by Daphne Liddle
WE KNEW Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn mini-budget, announced on Wednesday, was going to be hard but that does not make it any easier to swallow. He is determined to carry on with his policies that are driving more and more low-income families towards the abyss of utter destitution.
At the same time he continues to mock us all with more cuts in corporation tax.
The three pence a litre rise in fuel duty, which would have had a knock on effect on the price of all commodities. has been dropped.
But the Chancellor has also pegged rises in benefit levels to just one per cent a year, regardless of inflation rates. This will see the value of benefits squeezed at a time when prices of all essentials — housing, food and domestic fuel — are steadily rising.
This will put many families on the brink of economic collapse over the edge. But it will save the Treasury £4 billion a year.
He has also pegged rises in the threshold for higher level tax at one per cent, regardless of inflation. This is letting the very rich off very lightly.
The day before the mini – budget announcement, Osborne called on all Government departments to find another £5 billion in cuts in order to provide a pot of money for a modest programme of investment to stimulate the economy.
This will be used to relaunch the programme of replenishing and renewing school buildings throughout the country that the Labour government of Gordon Brown put in place in early 2010.
David Cameron’s first act as Prime Minister in 2010 was to cancel this. Now the Con-Dem Coalition is implicitly admitting it was wrong to do so. But the costs of scrapping it and then resurrecting it will be enormous and add to the Government’s debt problems that are still growing in spite of his draconian austerity policies.
There will also be spending on transport infrastructure — mostly for the benefit of car owners and little on public transport.
But nothing has been mentioned about building new council houses — a measure that would provide employment and help to alleviate the current desperate housing shortage.
The private rented sector has failed to meet the needs of the growing army of homeless families because the rents it charges are too high and Housing benefit will no longer cover them.
The only way forward is more good quality council housing.
out of step
Osborne is continuing to be further out of step with other major western capitalist powers, which are investing more seriously to stimulate their economies and reduce unemployment.
Osborne is not an economist but a hard-line right wing politician who wants to use high unemployment to keep the working class in its place — even if this does put up the number forced to claim unemployment benefit and reduces the number of people able to pay tax.
And the economy in Britain is steadily going downhill because of his dogmatism. He and Cameron promised to be able to balance the book by 2015; now this is deferred to 2018 — but they are unlikely to be in power by then.
Workers who are homeless and jobless or on the brink of disaster cannot wait that long. Their lives and those of their children are being ruined now.
The Con-Dem Coalition is already divided over Europe, over civil liberties, over Leveson and over many other issues.
It must be brought down and we must force a general election as soon as possible.
And we must ensure that the only realistic alternative government, Labour, is not also following the same poisonous austerity policies.
Rank and file trade unionists and community groups are already more active than they had been for years before the economic crisis of 2008.
But that is not enough. We must increase the pressure on union leaderships to lead properly and organise action — including co-ordinated national strikes and all-out strikes (for longer than just one or two days) — or stand aside for new leaders who will fight.
Lives of workers, pensioners, the disabled and young people depend on it. This Government has to go — and soon.