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AltAusterity Digest #93 April 4-10, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Apr 12, 2019

Ahead of the Ontario Conservative’s first budget one of the primary areas of concern is municipal transfers. For example, last month Ottawa passed a $3.6 million budget for 2019, with more than $650 million expected to come from the province. According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), a reduction in transfers from the province to the local level will see many municipalities either cut services, put off infrastructure improvements or increase local taxes. Smaller municipalities are particularly worried as the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (which helps small and rural communities), and the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund may both face cuts.

Political commentators are trying to find a label for the policy approach of António Costa that has helped turn around the Portuguese economy. In the Portuguese media it has become known as geringonça, translated as “an old contraption,” while British Labour peer Peter Mandelson has termed it “the fourth way.” The failures of the troika’s austerity agenda are readily apparent across Europe. It has been Portugal’s centre-left focus on stimulating demand that has been most successful in combating and reversing austerity policies. Despite the positive steps, some on the Portuguese left feel as though the anti-austerity agenda has not gone far enough in investing in public services.  

After a decade of austerity in Britain, the negative health effects of austerity have culminated in shortened life expectancy. The Office of National Statistics has noted a slowdown in improvements of life expectancy in the UK, identifying 2011 as the year it began to decline. The UK has experienced the largest slowdowns in life expectancy in Europe. The Institute of Public Actuaries, which calculates projections for the pensions industry, have declined to say why life expectancy has trended downward by an average of 6 months loss of life. Academics in public health, however, say that cuts in benefits, public health schemes, environmental protections, and the National Health Service are all key contributors.

New municipalism” has become a growing trend since the global financial crisis, aiming to respond to austerity and political centralization. The municipal strategy has been embodied by Preston city council in England, after being named the country’s most improved urban area to work and live in research carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Some of the first changes that the Preston council made were to become a living wage employer and bring a credit union back to the city to combat payday lenders and loan sharks. The council was also successful in getting the public sector pension fund to invest locally. The council also localized procurement by handing contracts to local businesses and cooperatives as opposed to corporate giants who are much more likely to outsource. New municipalism also embraces democratizing decision making at the local level through consultations, meetings and online voting.

That's it for this week's Digest! Check back next Friday morning for another edition, or subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly roundup. We'll also Tweet each time we add new content, so you can keep up with our work @AltAusterity and join the #altausterity conversation.