NOVEMBER SPENDING REVIEW - further attacks on benefits, public sector pay and Overseas Aid: more aus

PUBLIC SPENDING REVIEW: CLEARLY NO END TO AUSTERITY

“Today’s Public Spending Review announced in the Commons by Chancellor Rishi Sunak is just another attack on the poor,” Pete McLaren, Secretary of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition told us today. “The Chancellor had promised an end to austerity, but the spending plans he has just announced, or left out, clearly show that is not the case. Once again, it is the poor who will suffer the most

“It is what the Chancellor didn’t say about those on benefits that reveals the true nature of this Tory government. With unemployment set to rise to 7.5% - that’s 2.6 million people – there is no mention of social security in general, or Universal Credit in particular, in today’s Review. It was hoped the extra £20 a week added to Universal Credit during the pandemic would be extended beyond April, but that is not happening, despite employers warning of a fresh tsunami of job cuts in the New Year. This extra money could save many households from falling into the poverty; it has been a lifeline for many claimants as they've struggled to get through the pandemic. Instead, people living in 16 million households across the country will see their income slashed by £1,040 in the middle of the worst recession in 300 years. Over one million additional people will be pushed deeper into poverty, many pushed below the poverty line. That’s a million more people unable to pay their rent, buy food, heat their homes or buy essentials for their children. A fair proportion of these people will live in Rugby given that the roll-out of Universal Credit has been much faster in pilot areas like here.

“The headline news will be the pay freeze for all public sector workers apart from medical NHS staff. This means four million key workers who have put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic will be thanked by seeing their pay cut. These include firefighters and the police who have continued to work to keep us safe, community care workers who have provided a lifeline for so many, civil servants who have worked around the clock to put the furlough scheme in place, Job Centre Plus staff and benefits advisers, teachers and teaching assistants who have kept schools open during lockdown

“The pay freeze will disproportionately affect women who make up more than 60% of the public sector’s workforce at a time when the national gender pay gap stands at more than 15 per cent. And the £250 per year guaranteed to some of the lower paid public sector workers, although welcomed, is miniscule at less than £5 per week with food, fuel and rent likely to rise much more

“It is not even true that public sector pay has held up better than pay in the private sector as Rishi Sunak claims. Over the past decade, public sector pay has fallen by 1.5% when adjusted with inflation, causing problems for recruitment, falling to its lowest levels for many years according to the Institute for Financial Studies (IFS). There is actually a good case for giving public sector workers a bonus along the lines of the bonuses some private sector workers, who’ve also put their health at risk to serve the public during the pandemic, have received. The attempt to divide workers in the public and private sectors is far from helpful anyway.

“We also are concerned about the cut in Overseas Aid from 0.7% to 0.5%. A commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on development aid is enshrined in law and was a 2019 Tory manifesto commitment. The aid budget was set to shrink anyway by about £1.5billion as a result of the economy being smaller, so this is a double whammy. The coronavirus crisis does not stop at any national border, and there is a vital need for a coordinated international response to help those in vulnerable circumstances across the globe to receive the care they need.

“There is money available, as we saw yesterday when £10 billion was lost because stockpiles of PPE were inadequate early on in the pandemic and new supplies at higher prices had to be sought. To continue austerity has been a political decision, and one this government may well live to regret, Pete McLaren concluded.

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