The attack on child benefits is important because it breached the state’s commitment to universal benefits. Osborne then went on to announce a £7 billion cut in welfare – on top of the £11bn announced in June and £6bn in May – £24bn taken from the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
The government are slashing a third of council spending by 2015. That means a third of council jobs to go, a third of crucial services axed. It will mean social work and social care services reduced and outsourced. It will mean a poorer service for users, worse pay and working conditions for the remaining workers and a less safe service.
The increase in the state pension age has been rushed forward four years to 2018 for men and 2020 for women. The government want £1.8bn savings a year from public sector pensions. That will mean an average increase in contributions of £450 extra per year, on top of a freeze on pension rates for up to three years.
Money for social housing projects is being slashed by 60 percent. New council tenants will be forced to pay ‘market rents’ and will not have secure tenancies on their home. The University teaching budget has been cut by 40 percent from £7.1bn to £4.2bn. Student fees will rise to almost £7,000 per year. Students will be saddled with huge debts on graduation. Osborne claimed that the NHS and education had been ‘saved’ from the cuts. But this is a myth. NHS spending has been cut by over £20bn.
These draconian cuts are not about addressing the deficit. The crisis is being used as a cover for the wholesale privatisation of welfare services by a government committed to a ‘small state’. This is an ideologically driven agenda that will leave the poor poorer, that will create unemployment, that will abolish vital services and leave working people – those in work and those who are unemployed; those who use services and those who work in service provision – facing a much bleaker future.
The present crisis was caused by the failure of the banking system and by the madness of market driven forms of delivery – yet there is nothing in the ‘Osborne axe’ to tax the banks and their billionaire bosses.
But there is an alternative. In France, in Greece and across the globe there are growing movements against austerity. In Britain we are starting to see the beginnings of such a movement. On 3rd October SWAN was proud to be a sponsor of the Right To Work demonstration in Birmingham where we marched alongside 7,000 others to protest at the Tory conference. In the days, weeks and months ahead there will be more protests – at local, regional and national level.
SWAN is urging all its supporters to throw themselves into anti-cuts protests and movements. As workers, service users and carers we need to stand together: to strike, protest, march and campaign against the cuts and their effects, to stand together and shout that ‘there is an alternative’ – to the brutality of these cuts and to the madness of the market.