It is now nearly one year since the outcome of the general election saw the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats form a coalition and embark on a programme of huge cuts in public spending.
Some cuts – such as the tripling of tuition fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowances – have received a lot of publicity while others have slipped through relatively unnoticed.
The austerity programme is set to last for another four years, but the coalition’s cuts will severely impact upon many of the people who thought it was time for a change. The Tory-Lib Dem government have already overseen:
- the scrapping of Child Trust Funds
- the rise in VAT costing an average household an extra £275 each year
- entitlement to child benefit for people earning over £44,000 being removed costing families £1,055 each year for the eldest child and £749 for younger children
- a freeze in the value of child benefit, causing families with children to lose over £100 per annum
- the Health in Pregnancy grant being abolished costing new mums £190
- the Winter Fuel Allowance for pensioners being cut this winter by £50 for pensioners under 80 and by £100 for pensioners over 80
- financial support to employers to take on young unemployed people being cancelled after the Future Jobs Fund was axed (even though youth unemployment is at a record high)
In my home city of Derby, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors have agreed huge cuts affecting local people, while simultaneously agreeing to spend £40m refurbishing the council’s HQ.
Furthermore they are also planning to close six Sure Start children’s centres, four youth centres, the Silk Mill Industrial Museum and recycling facilities around the city. They will also be reducing school transport, refuse collection and library opening times.
The cuts in funding for Derby City Council, Derbyshire Police and Derbyshire Fire Service will see well over 1,000 public service workers losing their jobs in Derby. This includes 670 council workers, 178 police officers, 23 PCSOs, 49 fire fighters and 148 non-operational Police and Fire Service staff.
The government cuts will not only decimate the public services that define the kind of society in which we live, they will cause untold damage to the private sector too. The cuts will take demand out of the local economy, which will in turn diminish opportunities to grow the economy, reduce the deficit and pare down the government’s borrowing requirement. We’ve already witnessed the spectacle of the chancellor, who says his economic policies will reduce borrowing, being forced to borrow an extra £45bn in last month’s budget. Unless he changes course, I dread to think how much worse the position will be this time next year.
George Osborne doesn’t seem to understand basic arithmetic. Someone in Whitehall should tell him that with fewer people in employment, tax revenues will fall, social security payments will increase and that will make it harder to reduce the national debt.