TEACHERS’ unions and the BMA led the condemnation of Tory Chancellor Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday, in which he announced the forced academisation of every school in the country.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA Council Chair, said: ‘It is disgraceful given the crisis facing the NHS that there was no promise of extra funding for a health service that is buckling under pressure from rising patient demand, falling resources and staff shortages.
‘Hospitals and GP practices around the country are at breaking point and need urgent, extra investment to maintain even basic care to their patients. The political rhetoric does not match the reality on the ground of an NHS in crisis. The government’s funding promises have simply not materialised.’
The BMA will hold a special representative meeting to discuss the deepening crisis facing the NHS. Members of the BMA Council called for the ‘extraordinary’ conference, which will take place on 3 May in London.
BMA council member and Lancashire GP Dr David Wrigley said, ‘The BMA council discussed the parlous state of the NHS due to the year-on-year funding cuts – something which is a political choice made by this government.
‘This extraordinary meeting will discuss the crisis in the NHS and attempt to come up with solutions challenging our politicians to step in and rescue the NHS from collapse. ’A BMA spokesperson said: ‘I can confirm that a special representative meeting will be taking place and we will confirm further details in due course.’
The news of the special meeting comes with the BMA in the middle of a war with the government over the imposition of the junior doctor contract, which has led to a series of strike actions over the past three months.
The BMA is bringing a judicial review to question whether the contract will be safe for patients but health secretary Jeremy Hunt has already declared that this is ‘bound to fail’.
The budget, whilst also declaring a bonanza of tax cuts for the wealthy and for business, along with a new onslaught on the poor, including the abolition of central government funding for the regions, pledged to force through the wholesale privatisation of state education by 2020.
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘These are entirely the wrong proposals and priorities for education. The Chancellor seems to be oblivious to the pressing issues that are facing education in England. We have a serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis, a severe school place crisis, and a chronic lack of funding for schools which is leading to subjects being cut, school trips being cut and a reduction in resources.
‘Teachers are in total dismay about the chaotic implementation of the curriculum and the inappropriate nature of much of its content. Workload is through the roof and pay has fallen behind many other graduate jobs. Nothing that has been said today will make the slightest difference to any of these serious problems.
‘The proposals to force all schools to become academies will result in the dismantling of state education and will end democratic accountability in our schools. This is being done despite clear evidence that academies do not perform better than other schools and, in the case of many large chains, badly let down their most disadvantaged children.
‘Nowhere else in the world has this been attempted apart from Chile where the results have been disastrous. George Osborne seems to be unaware that schools already open earlier and later for clubs and activities. The idea for the expansion of the school day, applying to only one quarter of secondary schools, has clearly not been properly planned.
‘Nor will it address the fact that many children do not have access to a well-balanced and rounded education with many subjects such as art, music, drama and sport being squeezed out of the curriculum by pressures to meet targets in core subjects and by the impact of the freeze on core school funding.
‘Schools and sixth form colleges are already struggling due to the government’s real-terms cuts to education funding and the loading of major additional costs onto schools, such as the increases in employer pension and national insurance costs.
‘The measures announced today (Wednesday) will not address these fundamental problems, particularly in the light of the fact that schools are facing significant real-term cuts amounting to a shortfall of some £4 billion in 4 years’ time.
‘The Chancellor’s proposals will leave parents, pupils, teachers and communities without a voice or a choice in their schools. This is a backward and irresponsible step which must be reversed.’
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: ‘The Chancellor’s Budget Statement is a textbook exercise in political distraction and spin. Whilst the Chancellor seeks to captivate public attention over the government’s continuing plans for academisation, he avoids the key question of whether all schools will have enough money to make ends meet this year, next year and into the future.
‘The Chancellor’s claims that he wants to put the next generation first and to protect school budgets will ring hollow in many schools that are struggling financially and while they struggle to cope with the impact of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis that is putting huge strain on the ability of schools to meet the educational needs of pupils.
‘The education measures contained in today’s Budget Statement are an attempt to distract from the reality of the Chancellor’s failed economic plan. There is simply no evidence to back the Chancellor’s belief that forcing all schools to become academies will deliver higher educational standards and neither will these measures deliver more qualified teachers into classrooms.
‘The government has pushed forward three major changes to education legislation since 2010 designed to academise England’s schools. Today’s announcement on academies represents nothing new.
‘After a number of policy U-turns in the last few months, the Chancellor’s announcement that all schools will need to become an academy by 2022 must be viewed as an attempt to distract the public from the state of the economy, and will leave many people questioning what the last six years of reforms in education have been about.
‘If the Chancellor was serious about the need to put the next generation first, he would take the steps necessary to ensure that every child is taught by qualified teachers, and guarantee access for children and young people to the range of educational resources, opportunities and specialist support they need to learn, progress and achieve.
‘It is deeply regrettable that the Chancellor’s Budget Statement reinforces this government’s view that local authorities should play no role in education. The Chancellor’s ideological opposition to local authorities risks hitting children from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest, particularly those children with special educational needs and disabilities.
‘The announcement of new funding for 25% of secondary schools to enable them to extend the length of the school day in order to deliver education in music, the arts and sport must represent an admission of the failure of the government’s education reforms over the last six years, which have seen these subjects squeezed out of the curriculum of many secondary schools.
‘Arts, music, PE and sport should be part of the educational entitlement of every child and not just a few. However, the Chancellor’s announcement today risks further entrenching the postcode lottery in education.
‘Too often, parents are being asked to dig deep into their pockets to cover the cost of their children’s education. Regrettably, the Chancellor’s plans will do nothing to alleviate these financial pressures on families, particularly for those pupils in schools that do not benefit from the additional funds the Chancellor has announced today.
‘As ever with the Chancellor’s Budget Statement, the devil will be in the detail and it will be important to examine carefully the rules governing how money for “extra-curricular” activities will be available for schools.
‘The overall impact of the deepening public spending cuts announced by the Chancellor will leave many children and families struggling to cope without the vital support services they need to enable them to improve their future life chances.’
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘In a weakening global economy, people will rightly ask how the government is providing opportunity for them. Everyone will want to know how the government and their academies will create opportunity to have a say on the running of their local schools which will be controlled by company offices elsewhere in the country.
‘We support new education funding if it helps teachers teach and learners learn. Extending the school day at a time when the government itself acknowledges there is a serious teacher workload problem won’t improve learning if exhausted teachers, on diminishing pay, have not just got an extra hour to teach but also have to fit in lesson planning, marking, assessment and data analysis for that extra lesson. Like spending money on academising schools, it offers no guarantees about the quality of education provided.’
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The Chancellor’s rapid expansion of student loans in recent budgets has created a huge debt burden on the poorest students, and this latest announcement will only increase that problem for those wishing to pursue a career in academia.
‘Instead of blocking off a key academic pathway with a mountain of debt, the government should be prioritising direct public investment in the postgraduates who will make up our future higher education workforce. They are at the forefront of the UK’s knowledge development and are absolutely critical for our nation’s economic success.’
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis commenting on the budget said: ‘Six years of severe cuts to public spending have done little to pay down the deficit, despite the Chancellor’s promises. Yet still he insists on continuing with his failing economic experiment.
‘The Chancellor’s policies have wreaked untold damage to essential community services. Local councils have already cut back so much that there’s little else that can go. Their cupboards are already bare, but still the Chancellor demands more. A budget for the next generation would ensure that libraries and children’s centres weren’t being closed, and the elderly weren’t forced to endure inadequate and undignified levels of care. A budget for working people would help councils build new houses for hard-pressed families, instead of forcing them to sell their best properties to fund right to buy sales.
‘The Chancellor’s willingness to “act now so we don’t pay later” will jar with the thousands of public servants keeping our hospitals, schools and local councils going – despite working under intolerable pressures. Squeezed budgets and job cuts mean fewer colleagues are left to cope with ever increasing demands on services.
‘If George Osborne was serious about boosting the UK’s flagging economy, he should have ended the public sector pay cap. Giving NHS, local authority, schools and police staff a much deserved pay rise would ease the squeeze on family budgets and give local economies a long overdue boost. But instead we’re facing at least four more years of painful cuts, cuts that will continue to hit the most deprived areas of the country the hardest.’
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘This is a one-trick Chancellor – and his one trick is to cut because he refuses to act to grow our economy. He has had to revise down his own growth targets because his so-called jobs “miracle” is actually a jobs fraud. Real, shared prosperity is impossible in an economy built on low pay and where zero-hours jobs have risen by 15 per cent in recent months.
‘Every reputable economic body on the planet has urged him to abandon his clearly counterproductive austerity, decrying his approach as “bad economics”. Yet still he ploughs on banging the national head against the austerity brick wall, imposing billions more in cuts to services that are already down to the bone.
‘Working people are still £40 a week poorer because of his policies. His senseless drive to run a surplus by 2020 will be paid for out of the wage packets of people who deserve far better than broken services and a personal debt burden that is the heaviest in the western world.
‘His claims to be acting to improve the life chances of our young people will stun parents and our members currently fighting to save the children’s centres that have been celebrated for improving social mobility but whose doors are closing thanks to his policies.
‘In times of a flat global economy, his responsibility is to stimulate UK growth and productivity, yet this budget is largely silent on any strategy to support our manufacturing industries. These, not the City of London, are the bedrock of sensible, shared prosperity, but are being irresponsibly ignored by a government that puts its ideological convictions above the national interest.
‘What we needed to hear urgently but did not was that there would be help to stop cheap imports such as Chinese steel destroying jobs and government determination to put British industry first.
‘Our oil and gas industries are in crisis, and while the chancellor may ease the immediate pressure, both these sectors need sustained investment and engagement by government now or they will decline beyond repair on this government’s watch.
‘Re-announcing and rehashing projects from last autumn’s budget statement is an insult to northern towns and cities desperate for decent jobs and fed up with being used as this government’s fig leaf. We need spades in the ground now.’
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘After George Osborne’s first budget in 2010, we said he posed a “serious risk” to our economy and we have been proved right. The Tories have failed even on their own terms and six years on are still pursuing cuts as a political choice rather than an economic necessity.
‘No attempt at distraction with announcements on education and a sugar tax can disguise the reality that the Tories are damaging the economy for the vast majority of people while handing tax cuts to the wealthy and to businesses.
‘Further cuts to civil service departments would be devastating, as tens of thousands of jobs are already under threat and hundreds of offices are earmarked for closure, hitting vital services from tax collection to our justice system.’
Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: ‘The Chancellor claimed this as a Budget for Britain but the truth is it’s just another in a long line of missed opportunities.
‘There is an iron law in British politics: the Chancellor claims the credit when things are going right, but blames the global economy when things are going wrong. And that’s what Mr Osborne did today. The Chancellor has had seven budgets to “fix the roof” as he put it. It doesn’t say much for the quality of his repair job that the rain has started to come in. That’s why he’s raising taxes – in a sneaky, stealth tax sort of a way – though he promised not to.
‘That’s why he’s announcing more cuts – even though we can all see austerity doesn’t work. This isn’t a Budget for Britain – it’s a Budget for the few, not the many, for people earning more than £50k but not for those on low and middle incomes, not for those who are homeless, and hoping to get a home, and not for those who are waiting in line at the food banks which are proliferating in this country and shame a nation which still has the fifth biggest economy in the world.’
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: ‘The Chancellor has missed so many of his own economic targets that in the real world of work he’d have been laid off long ago. It’s like setting your own test questions but still managing to fail the exam.
‘He tried to balance the books on the backs of working people and at the expense of our public services – it hasn’t worked, it won’t work and it’s wrong. By clinging to his failed austerity policies he”s not only making life harder for thousands of people in the here and now, he’s putting the future of UK jobs, skills and industry at risk.
‘To say this was a budget for future generations is laughable when this Chancellor has presided over policies that have seen the trebling of university tuition fees and removal of maintenance grants, the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance for working class kids and an axe taken to the further education sector that we need to equip people for the changing world of work.’
John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, said: ‘With households already being on average £1,127 a year worse off due to the Government’s changes to taxes and benefits in the last Parliament, the Chancellor made a grave error in last year’s Budget by proposing tax credit cuts for low-paid working people, which he had to pull back from in the Autumn Statement. Despite that U-turn he still left the average working family facing a £1,600 loss of income when they are forced on to Universal Credit.
‘Today the Chancellor could have looked again at his Universal Credit cuts, which are a ticking time bomb for many families, and reversed them. But he didn’t and it makes you wonder whether the government lives in the real world, when we hear them prioritising savings schemes for those in receipt of tax credits and Universal Credit.
‘The principle of saving for the future is a sound one, but the idea that those receiving in-work benefits have spare cash to stow away is far-fetched. The savings these people have to make is the choice between heating and eating. That is the real world for low-paid workers and their families.’
Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said: ‘This budget is a total disaster for some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. The government has announced cuts to welfare for disabled people, cuts to pensions for nurses and teachers, and cuts to local government.
‘Yet it remains committed to replacing Trident at a cost of over £100 billion. It is time for a major rethink. We call on the government to cancel Trident replacement and invest the money instead in things that are useful for our society. Trident makes us less safe, and as this budget shows, directs resources away from things we desperately need.’
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The Chancellor’s speech shows his gamble isn’t paying off. Far from increasing growth, he’s had to downgrade his forecasts and accept that his plan is failing on productivity and pay. Real earnings next year are set to grow even more slowly than he’d previously announced. And he’s had to admit that overall government debt is up too.
‘The next generation needs a strong economy with more decent jobs. But instead they are faced with more than a decade of lost wages, hundreds of children’s centres and libraries closing, and the prospect of further cuts hitting public services into the future. A fair budget for the next generation would have delivered far more investment in infrastructure, jobs and homes and fewer eye-catching gimmicks.’
While the trade union leaders vividly describe and rightly condemn some of the devastating affects the Tory government’s policies of privatisation and cuts are having on their members, not one of them proposes the action needed to stop and defeat them.
TUC leader O’Grady’s pitiful response exemplifies the depths to which this treacherous trade union bureaucracy has descended. Far from being a budget of ‘eye-catching gimmicks’ it is a Class War Budget in which the Tory government, driven by the complete bankruptcy of the world capitalist system in general and British capitalism in particular, is presenting its programme for the final smashing up of the Welfare State and all the past gains of the working class.
The Budget must be seen alongside the current Trade Union Bill which abolishes the right to strike. The Tories are relying on O’Grady and the rest of the Labour and trade union bureaucracy, to stand by and just watch while junior doctors and now teachers are battling to defend the NHS and state education. This plan must be defeated. Their fight is our fight!
• All trade unions must take strike action alongside the junior doctors in their next 48 hour strike on April 6
• Councils of Action must be built in every area to unite all trades unions and all working class organisations to defend all jobs and services, to defend the NHS and stop all hospital closures, and to stop the forced academisation programme.
• There must be a massive lobby of the TUC General Council to demand that it calls a general strike to bring down the Tories and stop all the vicious cuts, closures, privatisations and attacks on the trade unions that are taking place.
• TUC leaders that refuse to fight must be made to resign and be replaced by a fighting leadership.
• Bring down the Tories – Forward to a Workers Government and socialism.