CHANCELLOR Hammond has rejected calls by Labour and some Conservatives to announce the end of austerity in his ‘Spring Statement’ on Tuesday. Despite unveiling the smallest budget deficit since 2002, he is expected to say ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel. . . but we are still in the tunnel at the moment.’
The UK is now running a surplus of £3.8bn in its current budget but Hammond is set to say today what he told the BBC on Sunday: ‘We have a debt of £1.8 trillion – 86.5% of our GDP. . . All the international organisations recognise that is higher than the safe level . . . we need to get our debt lower.’ He is governing for the bankers!
It is to be even more austerity with the rich continuing to get richer while the working class is pauperised, and the NHS is privatised. The BMA has responded to Hammond’s Sunday statements. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘The NHS has just endured the most challenging winter on record, in which we saw the perfect storm of unprecedented demand, staff shortages and lack of resources collide in the face of underfunding, leaving hospitals running at absolute capacity and patients facing unacceptable waits in ambulances and corridors.
‘While the Chancellor’s optimism over the economy sounds positive, the government must now follow it up with a promise to invest properly in the NHS to fund the extra staff and resources that are so desperately needed to ensure high quality and safe patient care.’ The BMA is calling on the UK government to match or exceed the average spend of other comparable European countries on health and social care. ‘If the UK had spent as much on health as the average of these countries £10.3 billion more would have been spent in 2015. This could rise to as much as an extra £22.9 billion by 2022/23,’ says the BMA. Hammond is however determined to do no such thing! He will continue starving and privatising the NHS.
Unison has focussed on the crisis of Northamptonshire council. It states: ‘The budget was passed by the Conservative council on 28 February after auditors KPMG warned that the earlier version with £29m of cuts was unlawful because it did not balance. ‘The new budget added further cuts, including: a pay freeze, in place of a proposed 2% pay rise; closing 21 libraries; ending all bus subsidies from the end of the school year in July; a 42% cut in the budget of the trading standards service, responsible for protecting public health and public safety; reducing the highways budget, affecting inspections and repairs to both roads and footpaths in the county.
‘In addition, councillors agreed that spending controls in place under the Section 114 notice will continue into the new financial year. The notice, which the council issued in early February, called a halt to any new spending until the end of the 2017-18 budget year, on 31 March. At the same time, the council faced a £21.1m gap between its income and spending for this year.
‘In November last year, the council ordered all staff to take a day’s unpaid leave – essentially a pay cut. But Unison national officer Matthew Egan warns that Northamptonshire is just the first outward sign of a growing crisis in local government finance. ‘Director of social care Anna Earnshawe warned that severe underfunding means adult social services are on the “edge of being unsafe”, with 2,000 cases unassigned.’
The ruling Conservative group in Northants passed a motion of no confidence in its own council leader days before finally setting its budget on 28 February. Tory councillor Robin Brown, who was responsible for drawing up the budget, told the meeting: ‘Northamptonshire is at the leading edge of a financial challenge the severity of which local government has never seen before.’
Under the Tories, Britain is being driven into the gutter. Hammond will continue with this project today. The only solution is for the trade unions to call a general strike to bring down the May government and bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies to put an end to capitalism!