NHS will still fall far short of Euro average
GORDON Brown promised a much bigger than expected increase in health spending over the next four years. He said health spending will rise by 6.1 percent each year for four years. Every extra penny for the NHS is testament to the determined protests and struggles by health workers and ordinary people demanding a decent health service. But the money is still not enough to meet Tony Blair's previous promise to hit the European average of health spending by the year 2006.
As commentator Peter Jay said, "To match that would need an increase of 9 to 10 percent a year." We should also be cautious about Brown's figures for health spending. The government's previously heralded �21 billion figure for increased health spending from 1999 to 2002 was a con. It came from "triple counting" the figures each year.
The real figure was �10.3 million. Even that took no account of general inflation or the higher inflation associated with medical technology. The government has also tied the new health spending to "modernisation" and "efficiency". The details of this were to be announced after Socialist Worker went to press.
But for New Labour "modernisation" has been tied to more Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes, more hospital closures and fewer beds. PFI schemes mean the government handing over billions of pounds to private companies who then rip off a fortune from the NHS. At the same time PFI schemes will cut hospital beds by 28 percent, and mean fewer nurses and health staff.
As Andrew Dilnot from the Institute of Fiscal Studies says, "What we will see is more and more privatisation at the margin." The �1 billion Gordon Brown promised for education is derisory. It goes nowhere near to meeting the huge lack of resources in our schools and colleges. It is time to step up the fight for an end to PFI in our hospitals and in education, and force the government to tax the rich.
Brown's budget: not one mention of jobs crisis
Hidden handouts for businessmen
CHANCELLOR GORDON Brown claimed his budget this week was about priorities. Brown clearly showed where New Labour's priorities lie. Brown did not mention the word "Longbridge" at all in his 50 minute speech. There was not a single measure in his budget to help save the thousands of jobs at threat in the West Midlands or elsewhere. Instead, like a Tory chancellor, Brown's budget was full of hidden handouts to the richest businessmen.
Brown said he wanted to "remove the old barriers to investment and enterprise". Instead of taxing the rich, Brown virtually abolished Capital Gains Tax-one of the main ways governments have taken money from the richest. It will be slashed from 40 percent to 10 percent after four years. Brown boasted, "With the lowest corporate tax rates for businesses ever and the lowest ever Capital Gains Tax rates for long term investors, Britain is now the place for companies to invest, grow and expand in."
- While Longbridge workers didn't get a mention, Brown handed out tax breaks to create a new elite of "dot.com" entrepreneurs. Brown's vision is of companies making a profit while the rest of us face the "choice" of being hounded to take any low paid job or face losing our rights to benefits in the future. Moreover, the tax breaks for big business and the rich will come into effect immediately on 1 April this year. But the vast majority of ordinary people will have to wait. It will be April 2001 before we see most of the minor increases for pensioners or in the Working Families Tax Credit. Pensioners will have to wait until the next parliament before they see the new "pensioners credit", which Brown promised would help lift them out of poverty.
- Brown claims this is a budget for "hardworking families". But ordinary families gain little from this budget. Some of the low paid will gain through a rise in Working Families Tax Credit. But that will then be taken away as they get less from means tested benefits like Housing Benefit and Council Tax rebates.This April ordinary people who pay mortgages will be over �200 worse off a year when the government scraps the MIRAS tax relief on mortgages.
- Brown promised to wipe out child poverty within 20 years, and claimed that 800,000 children were now better off. But a report last week showed that Britain still has the worst child poverty levels in Europe. Nearly one third of children live in poor households. The budget did little to provide working parents with good, affordable childcare. A report by the Daycare Trust last week said that child poverty would get worse because of a "massive shortage" of subsidised childcare. It says quality childcare is as much as a "pipe dream" for poorer parents as private education. There are 600,000 children under three living in poverty, and only 42,740 free or subsidised childcare places.
- The government says that it will uprate the pensioners' minimum income guarantee with the rise in earnings. But it still refuses to uprate the basic pension on the same basis. Pensioners only receive the guaranteed minimum income if they apply for it-and over a million do not.
City fat cats will celebrate
"BRITAIN'S super-rich have never had it so good," reports this year's Sunday Times list of Britain's richest 1,000 people. The collective wealth of the top 1,000 rich has reached �146 billion- up by �31 billion from last year, a rise of 27 percent. This is the highest ever rise since the list was first published 12 years ago.
The rich have massively increased their wealth since New Labour came to office. Today the top 200 rich have a combined wealth of �95.4 billion. That is nearly double the �48.3 billion the top 200 were worth ten years ago. There are now 26 billionaires in Britain compared with just nine a decade ago. Richest The three richest people in Britain today, two businessmen and a landed aristocrat, are worth over �10 billion. The Sunday Times admits the list is an underestimate of the true wealth of the rich.