When Brexit and Austerity Collide…

…towns like Totnes suffer even more

Darmstadt, Germany is home to the one of the world’s largest proton accelerators – a machine that throws atomic particles against one another at the speed of sound to study the wreckage.

If anyone wants to study another type of wreckage they are welcome to come to Totnes to see the carnage that is occurring as Brexit collides with the National Austerity Budget.

How did it happen that we’ve gotten into such a mess?
While many well-known economists argued that back in the day when the former Chancellor George Osborne put in a place a national austerity budget, he did it way too soon. Those same economists argued that there were still funds available for internal investment that could have helped our growth and productivity. They also argued that the best way to balance your budget is to grow your economy. The government pounded home the notion of balancing the budget not because it was best practice; rather it was something that their electoral base could grasp and get excited about. By telling everyone we are in dire straits and then acting like we are in dire straits, the government has been wildly successful in putting us in dire straits. (It’s a little like predicting a disaster and then working hard to make it happen.)

SHDC is desperate for money

Local problems.

The net result locally is that the South Hams District Council is scrambling around like mad to fund its own operations. Running the gamut from installing pay toilets to selling off sizeable chunks of our downtown, the SHDC is desperate for money and it looks like things are going to get worse. Because they are cash strapped, we in Totnes have to play a lot of defensive ball to see that their poorly thought through development schemes aren’t shoved down our throats.
I’m not by nature a fan of the SHDC, but I could be tempted to be slightly sympathetic to their plight – except and this is a big exception – the majority of the Councillors on SHDC are Tories and even though they probably don’t have much to do with setting national budget policy, they are of the same Tribe – a tribe that places adherence to the status quo above caring for others.

That brings us to Brexit, whose impact on Totnes the Pulse has done of good job of reporting on.
The bottom line impact on the retailers on the high street is that Brexit will either drive up the price of goods so far as to make them uncompetitive or even more disturbingly will preclude those retailers from getting their hands on goods from the EU. (Already one high street shop is seriously considering closing because the UK wholesaler it depends on has gone out of business.)
Outside of Totnes town centre, the impact on the local agricultural industry is immense when you consider the high percentage of foreign workers we need to bring in the crops.
So what we have here is a situation that on one hand is disastrous; on the other is even more disastrous.
Unfortunately, I have no magical wand to wave over this situation.

Publish date: 2nd February 2019

John Anderson.

Do you agree, disagree? Comment below.

This opinion piece does not necessarily represent the views of The Totnes Pulse
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