progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

a green & mutual budget

In yesterday's budget it was announced that a £2bn Green Investment Bank would be established by the government to close the "equity gap" facing projects to build low-carbon infrastructure.

Friends of the Earth, which has been campaigning for the measure since the start of 2009, has welcomed the news. Andy Atkins, FoE's Executive Director said:
"This bank will provide crucial funds for major green developments, such as off-shore wind projects, which will slash emissions, increase our energy security and create thousands of new jobs.

"We must do much more to build a low carbon economy - but today's announcement is a massive stride in the right direction."

Elsewhere FoE were more critical, particularly on the issue of sustainable transport.

Alongside the budget, the initial findings of the Energy Market Assessment have been published. A single-buyer agency has been ruled out, but the government has said the concentration in the market cannot continue. The government will work with the financial services industry to develop Pay As You Save, allowing householders to pay the upfront costs for micro-renewables using the savings they make on their energy bills.

Ed Miliband, the Energy minister, is also the man responsible for Labour's election manifesto. He has expressed support for the Collective Power model, put forward by the Co-operative Party - in which communities collectively-purchase gas and electricity through consumer co-operatives. Miliband has said that the policy will be included in Labour's manifesto.

The Chancellor expressed his support for the establishment of a People's Bank using the postal network when he said the government would ensure that bank accounts were available to everyone. The "Post Bank"policy has been championed by the New Economics Foundation, the Small Business Federation, and the Communications Workers Union - it could be a way for the government to ensure that everyone has access to a bank account and other financial services.

The government's plans to reduce the structural deficit are bound to include measures to divest state-owned assets - in the past, this has typically by way of creating for-profit organisations which have swiftly become the property of transnational corporations. So it's good news that the UK government is to turn British Waterways, England & Wales’ 200-year old canal network, into a mutual.

This will allow users of the waterways to have a greater say, and will enable BW to borrow against its assets for the purposes of maintaining the network. However, staff do have concerns that greater usage of volunteers will displace paid workers, and it would be regretable if management neglect to involve employees and their union representatives in decision-making on the future of the network.

I think that mutuality should be the basis for other routes of public transport, such as bus and railway networks. Since privatisation, the railways have required significant public investment, passengers have experienced increased ticket prices, whilst shareholders have continued to benefit. The government's take-over of the East Coast line, prompted by the failure of National Express, provides an opportunity for co-operative solutions to be used to increase rail usage.

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