This article was published in the April 2004 SPAG Newsletter.
The 50th edition of this Newsletter cannot be allowed to pass without a note of self-congratulation. Our influence on policy-makers and the general public is perhaps not as great as that of more dignified journals such as The Times or the Guardian. We do not even aim to compete with the Southwark News or the South London Press.
And yet, in our modest way, we are not entirely uninfluential. At the local level, we keep an eye on what Southwark Council is up to and shout when we don't like it. Copies of the Newsletter are sent to all councillors.
At national level, we have an unrivalled record of achievement, for instance in drawing attention to the repeated misuse of the National Insurance Fund to pay for Government policies entirely unrelated to the purposes of the Fund - billions of pounds which should have been used to improve state pensions.
Our readers are also better informed than those of any other journal, whether daily, weekly or monthly, about the massive unneeded surplus which the Fund has accumulated. The latest exclusive report on that subject appeared in our February issue.
When the Conservative Party announced their plan to lift a million pensioners off the means test by restoring the link between the basic pension and average earnings, we were alone in pointing out that, to achieve this target, they were proposing to reverse the present Government's policy of raising the means-tested minimum income in line with earnings. "The right solution", we wrote in our November 2003 issue, "is not to hold down the Minimum Income Guarantee as the Tories are proposing, thus penalising the poorest pensioners, but to raise the pension so that it does not have to be topped up by means-tested benefits."
Of course, we would like all this information to reach many more people than it does at present. But there's good news on that front. The main articles in the Newsletter are now also published on our website and are thus available to the world at large. What's more, on the website you can find not only this month's articles but those from previous issues which we think may still be of interest. Ask your computer to dial up "www.southwark.tv", click on "Select a Partner" and choose "SPAG". And tell all your friends to do the same.