Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

CUTS… With a vengeance

In Editorial on August 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

It soon became clear who ruled the roost in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government. If anyone was in doubt, George Osborne’s budget back in June revealed all. This was a Thatcherite attack on the public service sector, carried out under the excuse that the state of the economy makes it “necessary”. And there were always the Liberal Democrats nodding their agreement, to give it a gloss of consensus.

Cameron’s reasoning seemed to be that the public sector had to be cut back. Never mind the fact that this will put hundreds of thousands out of work and deprive ordinary folk of services on which they rely. The private sector will grow accordingly. According to the PM, it’s been the size and strength of the public sector that has caused the private sector to stagnate.

Anyone who’s prepared to give this notion any thought at all will surely realise what nonsense it is. For a start, our industrial sector has been in decline for decades – aided and abetted by the creation of a finance-based economy by Margaret Thatcher, and adopted with enthusiasm by both Blair and Brown. Money makes the world go round, according to the song – but when the money dries up, what then? We’re all left stranded in a desert of debt.

Britain’s industrial sector went in to decline because it lacked investment – or, in some cases, because it lacked the will to survive. The banks became unwilling to give money to industry, preferring instead to plunge into the mortgage and personal loans market. Before the crash came, the fat cats in the City were making millions – much of it in undeserved bonuses.

You’d think that after being bailed out by the Government, UK banks would be somewhat chastened. That they would want to make amends. But no. According to a recent documentary on TV, presented by Will Hutton, they haven’t learned their lesson at all. The big boys in the City can hardly wait to return to the bad old days of easy money. The bonus culture hasn’t gone away – it’s either been put on hold, or disguised through awarding top bankers enormous increases in their salaries (bonuses by the back door). “Derivatives” (in which banks virtually gamble with their customers’ money) still make up a large part of their business – but when it comes to industry or legitimate business concerns, they find it difficult to get loans from the banks.

Returning to Cameron’s thesis, it seems unlikely that the private sector is in a position to take up the slack – unless of course we auction off even more of the public sector to foreign investors.

So, whilst the fat cats stay fat, savage cuts in public spending will affect may future pensioners, and those who survive on benefits and/or tax credits. Across the board, some 20 per cent could be knocked off public spending.

In his budget, Osborne expects to knock £2 billion off benefits next year, rising to £8 billion by 2013. Public assets will be sold off – those that are left to sell, that is – and to top it all, prices will rise with the increase in VAT.

Not only that, but we need to take into account the threat to local services, as cash-strapped local authorities are forced to make savings through cuts in their services. In many cases, it will be a case of “when it’s gone, it’s gone”. When a library is closed down, or a facility for old folk, it is unlikely ever to be replaced or re-opened. Once upon a time, local authorities were proud of the range and quality of the services they were able to offer – but no more. For decades now, we’ve been sliding inexorably towards a state of public squalor.

One point needs to be made loud and clear. The cuts planned by the Government are NOT necessary. They are ideological. The Tories have chosen to single out the public sector as the villain of the piece because it suits their Thatcherite instincts.

It was the banks who caused the crisis – and they’re getting away with a slap on the wrist. But it will be ordinary people who will pay.

WHERE CUTS COULD FALL:

There are many areas where cuts in public spending could be made, to reduce our deficit, without sacrificing public services. For a start, we could abandon costly plans to replace our Trident missile system. Not only is Trident unnecessary, but it’s also provocative.

Then there are the plans to build new nuclear power stations, which over a period of time will cost billions. There’s also our costly involvement in the Afghan conflict.

No doubt readers would be able to extend the list.

FIGHTING BACK:

Inevitably, public sector unions will be in the forefront of the campaign against the cuts. They are already in the front line. But we’re all in this together. We must not leave the unions isolated.

There is a need for a united front against the cuts. Those who are members of the Labour Party should mobilise support for any campaign within the party, and we should all work towards building a wider, popular movement against these cuts. A number of public bodies including charities could be persuaded to voice their concern. So far the public seems to have sleep walked into acceptance of these cuts. We must persuade them otherwise, whilst we still have a public sector worth fighting for.

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