Massive public spending cuts just around the corner?

I can’t keep track of the number of media reports I’ve seen in the last few weeks calling for public spending cuts. This is rapidly becoming the new orthodoxy, with well-paid journalists, right-wing think tanks and neo-liberal politicians all joining together in reactionary chorus.

A quote here from Reform, a grubby little outfit that claims to be “an independent think-tank whose mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity”. That’s prosperity for a handful of the super-rich then, I guess. Reform says that “in order to put Britain’s economy on the right path, public spending cuts must be considered and traditionally ‘unthinkable’ areas such as the NHS and defence cannot be exempt from the discussion”.  Anyone who’s naïve enough to think that the Lib-Dems offer a progressive alternative to Labour or the Tories might like to note that Reform is launching its pre-Budget report with Vince Cable as the keynote speaker.

An even less subtle but equally grubby little outfit, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, is also calling for public spending cuts. The Taxpayers’ Alliance claims that there is “a very severe divide” opening up between public and private sectors, with state employees enjoying better pay, pensions and job security.

The bosses’ paper the Financial Times and the right-wing  Daily Telegraph are going out of their way to promote this view, as are many other newspapers. Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is happy to provide the politics these rags are looking for. Osborne told the FT that the 1.1% a year expansion in public spending planned by Labour is not sustainable. He has threatened to renege on the (very poor) three year pay restraint deals forced through by Labour, and says the issue of ‘gold-plated’ public sector pensions will be swiftly addressed by a Tory Government. Eton and Oxford wasn’t it, George? Good to know you’re in touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

And what about Labour? Subdued murmurs of massive public spending cuts have been going on for a long while now – way before the multi-billion bail-out of the banks, even. However, the Government’s got so few people left who actually support them, they don’t necessarily want to drive away the few voters who doggedly cling on hoping for something better. The BBC suggests that spending cuts will be announced in a future comprehensive spending review, rather than in the forthcoming budget – and any spending review will presumably be delayed until after the European elections in June.

We’re already seeing the softening up attacks from Labour, though. When Brown calls for reform of MPs’  ‘gold plated pensions’ this sounds remarkably like step one towards Osborne’s wider attack on ‘gold plated pensions’ in the public sector. Brown’s hatred of decent public sector pensions is an open secret. And the budget may well include other attacks – an increase in National Insurance contributions, an increase in VAT, the reduction of tax relief on pension contributions and so on. Who gets clobbered by these things? Ordinary workers, obviously.

We’re left with a bit of a dilemma then. One way forward for trade unionists is to accept that all we can do is tail Labour. That means doing as little as possible while the Labour Government desperately flails about in its death throes, with union leaders trying hard to look the other way while the NHS gets privatised, the public sector as a whole is decimated, and all workers are made to pay the price for the bosses’ crisis. My belief is that our big unions like Unison and Unite have made far too many concessions so as not to embarrass Labour.

The other way is to fight back. The claimed divide between public and private sector workers is a completely false one – a fake argument designed to divide and rule. It’s in the interests of ALL workers that we have decent public services. It’s very obviously in the interests of all workers that all of us have jobs, fair pay, and a pension that won’t leave us destitute in old age. Workers have never got anything for free – the lesson of history is that we get what we fight for. We’re now facing the deepest recession since the 1930s. If we allow the ruling class to get away with it, our side will pay a very heavy price. The need for militant trade union organisation has never been clearer.

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9 Responses to Massive public spending cuts just around the corner?

  1. Nick says:

    Who’s going to pay for the increases?

    Tax revenues are falling rapidly.

    The government is overspending by 25% per annum.

    You’re quite right, the ruling class won’t pay for it.

    However, it doesn’t mean you can have the spending, the money’s not there. The debts are mounting rapidly.

    Not cutting 25% now, means an even larger cut in the future because of interest.

  2. John says:

    Severe cuts in public spending including health are going to be necessary. Rather than cutting services the salaries of public sector workers will have to be cut, with the heaviest cuts falling on the highest paid. Failure to do this will lead to a situation of national bankruptcy in which case the eventual cuts will be far far worse.
    The option of raising taxes will just stifle the recovery and in the long term reduce the revenues upon which the public sector depends.
    Class warfare as you seem to advocate will make the country far poorer and with unemployment nationally at above 10% (sometime soon) there will be little public sympathy for public sector workers in their comparatively safe and well paid jobs.

  3. Karl is not amused says:

    John,
    You have it the wrong way.I presume you don’t work for a public servive but I bet if you had ‘toe-itch’you would be first in line at A&E.
    You see it’s the public services that allow the money takers to thrive.[I agree that admin.should be decimated but does that not apply to everything?].
    It seems to be open season for PS workers even though private sector workers caused the trouble.I suppose its just the mob baying for blood because they are scared shitless.Sorry you are so scared of death[you could see a’shrink’.
    You could also try and understand economics[wouldn't take long].
    When I was just out of Uni.[with a good professional degree]I did a very silly thing[along with my wife]and decided to be employed by the N.H.S.-We Could never afford a mortgage,children etc.
    [don't forget that this was nearly 40 years ago].
    With good economics and ALHFMFs I’m on the way to being JJF,so don’t tell…
    Yes we do/will get pensions but we f^^ing payed for them.If we didn’t who else would enter public service and who would one go to if the Big C bites.
    Just a one day strike by the N.H.S.[not like the tube which affects us all],that would sort it[I just hope the first to die didn’t do so long drawn out and [very]painfully.

  4. Barry Tebb says:

    Brenda Williams today began a 5 day a week placarded protest against draconian job cuts estimated at 400 frontine staff at London’s Royal Free Hospital ,due to take place over the next few months.In addition the nearby Whittington Hospital will not lose its A and E Dept but is likely to go altogether, as is St Luke’s psychiatric hospital .The public are incensed beyond belief and one local paper has advocated a public occupation of the hospital-hardly surprising in view of the above-to say nothing of the closure of all outpatient clinics!As the Free is a major teaching hospital one wonders how it will be able to provide the necessary teaching beds.Hampstead is the most volatile and celebrity studded area in the country-Lord Melvin Bragg lives just yards from the Free and if you take the trouble to look up the new massive Crossrail site for Camden Town it reads like a mini version of “Who’s Who”,as do the several sites devoted to Hampstead and Camden-Jon Snow lives there to say nothing of Pete Docherty,at least one Spice girl,Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing and Edna O’Brien-at least she was when she last wrote to me!Why the DH has chosen to make these cuts in this area at this time beggars belief.The Lib Dem Mayor has been suspended by his own party after an investigation but without being charged with anything.In fact there is so much going on in Camden that the events of the other 31 London boroughs combined seem a mere nothing when contrasted with what’s going on in Camden.

  5. Nick says:

    Nowhere do you say who or how this is going to be paid for?

    The government is spending nearly 30% more than it takes in taxes. It’s not going to work.

    Ditto for the ideas of taxing the rich, that won’t work either, they will just bugger off.

    Then there are all the debts not on the books. All the pensions are off the books. That’s about 5 tillion of debts.

    Browns current plan of halving the defict (not the debt) in 4 years means 50 billion in extra debt payments.

    What are you going to cut to get the 50 billion?

    What are you going to cut to stop the debt getting bigger? 175-200 billion?

  6. Barry Tebb says:

    The government should never have bailed out the banks in the first place.Businesses that go bust cannot expect the country to bail them out.The rich are as rich as they were in 1937-only under Jim Callaghan’s government(1971)was there even the beginnings of social justice in terms of wealth re-distribution-since then the rich have got so rich they are 100x richer than the poor,who are no longer considered “deserving”.Workfare is seen as the way forward by both political parties.Education has been dumbed down beyond belief.The NHS is under its more serious threat ever.What we need is a return to the true socialism of Nye Bevan.Tax the rich and free the poor from their shackles.As a campaigning OAP I have seen the quality of life decline-in the 60’s there were no street beggars and politicians were not on the take.As far as letting the rich bugger off then let them-but first freeze their assets and charge them with a whacking 90% departure tax-even HM Treasury has lost patience with super rich tax dodgers and suggested “they form an orderly queue in airport departure lounges”.As Bevan said “The Tories are vermin”and so are the rich who grow rich on the backs of the poor.

  7. Nick says:

    Working for banks, I agree entirely. They should have been sent to the wall.

    However, the same applies to the NHS and the public sector in general.

    We should not be forced to pay for pensions. If you run any operation on as a Ponzi scheme, then that’s it.

    ie. No pension bailout.

    To put that in context, the debt that the government has run up for state enmployees is 1150 billion. About 10 times the spending on the NHS.

    So when you complain about cuts, it’s because the cash is going to the civil servants and not the NHS.

  8. Barry Tebb says:

    Cut NHS managers-I couldn’t agree more!Hospital Boards used to run hospitals and board members-a few consultants and elected local councillors did the job for nothing.Chief Execs of Trusts get unbelievable wages.I gather the highest paid in the country is Erville Millar of the Kent and Medway Trust-about £160k and he was the trust ce on whose previous watch in Camden and Islington the so-called Camden Ripper was let loose on a killing spree in spite of six red letter warnings from the trust’s forensic psychiatrist!The Islington Bugle said that Millar moved from C & I because of a similar case in his previous placement in Lambeth.Would the private sector allow such mistakes to go unpunished?PCTs employ thousands of staff nationwide at vast salaries whilst the Danish NHS has a tiny number of top officials liase with patients to find out what patients-especially those with chronic illness- really need on the ground.”The ground”is not the place where managers like to be.The real work is left to underpaid and undervalued nurses,doctors and ancilliary staff-the public know this,the patients know this SO WHY DOESN’T THE SO CALLED BLOODY GOVERNMENT?The pathetic excuse is always trotted out that top salaries need to be paid “to attract good staff”RUBBISH!There are plenty of brilliant altruistic people around and many of them without a job who would be only too glad to roll up their sleeves for the basic minimum wage and do the jobs others “with the right connections” get paid double a consultant’s wage-and it takes 14 years to qualify as a consultant.Most chief executives have the most basic qualifications,non executive directors can get between £6k to £33k if they hold Trust Chairs and all that some NED’s do is appear to vote at trust board meetings 9 times a year!When advertising for NED’s all most trusts require is corporate business experience!The only trust I know in the field of mental health that requires “deep understanding of mental health”is Leeds Partnership Trust-the very best mental health trust in the UK.If the DH want to save money they must downsize non-clinical staff.PALS and LINKS are unworkable and largely ineffective and are known to be.Carers like myself and millions more are lucky if we get a carer’s break every two years,which costs the government an average of £150 per carer year-not bad when even the government admits carers save the country the cost of a second NHS -£83 BILLION a year.There is a Latin tag which translates as IF YOU WANT THE TRUTH THEN LOOK AROUND!(“Si monumentam requiris,circumspice”)The DH needs to do some looking round and rid itself of thousans of non-clinical staff and LEARN TO TAKE THE ADVIVE OF PATIENTS AND CARERS.

  9. [...] /* */ /* */ Our Honor DefendDefend the NHS [...]

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