How should we react to the autumn statement? Perhaps, as many commentators have said, as a piece of political theatre. It was certainly that – complete with smoke and mirrors.
Its big message is – continuing austerity. And it’s becoming clear that for George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg austerity is an end in itself.
But there’s a lot of detailed bad news in there.
For the young, for example
Nearly a million under 25s are unemployed, despite ‘growth’. Yet Osborne is much more interested in keeping the old at work than getting the young into work.
– and, incidentally, George announced that more of the student loan book will be privatised.
For children and families
The Children’s Society predicts more working poverty, and more debt for them.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
‘Measures in this year’s Autumn Statement hit low-income working families hard. Two-thirds of children in poverty are in working families, but by freezing the work allowance for Universal Credit over the next three years, the government is making it harder for families to make work pay.
‘And new changes to the way that tax credit overpayments are repaid could leave low income families worse off and drive them into debt.”
On the very day of the statement Shelter revised upwards the number of homeless children in Uk – now 85,000 children will face homelessness at Christmas.
And in case you missed it, there’ll be even less chance of successful opposition to developers in Leeds NW.
The Chancellor has made it harder for Councils to resist the developers.
‘Payments from a bonus paid to town halls for each new home built in their area could be withheld in instances where councils have objected to development and approvals are granted on appeal, the chancellor has announced.’
‘Para 2.209 [p 103] New Homes Bonus – The government will consult on measures to improve further the incentive of the New Homes Bonus, in particular withholding payments where local authorities have objected to development, and planning approvals are granted on appeal.’
That means that cash-strapped Councils will lose the New Homes Bonus on which the Coalition has forced them to rely if they appeal against development. It’s not hard to imagine what the results of this will be.
The whole section on planning – paras 2.203-10 – is worth a read. There’s relaxation on affordable housing requirements, demands for Local plans, and slashing of consultation requirements.
Campaigners in Cookridge, Bramhope, Pool and Adel please note.
For overall comment on the Autumn Statement – we turn to Richard Murphy. Richard is a founder of the ‘Tax Justice’ network – a chartered accountant and economist.
“What we have seen are:
-tiny tax giveaways which have no focus
-tiny tax breaks
-tiny attempts to tackle tax abuse
-tiny measures to tackle the cost of living crisis
When the reality is we have:
– continuing unemployment
– continuing falls in living standards
– continuing increases in the wealth gap
– continuing pressure on the poorest, the disabled and unemployed
– pensions are being deferred
– a [housing] bubble is being inflated
– interest rates will increase in 2015 tipping millions into crisis with their mortgage payments
– growth is dependent on increased consumer debt – the last thing we need
– the young are being ever more priced out of the housing market
– debt will be almost £200bn higher at the end of this parliament than he forecast
– and there is no hint of the structural changes to banking, business, the ownership of wealth, the provision of pensions and the supply of public services that we so badly need.
It’s a pretty depressing scenario. How can it be summarised:
Austerity failed by the standards Osborne set for it. We remain 15% or more behind where we should be on growth. There is no sign of the benefit of growth being shared. The foundations for another downturn post 2015 have been laid. There remains a debt crisis.And growth remains a mirage in the OBR’s eyes – as it has always been two years hence.
Read more here.
Austerity has become an end in itself – or rather a way to roll back the state, which is what the partners of this Coalition, wedded to neo-liberal economics, have always wanted.
We leave you with a final fact.
In the last 41 months, prices have risen faster than wages in 40. The exception was April – when the Coalition’s mates took their deferred bonuses to benefit from the Coalition’s tax-cut for millionaires.
Think about that. Not only did the rich take a tax break in April, courtesy of the Coalition, but their bonuses and payments were so huge that they outweighed the downward trend of everyone else’s pay.
If we are seeing growth – and there are big questions about what sort of growth we’re seeing – under this Coalition that growth is benefiting the rich not the majority.
Britain MUST do Better than This.