Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget on Monday confirmed that austerity is not over.
Instead he claimed, vaguely, that it was “finally coming to an end”.
What this really means is that billions of pounds of cuts previously announced by the Tories are still to come.
For instance Hammond boasted of giving an “extra” £650 million to social care. But councils—which fund social care—still face £1.3 billion of cuts over the next year.
That means the councils’ funding crisis—which is pushing many local authorities to the brink of bankruptcy—will get worse.
Similarly the promise of a one-off £400 million payment to buy equipment for schools will not impress teachers or parents. It actually comes down to about £10,000 per primary school, or £50,000 per secondary school.
Schools in England suffer from a £2 billion shortfall in funding a year. The “little extras” Hammond said the £400 million would pay for won’t cover the everyday basics.
And his pledge of £20 billion more for the NHS by 2023 is nowhere near what’s needed as it enters yet another winter crisis. This is actually a rehash of a promise made earlier this year—not a new announcement.
And the Tories are still demanding that the NHS makes £22 billion in “efficiency savings” by 2020/21.
Plus, the “new” money comes with the price of further reforms in a 10-year plan for the NHS.
Hammond’s attempts to claim that austerity is “coming to an end” shows that the Tories fear people’s anger could boost Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.
Even reactionary Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government had to look at the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) benefit.
Hammond announced £1.7 billion in funding to increase the UC work allowance—the amount some people can earn before they start losing the benefit—by £1,000 a year.
That won’t stop the destitution millions of vulnerable people face on UC.
There are still no above-inflation pay rises for public sector workers after an almost decade-long pay freeze. So in real terms that’s yet another pay cut.
And the benefits freeze won’t be lifted either—another cut for the poorest in society.
Meanwhile Hammond’s real giveaway was for the better off. The income threshold for paying the top rate of tax was raised to £50,000.
There is no need for working class people to pay more through higher taxes or productivity to get the services that are needed. The 1,000 richest people and families have seen their wealth increase to a record £734 billion in the last year alone.
Taking money off the corporations and rich could fund the NHS, schools, higher wages and the end of austerity. But that will mean a fight to boot the Tories out of office.
NHS pledge leaves people with mental health problems vulnerable
Hammond’s 10-year NHS plan promised a new mental health crisis service.
This will be set up through £2 billion of funding by 2023/24.
This is supposedly about helping a growing number of people who can’t access mental health services until they reach crisis point.
Those services at A&E departments and local authorities have been slashed during the last eight years.
And helping people with mental distress should not just be about waiting until they reach crisis point.
There should be proper funding for all mental health services across the NHS and local authorities.