New Labour chancellor Alistair Darling’s budget was dull. The reality for working people is more of the same. But while the repetition of all that has gone before—tax cuts for the rich and attacks on the poor—may be familiar, it is still deeply unpleasant.
On the day of a national civil service workers strike, he recommitted himself to slashing the number of civil servants in London by a third. 15,000 posts will also be relocated outside the capital within the next five years.
The real agenda—deep and damaging cuts—will come whoever wins the election.
Labour has made much of its promise to protect “frontline services” in health, schools and police from cuts. But Darling is committed to halve the current budget deficit, currently at 12 percent of GDP.
Darling plans a four‑year freeze on public sector spending. This will mean cuts on a scale that even Margaret Thatcher failed to achieve.
Labour has belated hopes there might be votes in anger against the bankers. But all that comes down to is a commitment to at some point in the future maybe coordinate some international regulation of the banks.
In the meantime, Darling made it easier for bosses to set up new banks.
Most public services will be savaged, core sections of hospitals and schools now face a 14 percent cut over three years. That will mean a massacre of jobs.
But there is still, of course, money for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.
Darling declared that six million public sector workers will have their pay and pension “rises” capped at 1 percent from 2011. Inflation is currently running at 3 percent, meaning this is really a pay cut.
And the government is also going to demand a further £1 billion goes from wages into public sector pensions. Remember that the average pension in local government is just £4,000 a year and less than £2,000 for women.
We need massive resistance to the cuts now and after the election – whoever wins.
The government predicts the economy will grow by 3.5 percent in 2011, yet admits it has shrunk by around 6 percent during the recession.
In education Darling stood over his education cuts. He said he wanted 20,000 new students in “key subjects” with the help of private industry.
After six months on the dole people will be forced to take whichever job or course they are told to.
Public pay settlements will be held at a maximum of 1 percent for the two years from 2011.
Darling plans to increase by 15 percent the number of central government contracts going to private firms.
He lowered business rates and threw a little more cash at companies.
Darling made the usual promises for green jobs. Yet he announced an extra £385 million to improve roads and only £60 million for wind turbines.
He announced a £2 billon green infrastructure fund—but it is based on even more private PFI schemes.
The best Darling had to offer to ordinary people was a guarantee that they will be able to open a bank account. But the neoliberal policies of Darling and his government means most of us won’t have any money to put in it.