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Suomen kommunistinen puolue

2012 Municipal Election Platform of the Communist Party of Finland


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2012 Municipal Election Platform of the Communist Party of Finland

Central Committee of the Communist Party of Finland – 23.09.2012

ACTIONS FOR LOCAL SERVICES

– Vote against austerity measures

Do we choose spending cuts or active safeguarding of basic services? These are the two main options on offer in the upcoming municipal election. Do we allow the cabinet of Jyrki Katainen and the dominant parties in municipalities to continue reducing municipal services, putting them out to tender, privatising them and centralising decision-making? Or do we take a different course and promote democratic municipalities that foster the well-being of their citizens? Will decision-making be based on the needs of the people or the needs of the markets?

The candidates of the Communist Party of Finland are committed to promoting easily accessible municipal services and local democracy, and these will be our goals as councillors and citizens' movement activists.


Government aims to cut local services and jobs and reduce the number of municipalities

The six-party coalition government, lead by the National Coalition Party, wants to walk over municipalities and their residents. The municipal reform would dismantle the majority of municipalities and centralise the provision of social and health services to 25–37 Social & Health Care districts (Sote). At the same time, the government is cutting its funding to municipalities. All this is a part of the policy of reducing public spending and commercialising public services promoted by the EU.

If municipal services are reduced and the size of municipalities increased, as the ruling parties intend to do, democracy will weaken, inequality will increase and the more remote parts of municipalities will decline.

The CPF is against forming giant, undemocratic municipalities. Instead, we are in favour of human-scale municipalities that meet the needs of residents, safeguard their fundamental rights and promote their self-governance.


Local services are a fundamental right

Easy reachability is extremely important for guaranteeing equal access to services. Having services nearby also gives residents the feeling of living in a lively and active community. According to the European Union's guidelines for sustainable city development, basic services must be available within a walking distance.

The CPF defends local services and promotes the creation of extensive local service networks in municipalities. We need a law that obliges municipalities to provide services within a reasonable distance. The CPF believes that everyone is entitled to well-being. It is also our belief that is better to increase municipal service provision than to put services out to tender or to privatise them.


Health differences must be diminished

Health differences have increased in our society. For instance, the life expectancy of low-income citizens can be up to 12 years shorter than that of high-income citizens. Municipal health care deteriorates, while private health business flourishes. Finland also spends less public money on health care than the average OECD country. Regardless of all this, the government is cutting health spending.

The CPF demands a thorough improvement of public health care. In order to diminish health differences, basic municipal health care must be made free. The guaranteed maximum waiting time for an appointment must be met in all health services. The occupational health services provided by municipal health centres must be improved, and this requires more funds from the state. Municipalities' financial burden in specialised health care provision should not be increased, and the provision of these services must not be transferred to private markets.


Services for the elderly must be thoroughly improved

Municipalities have shut down old people's homes and reduced other long-term care services under the justification that old people have the right to live in their own homes. Meanwhile, the services provided as home care have become more limited, and more and more old people have to completely rely on their family or fend for themselves, practically abandoned.

It is therefore our demand that the proposed Act on Care Services for the Elderly stipulate a minimum number of personnel that is required for good care in home care, assisted living and institutions. In order for such a minimum to be met, municipal services for the elderly must be improved and sufficient funding provided. In addition, support to family caregivers should be increased. The elderly should not be made to pay for everything or put in an unequal position as a result of the service voucher system or intensively assisted living. We must also ensure that the disabled have a right to good care and autonomy.


Well-being of children and young people must be ensured

Child poverty, young people's mental health issues and problems in families have increased. Many of these problems are a result of extensive cuts made in the 1990s, and the mistakes made then have still not been corrected. For instance, in most municipalities child care centres can't take in all the children in need of day care. Deficiencies in services for families with children and in early support systems have led to increases in the number of children taken into custody.

The entire service chain for families with children must be improved, including child care, pre-school, home services, the health, social and learning-related services provided at schools, youth work and child protection. More resources must be allocated to preventive work in particular.

Group sizes in child care centres must be reduced. The proposed Act on Early Education must stipulate that at least half of the staff of every child care centre must be university-educated kindergarten teachers.

Young people's own initiatives must be supported, and all teenagers must be able to participate in organised spare time activities, regardless of the income level of their parents.


Everyone is entitled to education and culture

The fact that all Finnish children go to comprehensive school is important for the social development and equality of children and young people. However, polarisation and inequality are rapidly increasing within our schooling system. Many young people are dropping out of school, and many quit their vocational training. Another factor that increases inequality is the closing of schools and libraries.

The CPF fights for every child's right to go to school close to their home and demands a reduction in class size in comprehensive schools. More teachers are needed in vocational training, and more students have to be accepted into vocational schools. In addition, more resources must be allocated for immigrant children's language studies; and more nurses, counsellors and social workers are needed in schools.

Neighbourhood libraries must be improved in order to provide everyone with equal opportunities for education, culture and independent spare time activities free of charge. Municipalities must support a wide variety of cultural activities, in particular those taking place in neighbourhoods and communities, and promote sports and other spare-time activities.


Living costs must come down

Reasonably priced housing is a fundamental right. Housing has, however, been subjected to profit-seeking real estate developers, banks and landlords. Town planning and construction are distorted by municipal authorities' and officials' close relationships with big business, and corruption and grey economy are real problems.

We need more reasonably-priced flats, especially rented ones. Homelessness must be abolished, and rent control reinstated. Municipalities must start building flats and renovating existing ones, and for this they require a special unit or a public utility. In addition, we must promote and improve tenant democracy and put an end to close relationships between municipalities, real estate developers and chain stores.


Jobs must be created and working life reformed

The municipal reform, advocated by the government, threatens to axe tens of thousands of jobs. However, the economic recession and youth and long-term unemployment highlight the need to create jobs. The wage agreements that municipalities demand their employees to accept make it harder to make a living in many jobs dominated by women or plagued by low wages. Pressuring and management by fear is commonplace in municipal workplaces.

The alternative is to create jobs, raise low wages, cut working hours and improve workplace democracy. If municipalities hire more people, they can improve their services and promote employment.

Instead of putting services out to tender or privatising them, municipalities should increase their own service provision and even branch out into new fields. They should, for instance, favour open-source software instead of copyrighted software that is bought from large companies. They should also hire people to develop custom software for them and to help citizens use municipal databases.

In a nutshell, municipalities should prevent grey economy by carrying out their responsibilities themselves whenever possible. When they do procure services or products, they must keep subcontracting chains as short as possible and ensure that the subcontractors comply with Finnish conditions of employment and make their foreign workers pay their taxes.


Municipalities must take steps towards sustainable development

Big business tries to gain benefits by controlling land use, construction, energy production, traffic and services in municipalities, with no regard for the environment. The decisions municipalities themselves make also have a great impact on emissions and noise pollution, as well as values related to nature, landscape and culture.

No results were achieved in the UN Rio+20 Conference, but change can begin in municipalities through drawing up sustainable development action plans together with residents. In order to promote ecologically sustainable development, we need easily accessible local services, local food, renewable local energy and local democracy. Towns and rural areas can together build local economies that foster the viability of both environments and help them survive global economic turbulence.

Public transport must be improved while maintaining it a municipal service and efforts must be made to eventually make it free. Such development is possible in sparsely populated areas, too. Town planning must minimise the centralisation of shopping facilities and services to prevent an increase in traffic. The train services of the VR Group (Finnish national railways) must not be privatised.

The CPF is against privatising municipal utilities, for instance those responsible for energy supply, and believes in developing coal and nuclear free municipal energy production. Moreover, citizens and municipalities must have a legally guaranteed right to participate in decision-making on activities that significantly alter nature, such as mining projects.


There are alternatives to spending cuts

The six-party government, led by Jyrki Katainen, has cut government subsidies to municipalities by approximately 1.2 billion euros in one year. Similar spending cuts were carried out in the 1990s. As a result, services were reduced, and we are still paying the bills for the damage that was done. Another result of such cuts is that services are financed to a greater degree with municipal taxes and service fees which burden low-income citizens more heavily. Furthermore, the spending reduction goals of the government platform and the economic union agreement of the EU mean that we may see further cuts after the election.

More funding must be provided for municipal services, as an increase would have many benefits. Capital gains must be considered equal with earned income in municipal taxation, as this would bring in an extra 1.3–1.8 billion euros per year. The government must also increase its subsidies to municipalities, and municipalities should receive a larger share of corporation tax revenues. Municipal taxation must also be made progressive and the low-income allowance raised.

In addition, the economic situation of municipalities can and must be strengthened by developing their business activity. Municipalities must provide basic services themselves and stop procuring expensive private services.


The CPF supports participative democracy and autonomy

The government advocates giant municipalities in order to pave way for centralising services, putting them out to tender and privatising them. Most decisions in municipalities are already made by a small group of decision-makers and officials, and in the large new municipalities decision-making will be even more remote from ordinary citizens. This, together with market-oriented management models, also makes the role of councillors less important.

The alternative is participative democracy: local democracy, participative budget-making, providing free access to facilities and information for residents, and creating sub-councils for large municipalities. All of these would forge a new kind of relationship between councillors and residents.

The CPF is against forced consolidation of municipalities and defends citizens' right to municipal autonomy. Instead of giant municipalities, we need democratic and autonomous provincial governance. Provincial councils should be elected in municipal elections, and their role would be to steer provincial-level decision-making on issues such as town planning, traffic, specialised health care and environment.

Municipal democracy and autonomy must not be restricted with the EU's financial discipline agreements or directives or by hiving off and privatising public services.

Municipalities must clearly reject racism, violence and militarism. They must also be globally responsible and ensure that municipal procurement does not exploit cheap labour or tax havens, or use environmentally harmful products.

Instead of nothing but words, we need action for local services and local democracy. The upcoming municipal election is your chance to protest against the austerity measures and the abuse of power by small circles of people!

The Communist Party of Finland

Central Committee

www.skp.fi



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