In 2010 Britain was treated to its first Tory government since the 1990’s, backed up by their coalition partners the Lib Dems. They came to office during the worst recession in a generation and implemented a plan of austerity and debt reduction that has meant massive cuts to public services, with the con-dems proudly vowing to bring public sector spending down to pre 1930’s levels. Here I will look at the true cost to the public of this ideologically driven austerity plan and what it really means.
The rich have gotten richer. while the poor have gotten poorer
In George Osbournes 2012 budget the chancellor cut the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%, a huge tax cut equating to at least £40,000 for every millionaire in Britain. This at a time when the average family is £1400 per year worse of due to falling incomes and high inflation rates, when wages are 8.5% lower than in 2009 and also at a time when unemployment was at record levels. This is the true aim of the con-dems austerity plan, it is nothing more than an ideological redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. The Tories believe this is necessary as they want the majority of wealth to be controlled by a tiny elite so that they can invest it in the stock markets and support their crumbling capitalist economy. This redistribution of wealth has however caused an explosion in the numbers of ordinary people living in poverty. “We’re all in this together” David Cameron said, unless you are rich he should have added. This trend of wealth redistribution has been seen globally during this time of global austerity, not just in Britain. With oxfam stating that the richest 1% in the world will soon own more than 50% of the worlds wealth by 2016, up from 44% in 2009, the richest 1% will soon own more than everybody else combined.
As I said in the intro to this article the con-dem government has proudly boasted it will reduce public spending to pre 1930’s levels, in other words to the levels of spending last seen during the greatest period of economic depression in history. This has led to huge cuts to (among many things) policing, with 1000’s less officers on the streets than in 2009. Also hit hard is the welfare budget with measures such as ‘sanctions’ and ‘the bedroom tax’ leading to people not even receiving the basic safety net income required to survive, this has been a major contributing factor to the surge in poverty seen in recent years. And hardest hit of all have been local government budgets with over 800,000 civil service jobs lost sine 2010 and many councils now having to resort to measures such as turning off street lights at night and reducing bin collections just to make their budgets balance. And with only 40% of planned spending cuts made in this parliament things are poised to get a whole lot worse.
Tuition fee rises
In 2010 the con-dem government announced plans to treble tuition fees for students from £3000 to £9000 per year. This was despite Nick Clegg promising prior to the election that tuition fee rises would be a “red line issue” should his party form a coalition. His decision to fold on this led to widespread anger which culminated in student demonstrations in London in 2010, indeed such was the anger that these demonstrations turned into riots. It also destroyed Cleggs reputation beyond all repair. Despite this the government ignored the students and pressed ahead, with the rises introduced in 2012. The trebling of university fees has led to a drop in student numbers for the first time in a generation, with students from poorer backgrounds obviously being the ones to suffer. Many feel this was an attempt to once again make education the privilege of the rich. Despite the universal criticism received for this action the con-dems still haven’t learned their lesson, with plans announced in 2014 to allow individual universities to charge even more than the £9000 per year as they see fit.
Royal Mail – Royal Mail was sold off in October 2013 by then business secretary Vince Cable. The sale received widespread criticism as the shares were grossly undervalued by a government trying to rush through the sale to balance the books. Shares were initially offered at 330p, their value soared immediately after the IPO and by the end of 2014 they were worth 70% more than they were sold for.
Schools – The condem government announced early on its intention to convert all schools into privately run academies. These academies are not subject to the same rules as state schools and are not bound to a standard curriculum, allowing them to teach whatever they choose. This has led to several schools attracting negative attention for obscure subjects being taught and we have also seen a rise in the number of schools deemed to be failing.
NHS – As of 2014 more than 50% of NHS contracts are now awarded to private companies, making the NHS a free market and causing it to be seen as a cash cow by wealthy investors. These private companies main aim is to make profits, not to provide good health care, making the system obviously flawed from the start. This alongside the PFI funding used by many NHS trusts during the last Labour government and continued under the condems has led to many NHS trusts (which run health services for entire districts) struggling financially, with some even going bankrupt. In other cases private companies who have been running these trusts have even walked away stating simply that it is no longer profitable to them. Again this brings us back to the main problem here, profit is being put before the quality of medical care.
So that is the legacy of the con-dem government. The rich are getting ever richer whilst more and more ordinary people slip into poverty, Public services have been decimated by cuts and privatisation and tuitions fees are trebled. And there’s still much much more to come. Labour have stated that they will stick to the Tory spending plans if they win the next election, so whoever wins we will see the remaining 60% of the cuts and the destruction they will cause to what remains of our public services. Unless we fight back. Whoever is in office in May 2015 we need to apply pressure to end this relentless march of austerity, we need massive protests as often as possible, we need to agitate and fight them for every penny of our taxes that they want to spend paying for a crisis caused by the bankers rather than paying for our essential needs. If we lay down and take this it will only be the beginning. Our next PM (whoever it is) needs to be reminded that he is but an elected voice of the people and that his only job should be to do what we tell him! We need to fight back Britain, before its too late.