No alternative, no ‘plan B’

December 7, 2012 9:34 am

In the Autumn Statement George Osborne and the Coalition Government had yet another opportunity to implement an economic policy that could do some real good for people across the country.

They could have chosen to introduce changes to the tax system and cut unnecessary spending to rebalance the disastrous economic decisions they have made over the last two and a half years, giving hope to millions of people across the country that our future isn’t built upon austerity and belt-tightening – but growth and prosperity instead.

But they didn’t. They stuck to their guns. No alternative, no ‘plan B’.

No shift in public spending (such as reductions in the Cold War levels of defence spending) to remove the threat of redundancy that hangs over hundreds of thousands of public service workers who worry every day that they will join half a million of their colleagues who have lost their jobs already.

No ending of tax reliefs for the wealthy (like corporation tax relief on pay and bonuses) or introduction of more redistributive forms of taxation (like reintroducing the 50% tax rate) that could bring to an end the ludicrous pay freeze that takes money out of the pockets of the people who empty our bins, look after our elderly relatives and help young children to read and write.

There was no change to the plan to cut funding public services, like the huge 28% cut in local government funding that has seen Sure Start centres and libraries close, adult social care services withdrawn and public transport schemes scrapped. No endorsement of the principle that the wealthiest should help the most vulnerable, that “we are all in this together” and that people who earn the most should contribute the most through higher taxes for the richest, including on bankers’ bonuses.

A solid plan for growing the economy out of the financial crisis was also missing – whether ‘plan B’ or not. The £23bn interest paid on Quantitative Easing purchases will be used to reduce the deficit. But the Government could have been bolder and funded a programme of infrastructure investment, creating thousands of affordable homes, improving roads, building high-speed rail and dealing with our energy insecurity with the construction of renewable energy projects. This would have generated future revenue and productivity that could have helped reduce the nation’s debts long into the future, rather than acting as a short-term dog whistle for Conservative activists on cuts.

We will have to wait to see how new rules to address tax havens and tax avoidance will work out (particularly as despite some new money, cuts to HMRC have seen the number of staff working on these cases significantly reduced), but it’s a shame that there is no detail about what could happen with the money raised. Tackling aggressive tax avoidance schemes could fund a national legacy that we could all be proud of, generating the £10bn needed to solve the UK’s growing care crisis through the creation of a new, free of charge, national care service.

UNISON, alongside the Labour Party and many other campaigning organisations, has consistently called for the Government to ditch this damaging austerity programme – bringing together an alternative that sets out where the Government can raise new revenue and cut current spending. But in rejecting the need for an alternative we still face an economic emergency and a triple dip recession in 2013.

The deeper cuts in the Autumn Statement will fuel work force instability and lack of consumer confidence, only worsening the UK’s economic future.

Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of Unison

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Smith/516168738 Daniel Smith

    Come on Dave, stick your neck out. M.U. – Mids

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    So with Labour having taken the UK into military conflict first in Iraq and then Afghanistan you blame the coalition for not cutting defence spending?

    I would hope that whatever party was in government, if they took the UK into armed conflict they would provide sufficient Defence spending to ensure our military personnel, public servants risking their lives in war zones, went into battle well resourced and well equipped.

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    So with Labour having taken the UK into military conflict first in Iraq and then Afghanistan you blame the coalition for not cutting defence spending?

    I would hope that whatever party was in government, if they took the UK into armed conflict they would provide sufficient Defence spending to ensure our military personnel, public servants risking their lives in war zones, went into battle well resourced and well equipped.

Latest

  • News Margaret Hodge backs David Lammy in race for London Mayor

    Margaret Hodge backs David Lammy in race for London Mayor

    Last month Margaret Hodge announced that she was no longer in the running to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Hodge indicated that she would be supporting a minority ethnic candidate for Mayor, saying: “I actually think the time is right for us to have a non-white mayor. London is a diverse city but we are poor at representation. But let’s wait and see what the candidates say they can do for London.” […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour’s immigration policies are excellent – we need to champion them on the doorstep

    Labour’s immigration policies are excellent – we need to champion them on the doorstep

    The pistol has been fired and the race has begun. For many Labour activists door knocking and phone banking has become a regular part of evenings and weekends as the fight to return a Labour government on 7 May intensifies. Over the past few weeks two topics of doorstep conversation have leapt out at me. One is the passion felt by people of all ages, particularly the older generation, for the NHS. The second, predictably, is public concern over immigration. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Make National Community Service compulsory

    Make National Community Service compulsory

    Last month David Cameron called for all 18- to 21-year-olds who have failed to find a job or a place in training to be forced to undertake community work. Under Tory plans those aged between 18 and 21 who have not had a job for six months will be barred from claiming benefit unless they agree to start an apprenticeship or complete community work. The plan is designed to ensure that the 50,000 young people “most at risk of starting […]

    Read more →
  • News London Mayoral candidate attempts to crowdfund cost of campaign

    London Mayoral candidate attempts to crowdfund cost of campaign

    Labour candidates for Mayor will be trying to fund their campaigns in all manner of ways – but Christian Wolmar (the transport expert who joined the race first and remains the only candidate who isn’t an elected politician) has gone down the crowdfunding route. Wolmar is trying to raise £3,000 for his campaign by next week – and has currently raised nearly half of that sum. Although as with all crowdfunding, he must raise the whole sum or he gets […]

    Read more →
  • News “State sanctioned abuse” has taken place Yarl’s Wood, says Cooper

    “State sanctioned abuse” has taken place Yarl’s Wood, says Cooper

    Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has asked an urgent question in the Commons about abuse allegations at Yarl’s Wood. Yarl’s Wood is an immigration detention centre that opened in 2001. Ever since then guards (who come from private company Serco, which runs the facilitiy) are have faced serious accusations that there has been ongoing mistreatment of the people detained in the facility. This includes reports of sexual abuse and degrading treatment. On Monday, Channel 4 aired a documentary which had […]

    Read more →