“We have now had austerity for nearly 10 years, and it is devastating people’s lives,” according to Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition spokesperson Pete McLaren commenting on today’s Budget.
“This budget deepens the attack on our services, jobs and quality of life. It is disgraceful and will cause even more suffering to those already unable to cope in Tory Britain.“The £2 billion extra announced today for Social Care, spread over 3 years, is far too little, far too late. The 2% rise in National Insurance contributions for millions of often low-paid self-employed workers will push more people into poverty, whilst raising the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000 is a giveaway to the top 15% of earners. Cuts to the NHS have not been reversed; there is no extra help for cash-strapped schools.
“Whilst ordinary working people, the poor and the vulnerable lose vital services, the bosses of Britain’s largest public companies enjoyed a 10% pay rise in 2015 according to the High Pay Centre while wages for workers rose just 2%. Leading company bosses now typically earn 129 times more than their employees. The wealthy can cope with service cuts, the rest of us can’t. They are not affected by austerity.
“There is no need for austerity: it is a political choice. There are other ways of dealing with the country’s deficit, including a 5% wealth tax on the richest 10% which, alone, would resolve the country’s debt. Governments could reclaim the £120 billion per year of unpaid tax that rich individuals and companies avoid or evade. Banks and building societies could be nationalized, and their massive profits could be used to maintain and improve public services.
“In Rugby and Warwickshire, we are already facing massive cuts in care for the elderly, libraries, the Fire and Rescue Service and road maintenance. Thousands will lose their jobs. The 4% increase in Council tax will hit the poor and those on low wages particularly hard. This Budget will do nothing to help.
“Looking at public services in detail shows the true state of affairs
• Education: The Tories can find an extra £340 million to build 140 new Free and Grammar schools - selective schools disproportionately filled by pupils from wealthier backgrounds (only 3% on free school meals compared to 15% in other state schools) whilst state schools report a £3 billion shortfall in funding with less money per pupil, shortage of teachers and crumbling buildings.
• Welfare: there have been massive cuts to benefits over the last 5 years, including cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to save £3.7 billion by ensuring fewer claimants qualify. Child benefit and most Universal Credit rates have been frozen: with inflation rising towards 3%, these are real-term cuts. Rugby TUSC sees the suffering locally on a regular basis outside the Job Centre
• Government departments have been told to cut 6% to save £3.5 billion. Hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs. Services will be further decimated.
• Local Government budget cuts have already led to the closures of libraries, and 25 million fewer books than in 1996; fewer disabled children can get council help; cuts to domestic violence refuges; closures of youth clubs, fire stations and children’s centres; more people sleeping rough; adult eligibility to social care has been restricted; far fewer elderly people are eligible for care at home
• Social Care is in financial turmoil with 23,000 allegations of abuse against carers working in peoples’ homes due to cuts to council budget according to the UK Homecare Association
• Health: £30 billion to be cut by 2020 through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – we know that is going to decimate health provision locally and nationally
“Basically”, Pete McLaren concluded, “local Councils are close to insolvency. Health services cannot cope, hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs, and those who cannot work, including the disabled, are being pushed into abject poverty through benefit cuts and sanctions. None of this was mentioned in today’s budget, a budget which does nothing to address these facts and, in many ways, will make the situation worse.”
• Rugby TUSC can be contacted at: www.rugbytusc.com; on 07881 520626; RugbyTUSC@gmail.com; or PO Box 4123 Rugby CV21 9BJ
• Pete McLaren has just been re-elected to the TUSC National Steering Committee, and is its Local Group Development Officer. He was the Rugby TUSC Candidate in last year’s General Election