Expect cuts to public services and further slashing of support for the vulnerable
Make no mistake, the Spending Review declared by the chancellor today will be about ideology, not an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future.
From cuts to public services and further slashing of support for the vulnerable, it will be a further step towards the planned ‘small-state Britain’ – with only around 36 per cent of GDP being used for government spending by 2020, a figure lower than that in the US.
This is supposed to kick-start the private sector, yet investment is low, productivity and pay aren’t increasing, and the deficit is nowhere near forecasts. Small and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of the economy, are struggling for survival in a political climate that favours the multinational giants.
And the essential investment in renewable energy and warm, comfortable, affordable to heat homes isn’t happening. With winter settling again, the tragedy, the shame, of excess winter deaths, will again start.
This looks nothing like a sustainable economy that’s delivering for the common good.
There’s a good chance we’ll hear the Tory mantra that ‘we are all in it together’, especially when Osborne returns for a second attempt to make changes to working tax credits. If housing benefits are hit, homelessness will soar – and councils will be left trying to carry the weight with already impossible budgets.
We’ll hear the claim that employment is on the rise, however, a significant chunk of this represents insecure jobs such as zero-hours contracts. And many workers are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their head.
Of course, Osborne could help those people whose budgets are being squeezed by introducing a genuine Living Wage. Unfortunately the new Wage of £7.20 per hour being introduced next April falls well short of the real living wage, calculated at £8.25 per hour and £9.40 in London by the Living Wage Foundation.
Yesterday’s government announcement that front-line NHS services in England will get a £3.8bn, above-inflation cash injection next year is largely a re-announcement of existing funding.
This £3.8 billion is being handed to the NHS next year, as part of the Tory’s original promise to give the NHS an extra £8bn a year by 2020. On this commitment, the health policy charity Kings Fund said:
“This is the absolute minimum requirement to maintain standards of care. It will not pay for new commitments such as seven day services”.
Moreover, this £3.8 billion doesn’t seem to generous when we consider that local frontline services such as social care, stop-smoking services, and sexual health are still going to suffer from cuts to local governments, who are already struggling to cope. Cuts to these frontline services will put the NHS under even more pressure in the years to come.
Any nod made by Osborne on tax avoidance should be taken with a pinch of salt. His government’s commitment to tackling it now lies in tatters with 11,000 full-time staff posts already cut at Revenue & Customs since 2010.
Without these jobs, the UK’s ability to crack down on tax evasion is seriously weakened and most likely ensures that we miss out on vast sums of money that could be used to improve schools and hospitals.
Unlike the chancellor, the Green Party knows the importance of further education. Colleges educate and train 2.9 million people in England, they train half of all construction, engineering and manufacturing apprentices and 71,000 16 to 18-year-olds undertake an apprenticeship through colleges.
We want George Osborne to adopt the Green Party’s policy in restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 and 17-year-olds and we would prioritise training in the skills needed to build a low-carbon economy.
Politicians, journalists and economists will spend the coming days deciphering what the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review will mean for people in the UK.
That’s the right thing to do because I don’t expect this government to be upfront about, or have any real understanding, of what these cuts will mean for the communities and households across the country.
Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter