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28% cut in local government funding that has seen Sure Start centres and libraries close, adult social care services withdrawn and public transport schemes scrapped.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 Chris Leslie rules out raising National Insurance to pay for social care

    Chris Leslie rules out raising National Insurance to pay for social care

    The possibility of Labour pledging a specific tax to raise money for NHS spending resurfaced this weekend, with Ed Miliband apparently believing that the NHS is going to be a major issue in 2015. The supposed likely tax rise would be in National Insurance, and this has raised some debate on LabourList this summer, with MP Frank Field supporting the idea, while Andrew Harrop and Adebusuyi Adeyemi have both warned against it. In a revealing interview with Progress magazine, Shadow Chief […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Free School Meals: let’s avoid the sour grapes

    Free School Meals: let’s avoid the sour grapes

    This time last year, the government announced that it would introduce free school meals for all infant school children before the next election. The policy had been endorsed by the School Food Plan commissioned by Gove. It was being championed by the Lib Dems and brought forward so it could be implemented before the 2015 election in what appeared to be a pre-conference deal between the coalition partners. This week 1.5million children in infant schools in England, including my six year […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Weekly survey: Crime commissioners, Douglas Carswell and Labour defections

    Weekly survey: Crime commissioners, Douglas Carswell and Labour defections

    The role of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) has been in the news lately, with the low turnout at the recent West Midlands by-election and the Rotherham abuse scandal becoming focussed on the refusal to quit by the South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright. LabourList reported this weekend that Labour are planning to abolish PCCs after the election next year. Should the role be discontinued? Or is there just a better way of making them work? The defection of Douglas Carswell […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    I love the Labour party. I enjoy canvassing, I pay my subs, go to the various fundraising dinners and vote in National Executive Committee (NEC) elections. I, like many, hate the constant barrage of ‘please donate’ emails and fear the dreaded fundraising call. And if I feel like that, imagine the dread felt by a candidate when they receive such a call. Don’t believe that happens? Hard to believe as it is, on more than one occasion now I have […]

    Read more →
  • News Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy is resuming his soapbox street meetings tour of Scotland tomorrow, after suspending it last week in the face of increasing co-ordinated abuse by supporters of independence. These protests at Murphy’s open-air meetings came to the attention of the media (and the police) when the Shadow Defence Secretary was hit with eggs last week. In a blog for the Spectator this weekend, Murphy explains how the organised groups go beyond the “normal cut and thrust” of politics that the meetings […]

    Read more →