2018 AUTUMN BUDGET: HAS IT ENDED AUSTERITY? A DEFINITE “NO”!!
Today’s Budget has been met with some incredulity by the Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). “We were told to expect a radical budget that finally spelt the end of austerity, whereas today’s announcements by Chancellor Philip Hammond will clearly continue it for the foreseeable future with all the additional suffering that will cause,” Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren responded within an hour of the Budget’s delivery
“Prime Minister Theresa May informed the Tory Party conference a month ago that ‘Austerity was over’. Philip Hammond introduced today’s Budget stating ‘The era of austerity is finally coming to an end.’ In Rugby, we hoped this would signal the end of the poverty and hardship caused by Universal Credit, which Rugby has been piloting for over five years, and more money for our decimated local public services. Neither of these will be happening anytime soon
“The only announcements made on local services were future reviews of spending with no guarantees of the £billions needed to reverse the cuts in Rugby and Warwickshire. These cuts have led to fewer buses, cuts in care for the elderly, the closures of youth clubs, children’s centers, libraries, and fire stations. Local government desperately needs a massive injection of cash. Many Councils are on the brink of financial collapse. The Budget does nothing to meet the needs of local authorities like Rugby and Warwickshire. Overall, according to the Local Government Association, councils have suffered a 77 per cent decrease in government funding since 2015. Main government grant funding for local services will be cut by a further £1.3 billion (36 per cent) in 2019/20
“The Chancellor also made it clear that Universal Credit was ‘a necessary and overdue reform…it is here to stay’. Given the immense suffering it has caused locally, we really had hoped for a halt to the roll-out. Rugby was one of six pilot areas, so Universal Credit is much more advanced here than elsewhere: more claimants have been transferred onto it. As a direct result, evidenced by organisations like Hope4, Shelter and Rugby Food Bank, Rugby has more and more people sleeping rough or in food poverty. The proportion of homeless people in Rugby was the fifth-highest in the West Midlands, according to a report from Shelter late last year. Members of Rugby TUSC have seen for themselves, when talking to claimants outside Rugby Job Centre, how Universal Credit is largely to blame for such increased hardship.
“Yes, there were a few tiny crumbs in a few areas today. We welcome the (very small) additional funding for schools, measures to prevent tax avoidance/evasion, bringing forward (by one year) increased personal tax allowance, lower business rates for pubs and cafes, and the 4.9% increase in the National Living Wage. The extra £1 billion to help the transition to Universal Credit may help a small number of people. However, it will be spread over 5 years. At £200,000 extra per year, this represents a minimal increase on the £15.8 billion already earmarked for the roll-out, itself a massive increase from initial financial estimates.
“The Conservative Government, like its Labour predecessor, has used austerity to make ordinary working people pay for an economic crisis they did not cause. Philip Hammond had the cheek to say, in his Budget speech today, that the austerity policies ‘of the last 8 years were not driven by ideology’. I cannot imagine why else they have been so rigorously pursued. Our hopes that at long last local people would no longer experience public service cuts or the poverty inflicted by Universal Credit have been cruelly dashed, but sadly we are not really surprised,” Pete McLaren concluded
Rugby was chosen as one of six pilot areas for Universal Credit in 2013 – the others were Hammersmith, Inverness, Bath, Harrogate and Shotton
Rugby TUSC can be contacted at: www.rugbytusc.com; on 07881 520626; RugbyTUSC@gmail.com; firstname.lastname@example.org