24 June 2010
It’s clearly a gimmick, designed to back up the claim that, as Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg say in their letter, “we’re all in this together”. In reality, they are no doubt hoping to set workers in one part of the public sector against workers in another, and 'back office' against 'front line'. If any PCS members are thinking of replying, here are a few suggestions:
The prime minister and his deputy could be told that their letter is breathtakingly arrogant and deceitful. It follows a budget in which they froze the pay and proposed to cut the pensions of the public sector workers that they now thank for their hard work.
Far from being ‘all in this together’, the Budget made the deepest cuts in decades affecting the poorest and most vulnerable in society. It slashed £11 billion from welfare benefits including a commitment to force more people off disability living allowance and a three-year freeze to child benefit. It increased VAT to 20% from next year, which will hit people harder the lower their income.
All in this together? These cuts will punish the poorest in society for an economic crisis caused by financial speculators. Yet the banks will hardly notice the paltry levy the government has announced. At the same time they have cut corporation tax and they’ve reduced the amount of national insurance employers have to pay. If we were ‘all in this together’ the government would have closed the tax gap estimated at over £100 billion not paid by the largest companies and wealthy individuals. But there’s no review or commission on that.
Cameron and Clegg say: “The biggest challenge our country faces is dealing with our huge debts – and that means we have to reduce public spending.” Well, there’s an alternative.
First, collect the billions in tax that is avoided, evaded and uncollected each year. The proposed ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on financial speculation could also raise $400 billion globally. Stopping the replacement of Trident nuclear weapons would save £78 billion over 30 years. Millions could be saved on getting rid of consultants and from the waste of holding 230 separate pay negotiations in the civil and public services. Millions more could be saved from putting an end to privatisation and PFI.
Most importantly, contrary to claims that public spending is out of control, spending in the UK is among the lowest in Europe. We need investment in public services, not cuts, to help pull the economy out of recession. Creating jobs would boost employment and tax revenue. We could invest in renewable energy, create a million ‘climate’ jobs, high speed rail links, and build new housing for the 1.8 million families on council house waiting lists.
The public sector should be seen as an investment, not a debt to be disposed of.
Many economists and ‘think tanks’ are saying that the government’s plans to cut jobs, pensions and pay would cause terrible damage not only to public services and public sector workers’ livelihoods, but also to the economy which would be driven down by the impoverishment of millions of people.
We need to tell Mr Cameron and his deputy that cuts are not necessary and they’re fundamentally unfair.