Cuts not working

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR George Osborne on Wednesday announced yet another budget of cuts to essential public services even whilst he was forced to admit indirectly that previous cuts had failed to improve Britain’s economy.

All his predictions for future growth and productivity were revised significantly downwards as the list of missed targets for paying off Britain’s debts fell like an avalanche of rotting leaves in autumn.

Growth in the economy for the coming year is expected to be just two per cent, compared with the 2.4 per cent he predicted just last November. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is predicted to grow 2.2 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent in 2017 and 2018, down from 2.4 per cent and 2.5 per cent forecast four months ago.

But even though cuts demonstrably do not improve the economy he is seeking to make another £3.5 billion in cuts by 2020. That’s not economics; that’s spite.

Schools have come under heavy attack. All schools in England must become academies by 2022 — effectively privatising our education system.

And schools will be expected to be open longer hours to support homework clubs, sports and other extra- curricular activities — much of which they already do. But there will be no extra funding for the longer hours — schools must look for the money from corporate sponsors. So we can guess in advance which schools will have fabulous facilities and which will get virtually none. The children will at least get one good lesson in how the class system works under capitalism.

Meanwhile motoring organisations are having fainting fits at the idea of extra rushhour congestion (not good for young lungs!).

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “These are entirely the wrong proposals and priorities for education. The Chancellor seems to be oblivious to the pressing issues that are facing education in England.

“We have a serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis, a severe school place crisis, and a chronic lack of funding for schools that is leading to subjects being cut, school trips being cut and a reduction in resources...


“The proposals to force all schools to become academies will result in the dismantling of state education and will end democratic accountability in our schools. This is being done despite clear evidence that academies do not perform better than other schools and, in the case of many large chains, badly let down their most disadvantaged children. Nowhere else in the world has this been attempted apart from Chile where the results have been disastrous.”

One small beneficial measure will be a sugar tax on soft drinks, in theory to fund sport in primary schools. Pure fruit juice and milk-based drinks will be exempt so look out for a big increase in highly sweetened flavoured milk shakes.

Disabled people will suffer badly, losing up to £150 a week on their Personal Independence Payments (see page 4). But at the same time he is raising the threshold for high earners to start paying the 40 pence rate of tax from £42,385 now to £45,000 in April 2017 and the threshold to pay income tax at all to £11,500 in April 2017. Both measures will benefit the wealthy most of all as a greater proportion of their income will be taxed at a lower rate or not taxed at all.

Jeremy Corbyn told the House of Commons that Osborne’s Budget is a culmination of “six years of his failures” that had “unfairness at its very core” as he responded to George Osborne. He attacked cuts to disability benefits and criticised “mate’s rates” corporate tax deals.

Corbyn accused Osborne of presiding over low productivity, investment and ambition, and failing to show a “real commitment” to ending inequality.

Despite the “rhetoric” of the “Northern Powerhouse”, Corbyn said, there was “systematic under-investment in the North” and the Government had “stood by as the steel industry bled”.

He also attacked the government’s record on home ownership, saying a generation had been “locked out” by its policies. “The gulf between what the Conservative government expects from the wealthiest and what it demands from ordinary British taxpayers could not be greater,” he said.

“The ‘mate’s rates’ deals for big corporations on tax deals are something they will be forever remembered for. This is a chancellor who has produced a Budget for hedge fund managers more than for small businesses.”

The PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “After George Osborne’s first budget in 2010 we said he posed a ‘serious risk’ to our economy and we have been proved right. The Tories have failed even on their own terms and six years on are still pursuing cuts as a political choice rather than an economic necessity.

“The Tories are damaging the economy for the vast majority of people while handing tax cuts to the wealthy and to businesses.

“Further cuts to civil service departments would be devastating, as tens of thousands of jobs are already under threat and hundreds of offices are earmarked for closure, hitting vital services from tax collection to our justice system. PCS will be campaigning to stop these unjustifiable job losses and office closures.”