On Tuesday March 14th, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity held a meeting in Portcullis House opposite Parliament to discuss the results of the 2017 budget. Led by leading Labour figures including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon and Shadow Foreign Minister Catherine West, the meeting discussed the policy and actions that Labour and its affiliated organisations would be taking in response to increasing government austerity and a budget with a focus on “failed trickle-down economics”.
We sat across from these millionaires as they introduced the next round of austerity” – John McDonnell on his Budget Day experience
A key part of the meeting focused on cuts to important health and social care services, which, according to those present, were given inadequate funding through the budget. Suggestions were made about potential industrial action being carried out by nurses in response to cuts to education bursaries, with the story of a 24 year old nurse unable to continue her job after leaving nursing education with cancer for two years and being unable to get access to the necessary bursaries to continue her training upon her return.
Social care has been of significant debate in UK politics, with the government pledging two billion pounds to social care over the next three years being considered inadequate. There were calls for the implementation of Unison’s ethical care charter for all social care workers.
Councils were also struggling to cope with cuts to funding at a time of heightened demand, with speakers highlighting the fact that the inability to move patients into council social care has increased pressure on the stretched NHS services. It was revealed that since 2010, London councils have had 60% of their funding cut, the consequences of which have been an estimated 30,000 deaths since 2015. Indeed, non-school child care services have been cut radically across the country, with Haringey council seeing the £110 million given for these services being cut to £46 million under the Conservative government.
A number of pledges were also made by the party in regard to what the future Labour government would introduce, including £10 minimum wage, great paternity/maternity/sick pay, increased public sector pay, increased worker rights and the removal of Conservative legislation which inhibits trade unions. They would also seek to reverse the £70bn worth of tax cuts will have been given by 2020, much of which is made up of corporation tax. It was also announced that the cuts to benefits that have been seen, for example the removal of the third child benefit which has left 600,000 people £2,500 worse off and 300,000 people £7,000 worse off, would be reversed under a Labour government.
Food bank usage and homelessness were also raised, with Diane Abbott claiming that this is the worst she has seen homelessness for decades. Food banks are seeing the highest levels in their history and the Trussel Trust reported that more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were distributed to people in crisis in first half of 2016.
The interests and taxation of the wealthy was a contentious issue too. It was noted that in 2005, the top richest 1000 people had a net worth of £250bn. In 2015, that number was £550bn. During the same period, living standards for the vast majority of the population have stagnated and minorities, the poor and the young have found it increasingly difficult to get by, with an estimated 19 million being at risk of poverty over the next decade.
Tax cuts for the millionaires, cuts to services and pay for the millions” – John Trickett, Labour MP
The following section is made up of extracts taken from the speeches given by the three members of the Shadow Cabinet of the United Kingdom, Diane Abbott, Rebecca-Long Bailey and John McDonnell.
- The cuts to the prison system has made them weak, rioting is no surprise.
- The level of NHS funding has failed to keep up with needs.
- Austerity is not necessary, but a political choice, and one which undermines the public sector and post-1945 consensus.
- The unspoken aspects of Hammond’s budget are potentially the most dangerous, as he has not given funding to many areas of the economy which require it.
- The ‘casualisation’ of self-employment (by groups such as Uber who do not classify their workers as employees) is exploitation.
- “Immigrants do not cause low wages”, globalisation can.
- Greater employment regulation is needed.
- Getting Labour policies out through the mainstream media is almost impossible because they don’t focus on substance.
- Greater investment is needed in skills and businesses and research & development.
- Employee insecurity is unacceptable.
- Need a budget on how we raise – not just spend – money.
- The Conservatives breached their manifesto.
- Slashing taxes for wealthiest whilst introducing the bedroom tax, slashing PIP payments and removing housing benefits for under 21’s is unacceptable.
- This budget was brutal.
- Money being given is not enough. Social care needs £2bn now and NHS needs £10bn now.
- Majority want no privatisation in NHS, yet it is occurring.
- Grammar schools should not be given money whilst local schools are failing and having their funding cut.
- 50,000 teachers have left the profession under Conservative government.
- ‘Self-employed’ average wage of £11,000 is despicable and unacceptable.
- Another 3-6% of cuts are coming to the public sector, on top of the existing cuts, whilst the private sector is allowed to flourish.
- Labour leadership will be on picket lines supporting workers where required.
- The top FTSE 100 company chief exec earns 750 times his lowest paid employee, and the average for the top 100 is 182 times. How is this acceptable?
- “Neoliberalism is collapsing”.
- Scrap tuition fees.
- Build more council housing.
- Invest a much greater amount in renewable energy.