IN LAST year’s autumn budget Tory chancellor Philip Hammond claimed that ‘austerity is coming to an end’ in Britain.
Hammond’s claim backed up Theresa May’s previous boast that she would end austerity – a desperate attempt to keep feeding workers the illusion that all the austerity cuts since 2010 have worked and that British capitalism has been rescued from collapse.
Going along with May’s lying assertions, Hammond promised to relax his rules on cutting the government’s deficit and promised to increase public spending by £30 billion by 2024.
In just three months these solemn pledges are in ruins, as the leading economic think-tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has told Hammond that he must conjure up an extra £5 billion in this year’s government spending review to make good his promise to reverse cuts and boost public spending.
According to the IFS, a minimum of £2.2 billion is needed just to hold departmental budgets and protect them from inflation. The Tories would then have to ‘find’ another £5 billion just to maintain existing services.
The Tories won’t just ‘find’ an extra £5 billion to keep the already collapsing public services limping along, they will demand even more austerity cuts that would drive the working class into the gutter.
Before May slapped Hammond down he was promising ‘permanent austerity’, and these latest figures prove conclusively that this is the future the Tories hold out for the working class.
The stark reality of all the austerity cuts made since 2010 were also brought home this week in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which revealed that more than a third of babies in the UK are living below the poverty line with low paid families struggling under a ‘rising tide of work poverty’.
In an analysis of government data for the BBC, the JRF said that in 2016-17 there were 302,838 children under the age of one living in families with a household income substantially below the UK average – its definition of poverty. That represents 35% of all babies under one year old!
A spokeswoman for JRF said: ‘Families with children are locked in by low pay, high housing costs and weakening social security, and they are really left scrabbling day to day, week to week to make ends meet. One of the biggest things that’s happened is the government chose a few years ago to freeze the tax credits and benefits for families, and we’ve all seen prices going up in the shops but a big chunk of people’s incomes is just standing still.’
This has led to the proliferation of baby banks across the country, more than 100, providing essentials for newborn babies including nappies, baby wipes and cots, even baby milk – essentials that parents just cannot afford with all the cuts forced on them by the Tories’ austerity regime. Volunteers at one baby bank in Yorkshire have seen a tenfold increase in referrals since opening two years ago.
In December last year, the JRF calculated that 4.1 million children were living in poverty in the UK – an increase of 500,000 in five years – as a direct result of the Tories’ drive to bring down the national debt, a debt that was run up bailing out the banks from the crash of 2008.
Austerity, they promised, would be a temporary hardship, but it is clear that there is nothing temporary about it as far as the Tories are concerned.
In order to pay off the bank debts, babies and young children are to be condemned to a permanent life of austerity – greater than anything inflicted on them in the past – exceeding even the desperate poverty of Dickensian Britain where the children of workers starved while the bosses and bankers wallowed in riches.
The only answer is to demand that the trade union movement acts to end this obscene attack on babies and the entire working class by immediately organising a general strike to kick out the Tories, and advance to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and put an end to capitalist austerity by replacing bankrupt British capitalism with a socialist society and a planned socialist economy.