AUTUMN BUDGET: A FEW CRUMS, BUT LITTLE OF SUBSTANCE
“Seven years of Tory austerity have caused untold suffering for the people of Rugby and elsewhere. Today’s Budget was a chance to address that. It spectacularly failed, and those disadvantaged by low incomes or benefits will now suffer even more misery,” Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) spokesperson Pete McLaren told us within an hour of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget.
“Today was an opportunity to give the NHS the emergency cash boost it needed. The population is increasing and more people are living longer. Health professionals had called for an extra £4 billion immediately to get the NHS through this winter. Instead, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £2.8 billion spread over three years
“Spending on social care has fallen dramatically: since 2009, the number of people aged 85+ has risen by 9% while spending on elderly care has fallen by 17%. It is now virtually impossible for most people to get publically funded social care. Yet there was no announcement in the Budget to increase money available it
“Minor improvements to Universal Credit were announced today. However, despite all the known problems, all Philip Hammond could offer was a slight reduction in the wait for initial payments from 6 to 5 weeks, and the continuation of housing benefit for the first two weeks of a claim. This will not stop claimants having to choose between food, fuel or other bills, and will not stop tenants going into rent arrears or being threatened with eviction. With no extra staff in already depleted Job Centres, it is unlikely that claimants will benefit from either of these cosmetic changes. Universal Credit needs to be scrapped altogether.
“There was nothing in today’s Budget about addressing the crisis in education. State schools have been severely hit by austerity. Many are in deficit. Funding is not keeping pace with rising school numbers. Schools are increasingly asking parents for donations. Class sizes are rising, courses are being cut and jobs are being lost. Local authority cuts are putting extra strain on home-to-school transport for disabled children – as we have seen in Rugby.
“Philip Hammond will get headlines for announcing the ending of stamp duty for many first time buyers. As welcome as this will be for those who can afford to buy, there was no mention in the Budget of social housing. There is an acute shortage of social housing: more than one million people nationally are on waiting lists. There has been a massive reduction in Government grants to social landlords – this was not addressed in the Budget. Local Councils like Rugby are crying out to build thousands more Council homes. Even confirmation of the goal to build 300,000 new homes a year was tempered by the announcement this would not be for eight years – the mid 2020s. And, in any case, how many will constitute social housing or be “affordable” housing?
“Similarly, the Chancellor spoke of the need to tackle homelessness, but the announcement of three pilot schemes to tackle it, one here in the West Midlands, will do nothing to alleviate the suffering caused by rough sleeping in the short or medium term: Philip Hammond spoke of ending it by 2017. Homelessness has doubled since 2010 and will continue to rise without drastic measures to address it.
“This Budget does nothing to alleviate the poverty and suffering caused by austerity. Cutting public spending is a political choice. The economic deficit could be resolved by:
A 5% wealth tax on the richest 10% which, alone, would resolve the country’s debt.
Governments should 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.
“Today’s Budget gave the Tories an opportunity to signal the end of austerity. They have missed that opportunity and, as a result, the crisis in the NHS and education will worsen, homelessness will continue to rise, food banks will come under increasing pressure, and those on benefits or low wages will continue to suffer. It will be like living in the 19th century when the state did nothing to provide help, health, education or support for anyone,” Pete McLaren concluded.