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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

A decent living for all workers!

by New Worker correspondent

THE TORY Government unveiled its autumn budget this week with plans to create a new post-COVID‑19 economy. But whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s policies for modest increases in spending on transport and the health service fit the bill is another matter altogether.

Sunak’s measures will do nothing to counter rising prices. He’s ruled out Labour’s demand for a cut in VAT, still at an EU-style 20 per cent, on household heating fuel and electricity supplies. A modest raise in the minimum wage and tinkering around the public pay scales, which is all the Government has in mind, will easily be offset by the increase in National Insurance and the £1,000 per year cut in Universal Credit.

The Chancellor says we’re entering a new economic “age of optimism”, but robbing Peter to pay Paul, recycling spending pledges, ending the public sector pay freeze and upping the minimum wage to £9.50 per hour is clearly not it.

The unions are instead calling for a proper plan for wage growth following the publication of figures that show that the real value of median pay has not increased after more than a decade of Tory rule.

“Everyone who works for a living deserves a decent living,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said. “But the last 12 years have been the worst period for wage growth since Napoleonic times.

“We need a proper plan from the Chancellor to get pay rising across the economy.”

The TUC says that: “The pandemic showed us that when government, unions and business work together we can make a real difference. The Coronavirus job retention scheme, forged through social partnership, helped save nearly 12 million jobs. But the current chaos in our energy markets, at our petrol pumps, and in our increasingly erratic climate shows what happens when government fails to plan for the future. Working families face a cost-of-living crisis. And job losses, price hikes, and shortages hit those on lowest incomes hardest.”

Whilst Sunak basks in the media attention the budget always generates, Boris Johnson prepares to strut the world stage at the climate change conference in Glasgow next week. But the shadow of Covid hangs over them amidst growing calls to start ‘Plan B” and stave off another full lockdown this winter.

The Government’s credibility was cast further into doubt this week with the publication of a parliamentary report on the out-sourced Test and Trace system that showed that billions of pounds had been wasted on a Covid tracking app that clearly didn’t work.

This “world-beating” track and trace system was supposed to identify close contacts of people who test positive for Covid, and then tell them to get tested themselves and to self-isolate in case they were infected. But in the end over 60 per cent of infected people were not actually tested.

“When under pressure, as it was over Christmas 2020 and more recently in April, performance deteriorates, with only 17 per cent of people receiving tests within 24 hours in December 2020” the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts wrote in its report published on Wednesday.

Labour’s Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said the national Test and Trace programme “set out bold ambitions but has failed to achieve them despite the vast sums thrown at it”. The programme received the equivalent of 20 per cent of the NHS’s entire annual budget – £37 billion over two years.

“Only 14 per cent of 691 million lateral flow tests sent out had results reported, and who knows how many took the necessary action based on the results they got, or how many were never used,” she added.