This post was originally posted on Bristol's MEP, Molly Scott Cato's Facebook page. Click here to stay up-to-date with Molly's work:
With so much gloom around it’s great to be able to share news of a historic move against tax evasion and financial crimes. And Greens were instrumental in bringing this about.
This morning the economic and legal committees in the European Parliament jointly voted to support the strengthening of the anti-money-laundering directive. This is a piece of European law that requires financial and legal companies to be transparent about how rich people are moving their money from country to country. It also includes the proposal for a ‘beneficial ownership register’ meaning that rich people cannot hide their money in closed trusts so that nobody knows who benefits from what.
Some wealthy people have earned their money legitimately. But the title of the law makes clear this is about clamping down on illegal flows of money and global gangsters getting away with murder. Since much of this ‘dirty money’ is cleansed through the London property market I was delighted that a Green proposal to strengthen controls on that activity was passed.
Greens have led on this agenda. Strangely, we get really excited about these technical, legal, economic files! So much so that Green MEPs and advisors were all at the committee meeting at 8am this morning, bright as buttons, eager to start voting! Most of the Green proposals to strengthen the legislation went through, with the right wing losing the majority of votes for a change. Our legal advisor Aleksys was crouched on the floor behind me, punching the air and shouting ‘Yes!’ from time to time. Yes, really!
While checking how the different groups were voting I noticed how empty were the seats reserved for far right and even farther right MEPs. Their votes were literally in all directions and it was clear they didn’t have a clue what was going on.
This was legislation to ensure that taxes are paid so that health and social services can be properly funded. They didn’t turn up and didn’t understand how to vote. As they spend their staff budgets on people working in the constituency to destroy the EU perhaps this is not surprising. But it is deeply disappointing to the many people in the UK and across Europe who put their trust in them.
Response to mayor’s consultation:
The Green Group particularly welcomes the extra money invested in collaborative working to improve early intervention projects in Bristol. This is something we asked the Mayor to consider and which we fully support. It makes complete sense to invest today in projects that reduce spending, solve social problems and alleviate suffering in years to come.
We repeat our earlier welcome for money supporting: outcomes of the library consultation, closer joint working in the city region and, particularly, better local rail links. Everyone wants to develop local rail, everyone thinks it is a good idea. No one can quite understand why it is taking so long for these local trains to arrive. We ask the mayor to make sure this extra money is well spent and to move things swiftly down the line.
We offer a cautious welcome to the extra funds toward ongoing green capital work. The money is welcome. But we will be lobbying for a continued contribution not a single one off payment. Bristol Green Capital year is the beginning of something, not the end. So rather than legacy funding, we call for a future fund to celebrate the birth, and invest in the healthy development of what must become a truly sustainable city.
Welcome as this extra money is, this has not been a budget consultation but a public exercise to consider how to spend a relatively small amount of extra cash, at a time when all council budgets are severely stretched.
The £3.9m extra funding represents just over 1% of the council’s revenue budget and about one third of 1% of total council spending this year.
The extra money represents just one eighth of what the council is already committed to cut this year alone as a result of government measures over which Bristol has no control.
It’s a bit like providing extra pocket money to your kids at Christmas while worrying about how you will pay the mortgage, pay your bills and keep your job over the coming year. It feels nice enough, but could be a dangerous distraction to deeper challenges ahead.
Like many in the city, we have serious concerns about the impact of cuts on council services and what lies in store in coming years. We will continue to consider the budget as a whole, identify services most under pressure and present amendments that help the hardest hit and enable the council to achieve more, with less, in a way that is ethical and responsible.