Tory chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement plans to lock Britain into a decade of austerity.
He was set to announce plans on Wednesday of this week to slash public spending by up to 50 percent for “unprotected” departments during the next ten years.
It marks an intensification in the Tories’ austerity drive—but also reveals divisions at the heart of their project.
The Tories’ defeat in the House of Lords over proposed tax credit cuts last month forced them look at “softening their impact”. But this has meant scrabbling around to find £4 billion in cuts elsewhere.
Hated welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith fought off attempts to rob his flagship “universal credit”—so housing benefits may get the chop instead.
Tenants renting in the private sector could be an average of £570 a year worse off, while those in social housing could lose £460.
This attack comes on top of the cap on local housing allowance for private tenants and the rent hike for council house tenants.
Duncan Smith wants to slash the welfare budget by 21 percent by 2020.
Sajid Javid’s Business, Innovation and Skills department will take one of the biggest hits—but Osborne has promised it won’t be business that pays the price.
Further and adult education budgets and funding for apprenticeships will be slashed even more instead. More than 100 college chairs have warned that cuts will tip them “over the precipice”.
A firestorm will rip through local government. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank has warned that grants to councils could fall by 27 percent by 2020.
In theory the NHS will get a £10 billion injection—but only if it makes “efficiency savings” of £22 billion.
And local government cuts will have a knock on effect on the already decimated social care sector, and fuel the NHS crisis (see page 20).
But the Tories face a dilemma. In July the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast a small £10 billion surplus for 2019/20.
But with falling tax revenue and weaker growth the Tories now expect to borrow £4 billion a year. That’s because austerity was never about cutting the deficit—it was always about squeezing more out of workers. So Osborne is more than happy to increase the terror budget by 30 percent.
But the Tories haven’t managed to coax firms to invest, so it won’t be plain sailing for them.
The People’s Assembly was set to hold protests across Britain to coincide with the Autumn statement.
The divisions at the top means we have an opportunity to push them back.