“Today, the chancellor cited the backing of the International Monetary Fund and big business to underline his conviction in his decisions.
Pressed on what he would do if his strategy proved to have devastating consequences, Osborne made clear he intended to stay on course.”
More Conservative lies were imminent after George Osborne’s savage public spending cuts. Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has argued that the Conservative party has not imposed their will over their own party and that the budget has been a joint decision. On BBC Breakfast he stated;
“What you will see today is all the things that we had as our priorities in the election reflected in the statement, you will see the fairness for the next generation, which is why there is much more investment for the under-fives and the poorer families at school,”
I fail to see fairness in a system which allows a household with joint income of nearly £88,000 to keep their child benefit, yet cuts the same benefit from a family with a single income of half of that. I fail to see the fairness in a system which cuts council budgets and then condemns the opposition governments, via a flyer published before the cuts announcements and circulated on the same day, for ‘possibly’ cutting services they can no longer afford to run. The benefits and services that will be cut are chosen in order to enact ideological political manoeuvres, rather than moving through legitimate, but time-consuming, campaigning, petition and legislation. In short, they are bypassing standard procedure but cutting budgets in order to make regressive changes and use their best friend, the Deficit, as an excuse. The Tories have wanted to dismantle the welfare state for more than sixty years. Now they can do while shedding crocodile tears and they have the Lib-Dems on side.
“The most striking of the new cuts announced yesterday was a package of £7bn in extra welfare cuts on top of the £11bn already made in the last budget. This will include the withdrawal of £50 a week from the 1 million people who have been claiming incapacity benefit for more than a year.”
In a vacuous attempt to sweeten the medicine we are being given to cure the problems caused by the banks and the high-flyers in the City, Nick Clegg has announced a £7 billion investment (into where?) over the same 4 years, including a pupil premium for 1 million disadvantaged children (what about the others?) saying it was an investment in the future even if this makes the present harder. This also does not add up, and I believe is a needless distraction from what the true cost to society that these cuts will be. This promise has come in the same week that the Liberal democrats have had to renege on their promise to abolish tuition fees; they have actually been raised to make up for the cut on places. The premium is a complete waste of money. If the coalition were not hell been on the privatisation of our schools system, then the need to bribe academies to take on poor kids would be superfluous. They know that the admissions codes will not be upheld as these academies will even be entitled to select students on the basis of their parents’ religion.
“What we want to do is to make sure that as few people in the public sector lose their jobs. That is why we are negotiating now with the public sector unions and with those who work in so many of the services on which we depend, in order to ensure, for example, that pay can be frozen in such a way that we can minimise job losses. I don’t think any of us would like to see anyone lose their job.” – Michael Gove to the BBC
The announcements yesterday estimated public sector job losses of around 500,000 over four years, and the hardest hit to be the Department of Work and Pensions, and the Ministry of Justice with a 25% cut to their budget. Add to this cuts in university funding and reduction in places, ‘reforms’ to public housing budgets and yet more cuts to the welfare system. However the government has NOT stopped borrowing money. Last month the coalition borrowed £16.2 billion, a record high for a September. These cuts will damage the recovery of our economy by costing people their jobs and forcing them onto job-seekers allowance which will stop after a year. Bear in mind that there are those who were made redundant in 2008 who still have not been able to find work. Bill that would result from the collective redundancy payments and new benefits claims could well negate any savings made by the welfare budget cuts or even exceed them.
“Labour however denounced the government’s “slash and burn” strategy while the IFS said his measures were “regressive”, hitting the poor harder than the rich.”
I am with Ed Milliband in disagreeing that there are no alternatives for these cuts. Mr Darling’s plan was to halve the deficit by exponentially increasing taxation to those who could afford it rather than cutting public spending and costing valuable services. It is clear that in the eyes of the elitist and wealthy Tories and liberals, our public services are an irrelevant luxury for the undeserving. If ever they could be making a point of putting the people ‘back in their place‘, this is it. Forget ‘we’re all in this together‘, as Cameron so fatuously sloganised his election campaign, what he meant is that he plans to look after the rich (responsible for the financial crisis) while the rest of us are on our own. Westminster does understand the difficulties this will cause, the point of fact is that they just don’t care when the people suffering are not the ones with enough political clout to stop them.
“What the government should be doing is putting in place a plan to reduce the deficit but also to protect growth and jobs in our country. What I fear we are going to hear today is an irresponsible gamble with our economy and indeed many of the frontline services that people rely on in our communities. There is an alternative, there is a different way, but I fear that what the government is going to do is take an irresponsible gamble with our nation’s economy.” Ed Milliband.
He added: “People will be very fearful about what is being announced today – fearful for their jobs and fearful for many of the services that they rely on up and down the country.”
Some councils may see their overall annual budgets cut by 20% overnight. With the so-called ‘Big society’ outlook and councils being ‘granted’ more localised autonomy, it means that many district councils will be left to look for budget cut backs and expected to make up the shortfall in other ways. It will also mean that many councils will be forced to chase people for money and then be blamed for unpopular decisions. One thing is for sure; nobody who either voted Liberal or Tory (or abstained from the electoral process altogether) has any business complaining now about decisions that they knew were coming. They got what they asked for. For towns like Consett, which lost their steel industry thanks to a Tory manufactured recession in the 1980s, the outlook is bleak.
Labour created public sector jobs to revive those areas and now almost 46% of their budget is spent on salaries. Libraries, bus routes, rubbish collections, leisure centres and care facilities for the elderly and disabled (which are the most expensive proportion of public spending) also stand to face job losses due to cut backs. Cuts in the care budgets will mean both a severe drop in their quality of care and in their quality of life. This will have a dual effect. As people are concerned about their prospects over the coming months, they are likely to spend less which in turn will have a negative knock on effect to the private sector and ultimately on VAT revenue.
“Osborne announced sweeping cuts to welfare, higher education, social housing, policing and local government that will axe £81bn from government spending and draw the country back “from the brink of bankruptcy”.”
The most vulnerable will be the hardest hit as the wealthy don’t generally tend to rely on public transport or public leisure facilities like libraries. In the previous recession it was our industry which died and we were forced to become a services and retail dominated economy. Now it is the civil servants who will suffer in the same needless fashion. Even with the huge number of people working for the government and councils across the country, a lot of what they spend is with private companies and outsourced labour for services such as waste collection and basic supplies. If care positions are lost, then private companies will be left to take up the slack (the labour requirements will not fall) and this will eventually privatise those services while paying their staff minimum wage. The tragedy lies in the fact that these people are going to lose their jobs through no fault of their own and the older workforce will have an even greater problem finding new work.
“It is unlikely that the Bank will do enough, quickly enough to prevent the economy tanking next year. If that happens, Osborne will get the blame as the hissing becomes deafening.”
The legacy of the steel and mining industries is a large number of pensioners and disabled people with serious respiratory problems. These automatic incapacity payments will stop after a year and then be means tested. Changes will be disproportionate due to Osborne’s decision to reform disability living allowances. The cancellation to the Future Jobs Fund (supported job training to disadvantaged school leavers) has already been dealt a blow, severely reducing the number of youngsters that the YMCA can assist. Staff at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (giving free legal and financial advice to people who cannot afford to employ solicitors and accountants) also face uncertainty. There is no telling where or not these jobs can be saved or not.
Big Society is a big con. They are cutting public funding while expecting the voluntary sector to step in and continue the work. This will fail, especially if spending to voluntary sector is also rolled back, limiting the help they can provide. The Coalition have falsely promoted an idea that councils have deliberately accumulated high levels of waste on administration with jobs that can be cut painlessly. There is no such thing as a painless recession especially when those who caused the financial crisis will feel no ill-effects whatsoever. We are well on the way to another Tory manufactured recession. One of the most revealing statements from Mr Osborne is that he regrets making these changes against the ‘backdrop’ of the deficit. I equate this to mean that they would have made these changes regardless of the state of the economy.
“The chancellor made it clear yesterday that he would “stick to the course”, with no changes to his fiscal plans whatever the state of the economy. This is dogmatic, foolish and – in the third big gamble – puts enormous pressure on the Bank of England to provide the necessary monetary stimulus should growth suffer as the spending restraint bites.”
It seems remarkable that despite these brutal but ‘necessary’ cut-backs which will hit the worst off, and the nice easy excuse of the ‘deficit’ we can still afford to subsidise faith groups. The BHA has criticised the decision to fund Interfaith Week. There is little need to continually subsidise these groups from public funds and no evidence that it is required over and above that which is already granted to groups in the voluntary sector. Labour spent a huge amount on faith groups over the course of their term in government, in an attempt to resolve interfaith disputes. It is vital that where public services can be saved, resources are available according to need and based on the group’s ability to provide a service to a whole community and not based on religious bias.
“In an answer to a written Parliamentary question last week, Baroness Hanham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed that they would again be funding ‘Interfaith Week’ in November and will continue with a grant scheme that is open only to groups working on ‘interfaith’ issues.”
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vcqjh (You and Yours production from 21st October. This is only available to re listen for seven days after the broadcast so you will need get in quickly)