard to see what new legal measures could achieve. The law already covers begging which is obstructive, or causes fear or alarm

 Obtaining money with threats or intimidation could lead to charges of robbery

There is a climate abroad which is making scapegoats of the poor – this is no different than the persecution of Jews, Blacks, or Gays in the past and must be contested  the introduction of such a law compounds this climate.

To explain my interest in this area I would explain the following. I have lived in Aberdeen since 1975 and spent 10 of my early years in Aberdeen working in the homelessness and drugs and alcohol fields. This included working with Aberdeen Cyrenians, VSA leading an inter-agency project re: Solvent Misuse, and Albyn House where I was responsible for the outreach service for problem drinkers, many of whom where homeless.

I was involved in setting up Drugs Action and helping to set up the now closed Aberdeen Stop-Over project for the young single homeless. I had previously worked with Homeless people in Glasgow in the Simon Community. I also worked later with Health Promotions re: Drugs and Alcohol including at a strategic level and in helping to set up the initial pilots of the methadone pharmacy scheme in the city.

As Development officer for Turning Point I helped set up the Glasgow Drug Crises Centre and produced a proposal for such a development in Aberdeen supported at that time by Social Work but not by the Health Service.

most of the people of Eastern European origin in the city are hard working

I have nearly always lived in the city centre and, as in any other city, begging has always gone on – it is nothing new. In fact, I would suggest that at earlier times the begging was of a more aggressive nature and this has already correctly been tightened up on.

What we do no longer have is the group of problem drinkers who used to hang around the statue and the arches in UnionTerraceGardens.

I suspect that without the prescribing of methadone the begging situation in the city would be much worse.

What has developed, over approximately the last 10 years at least, is the begging that takes place by individuals sitting by buildings. We have, however, also seen an increase in begging over the last few years by a group of people from Eastern Europe of Romany background.

We must remember however that most of the people of Eastern European origin in the city are hard working. Without their presence the population in Aberdeen would be much lower with an increasingly ageing population. There are sure to be some challenges in such changes.

The demise of Union Street has nothing to do with begging but is the result of retail and planning decisions. The Bon Accord Development in the 70’s led to the decline of George Street; similarly the recent Union Square development has been the prime reason for the decline in Union Street.

In both cases this led to empty shops and to a change in nature of what shops provided, with the more upmarket retailers moving to the new centres. Retail units in Union Street have increasingly become aimed at the poorer end of the market with charity shops and shops selling goods cheaply.

I would suggest that any shopping developments linked to the AWPR will potentially have a further general detrimental effect on retail outlets in Aberdeen. On-line shopping will also increase and lead to a decline in retail outlets in the city, as in other parts of the UK.

Even if Aberdeen continues with its present high levels of affluence there are only a certain amount of goods that people will buy and this affects the number of retail outlets that can operate.

People who end up homeless (which includes those who are not sleeping rough but have no settled address) do not in my experience fit neatly into deserving and non-deserving. They all have problem backgrounds of some kind, but many also get involved in activity which is labelled as anti-social.

As well as the Jews, they were also a group who were targeted by the Nazis

Many of those using drugs and alcohol are masking mental health difficulties, which of course increase by their circumstances and continued use. Others come from broken families or from families that are chaotic and where crime is the norm. Many in my experience have lived in children’s homes.

Living in the situations that rough sleepers do is a nightmare and for those that are rootless, things are not much better – we should never forget that.

An example of a positive way of dealing with public anti-social behaviour was (and still is, on a reduced level) Albyn House, where rather than taking people who were publicly drunk to the cells and courts the police took them to Albyn House, where they were dried out and given advice or rehabilitated. This was an example of progressive public policy which rather than criminalising was aimed at decriminalizing.

The influx of the Romany population to Aberdeen is not surprising and is common across the UK.  Following the end of the Communist Block this grouping lost their jobs and income. There are many, more of them begging on the streets of Eastern Europe and this is causing sharp divisions in Eastern European society.

As well as the Jews, they were also a group who were targeted by the Nazis. This problem is a European one but, unfortunately with the world-wide recession, it is unlikely to be tackled and will only get worse. Intervention needs to take place with this grouping to work with them to engage more productively with society – criminalization is not the answer.

The Big issue has taken a positive stance in this area by encouraging Romanys to sell the Big Issue

I realise from speaking to a variety of people in Aberdeen that there are very mixed feelings about people begging on the streets and many would support the idea of them being banned or even criminalized, though others are appalled at the proposal or do not see this as one of the major problems facing Aberdeen.

It is, in my mind, potentially helpful that this debate is taking place, however, I would ask councillors to think more about this challenge. Given the cuts that are yet to be implemented UK-wide it is certain that, as family breakdown accelerates, there will be increased numbers becoming homeless.

This in turn will lead to more people begging and, if the law is put in place, this will lead to more people becoming criminalized, being unable to pay fines and ending up in prisons and then, after their sentences are completed, being in an even wore situation and re-offending again.

Cuts have also been made to services for the homeless and other vulnerable groups

This will make people who are not happy about begging even more annoyed and calls will come for even more extreme action. This to me is a worrying as it will lead to an increasingly less tolerant divided society.

Aberdeen has its own dynamic compared to most cities in the UK  most people are comparatively affluent but those with basic incomes are often worse off due to prices generally being higher for a variety goods. There are also areas in Aberdeen were levels of poverty are high and this contrasts markedly with the overall wealth of the city.

Cuts have also been made to services for the homeless and other vulnerable groups in the city or re-commissioned, often inappropriately. Lack of support to these other vulnerable groups could lead to homelessness and these groupings will be even less able to deal with the rigors of being homeless and criminalizing them would be inappropriate.

A major problem we are facing is a lack of resources however the costs of incarcerating people are far higher than any money that would be spent on community resources. The approach needed is one of developing relevant resources which encourage better integration, interagency work and the fostering of a more caring attitude in society.

We also obviously need to see a redistribution of wealth in this country. If not, begging on the streets will become only the tip of the iceberg.

Criminalisation is not the way forward. It may gain some support in the community in the short term but others will see the City as heavy handed in its thinking and it will cost the public purse more rather than less in the long term. We need to see a much more positive interagency proposal.

Image: Homeless man – flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Fran Urbano.

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Oct 242013

In the conclusion to his two-part article, Jonathan Russell explores further the growing inequalities in wealth globally, in the UK and in Aberdeen


Both Oxfam and the Jimmy Reid Foundation have fuelled the debate about equality with their ideas around the Common Weal.

Whilst real consumption per head has doubled since 1978, unemployment benefit has remained fixed.

Peter Kenway, in a 2009 Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, posed the question, ‘Should adult benefit for unemployment benefit be raised?’ found that Jobseeker’s Allowance represents

  • a fifth of the actual, average expenditure of single adults
  • half of the actual average expenditure of single adults in the poorest households

Yet, at the same time, according to the Tax Justice Network, tax avoidance amounts to £69.9bn a year. Is this OK?

Minimum wage in the UK, per hour (2013)

21 and over

18 to 20

Under 18







The minimum wage has failed to keep pace with inflation. It is particularly low for younger citizens and needs to be increased significantly. At their recent conferences both Labour and SNP have pledged to improve the minimum wage, but pressure needs to be exerted to give this more impetus.

At the same time, members of richer families can leave up to £325,000 in inheritance without paying tax. So, if your parents are rich you can do absolutely nothing and inherit a substantial sum of money. The internet is full of sites giving advice on avoiding tax and inheritance tax. Imagine the outcry there would be if there were sites giving advice on how to fiddle Jobseeker’s Allowance.

This is a hypocritical double standard. Nor does it make sense economically, as it is those who have least money who are likely to spend and help us move out of recession. We currently suffer from lack of investment in our economy whilst there is much unnecessary wealth.

Total household wealth in the UK increased by 55% in the past decade, to an average of £242,000, largely due to a significant rise in the value of property which has outpaced surging mortgage debt.

According to research by Lloyds TSB Private Banking, that is equivalent to £86,500 per household in the ten-year period, with the value of wealth growing faster than consumer prices or disposable income.

The financial crisis has shaved £6bn off our assets since 2007, yet collective household wealth in the UK was estimated to be £6.6 trillion at the end of 2011, up from £4.3 trillion in 2001.

Wealth has outstripped both inflation and disposable incomes, with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) up by 38% over the past ten years and gross household disposable income up by 44%.

Cash Machine - © Freefoto.comAccording to the Lloyds research, a decade of booming house prices, especially between 2001 and 2007, has added significant wealth to households.

Property as a percentage of wealth has increased from 36% in 2001 to 40% in 2011. Over the decade, housing wealth has risen 73% and financial wealth is up 44%.

In the same period, the value of the nation’s private housing stock increased from £2.1 trillion to £3.9 trillion.

But as house values have grown, mortgage debts have risen significantly.

The total value of mortgage debt more than doubled from £591bn to £1.25 trillion, meaning that many households, though helped by low interest payments, are struggling or are failing to pay. Home ownership continues to be championed by the UK government. This is unrealistic and what we need is a wealth tax to allow us to build new social housing and help us move out of recession.

The £1.8 trillion increase in the value of housing outstrips the £655bn rise in mortgage debt almost threefold.

The data show that rises in both average house prices, and the number of privately-owned homes, from 20.1m in 2001 to 22.4m in 2011, was behind the surge in the value of housing.

Suren Thiru, Lloyds TSB Private Banking economist, said:

The substantial growth in household wealth over the past decade is partly the result of the increase in the value of housing stock between 2001 and 2007.

Whilst financial assets have played their part, the value of housing stock grew at a significantly faster rate. Rising house wealth has benefited those who own their own homes and those who rent out properties in the private sector.”

However, those at the bottom of the housing market have had to pay dearly.

Houses of Parliament - ©

The majority of household wealth continues to be held as financial, rather than housing, assets.

The total value of financial assets, such as savings, pensions and company shares, held by households has increased to £4.1trillion in 2011 from £2.9trillion in 2001.

The research found that there has been a £718bn rise in equity held by households in life assurance and pension fund reserves.

There has also been a boom in savings, with an increase of £549bn held in deposits with financial institutions and National Savings.

There was a relatively modest boost from stock market performance with the FTSE All Share Index increasing by 13% in the decade to 2011.

Despite the downturn in the economy since 2007, household wealth has declined by just £6bn, mainly down to lower house prices. These are now beginning to rise but this is worrying, since if price houses are high, the debt accrued in paying off new mortgages increases. Rather than building more social housing, the UK government is offering money to help get buyers on to the property ladder.

This is merely repeating the problems of the past in encouraging increased debt, leading to even more people defaulting on mortgage payments, particularly if interest rates increase.

The distribution of wealth in the UK between the haves and the have-nots beggars belief. Yet when it comes to paying the reckoning following a period of greed, from which the top 10% benefited in particular, it is the un-rich, low-waged, property-less, younger people who have suffered most.

Aberdeen for many is cushioned by Oil and Gas but, for the low-waged in service industries, paying high rents or for unemployed or disabled people, life is a struggle.

We have seen the opening of Aberdeen’s first food bank.

Services have been cut for the most vulnerable in our city, yet many people’s riches are far in excess of their needs.

It is time to end the something for nothing culture and start redistributing wealth between rich and poor, and for investment for future generations.

Cash machine and paliament photos by Ian Britton via

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Oct 212013

Across the globe, with a few notable exceptions, the disparity in wealth between the poor and the rich is increasing. In the first of two articles, Jonathan Russell looks at the increasing disparities in wealth globally, in the UK, and here in Aberdeen

CALCULATOR AND MONEY Timothy Nichols - Dreamstime.comGlobalisation in particular has meant that wealthy elites can invest in, and set up money-making concerns wherever they like, with little regard for either the countries in which they have investments or the populations of their own countries.

The biggest investments are in oil, gas and mineral abstraction and in the clothing industry.

The power of the state has reduced specifically in relation to its role as an income redistributor, and often, state ideology has been to encourage capital investment at the expense of its citizens.

The super-rich, defined as the top 1% of earners, now pocket 10p in every pound of income paid in Britain, whilst members of the poorest half of the population take home only 18p of every pound between them. This is according to a report published this week by the Resolution Foundation think tank, revealing the widening gap between those at the very top and the rest of society.

We have seen over recent decades, an attack on the working class and poorer ends of our society. Under Thatcher and successive governments most of our society’s industrial base was destroyed. This has led to over-dependence on the financial, service and oil and gas industries, and the one industry flourishing, the arms trade.

This leaves the economy in a particularly volatile state at times of economic downturn. Despite what the coalition government says, UK Government debt presently stands at £1.16 trillion, up from £0.76 trillion in 2010. Personal debt stands at £1.436 billion.

Many areas of the UK, including Scotland (4.4 %), have high levels of unemployment and young people in particular have borne the brunt of the present recession. Aberdeen’s unemployment rate is 2.2%. Young people are more likely to be unemployed, in low paid jobs and on short term contracts. They will have to wait longer for retirement and even middle class youngsters will be poorer in the future.

For those whose parents have few or no savings, the future is increasingly bleak. At the same time many older people have benefited from the property boom and have high-value pensions and savings.

Many people have moved from more highly-paid industrial jobs to low-paid service sector jobs in retail, call centres and care. Workers in these sectors are often on short-term contracts. In 2009, the average wage was £20081. In 2008/09, income in the top and bottom fifth of households was £73800 and £5000 respectively, before taxes and benefits.

mg_6280After tax and benefits, household income disparities are significantly reduced, to £53900 and £13600 respectively

The lives of many in Aberdeen have been cushioned by working in the oil and gas sector. Many in the trades are well paid too, due to local market conditions, but others have suffered the double whammy of low pay and increasing housing costs, in particular in the private sector.

The policy of selling council housing has had a devastating effect on people wanting to get into the housing market. It created divisions between working class people who were poor and those who were better off and who could afford to buy their council property at a reduced cost. This policy has finally been dropped in Scotland, but to turn around the devastation caused will take decades.

The young, unless they have rich parents who can help them on to the property ladder or with rent payments, have been particularly affected, with many more young people living in the parental home.

Housing Associations have, in part, helped to provide accommodation but in a market like Aberdeen’s, where private rents are high, the effect on people’s standard of living is devastating. Those renting out flats have made a killing.  Many people have moved to Aberdeenshire to access cheaper housing, creating ever-increasing chaos on the roads leading into Aberdeen.

Although Aberdeen is relatively affluent, there are a number of localities with significant social and economic challenges. In the 2012 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 22 areas in the city are among the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland. The figures in relation to health are more striking, 48 areas of the city fall into the 155 most deprived areas in the country.

Jonathan Russell continues exploration of the growing inequalities in wealth globally, in the UK and here in Aberdeen in the next issue of Aberdeen Voice.

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Aug 152013

By Bob Smith.

We’re aa familiar wi the descripshuns o Aiberdeen as the Ile Capital o Europe or Ile Rich Aiberdeen. Noo we’ll jist hae tae tak the wird o aa the billies involved in oil aat oor toon IS the Ile Capital o Europe bit fin it cums tae Ile Rich Aiberdeen weel we can aa as citizens hae wir ain views on iss moniker.

There’s nae doot aat aa thae fowk faa are involved in ile an its “supportin cast” are verra weel aff bit in ma opeenion the toon itsel is nae. Nor fin it cums tae it are some o the fowk faa are nae involved wi the “black gold”.

Lits hae a leuk at a fyow facts regardin oor bonnie toon an foo ile his chynged thingies.

There are mair 4×4 vehicles in Aiberdeen than onywye else in the kwintra yet the toon canna it seems afford tae dee a gweed job o repairin the potholes in oor roads an streets caused bi 4×4’s an ither traffic.Div fowk need 4×4’s in the toon or is iss jist anither example o a status symbol in “ile rich Aiberdeen”?

Great rejoicin  fae the hoose developers an sellin agents aboot the recent news aat hoose prices in Aiberdeen are risin aboot £1000 a wikk.

Bad news fer young fowk faa are tryin tae get a fit or even a tae on the hoose buyin laidder. The likes o Stewartie Milne an his ilk mak a lot o noise aboot including affordable hooses in their various developments. Affordable tae faa? Certinly nae tae a lot o fowk faa are nae involved in ile.

Hiv ye tried eatin oot in sum o the so ca’ed funcy restaurants in Aiberdeen? Michty me leukin at sum o the prices on the menus ye’d hae tae tak oot a mortgage afore ye waakit throwe the door.

The gap between the weel aff an the nae sae weel aff in oor toon is widenin baith in the cost o livin an in the wage structure.

So since the discovery o ile sum fowk in the city hiv definitely got richer bit the toon itsel hisna. Iss shudna hae bin allood tae happen

 iss toon wull survive lang efter the ile rins oot

Myn ye altho’ in monetary terms the toon coffers seem tae be slowly emptyin dinna forgit iss toon is rich in lots o ither wyes.

We hiv a rich cultural heritage. The toon his a richness in its architecture despite some silly eejits o architects an developers buoyed by ile money tryin their best tae bugger things up.

Aiberdeen his a “richness” in its local population faa hiv seen the gweed an the bad o “Ile Rich Aiberdeen” but bide stoically  optimistic aboot the toon’s future. As lang as wi hae fowk faa are nae blinded bi the bling iss toon wull survive lang efter the ile rins oot. We micht nae langer be classed “Ile Rich Aiberdeen” bit we wull ayewis hae anither kine o “richness” fit the ile can nivver bring.

A wid far raither the toon wint back tae bein kent as the “Granite City” or the “Silver City By The Sea” as iss wid dee oor local tourist industry faar mair gweed that bein kent as the  “ile capital o Europe”.

I’ll leave the last wird tae American author, political an financial journalist Matt Taibbi faa said:

“To Wall Street, a firm like BP isn’t just a profitable company with lots of assets like oil rigs and pipelines and gas stations—it’s also a corporation that routinely borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to keep its business up and running”

Soonds like the cooncil o “Ile rich Aiberdeen”

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