CHANCELLOR Osborne’s Autumn Statement to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon was a savage attack on the working class and the poor.
Early in his hour-long speech he admitted that the Treasury’s seizure of the Royal Mail Pension Fund earlier this year has ‘had a significant one-off impact on the public finances’.
Postal workers will be concerned that their pension pot has already been spent, with Osborne admitting ‘the transfer of the Royal Mail Pension fund to the public sector as part of its privatisation . . . produces a one-off reduction in the deficit of £28 billion this year’.
However, this one-off bonanza has not halted the rise of the government debt, Osborne admitted, as he pushed back by yet another year, to 2018, the date at which he claimed it will begin to fall.
He boasted about the number of civil servants the coalition government has sacked, saying: ‘The civil service is today smaller than at any time since the second world war.’
Warning that the Coalition is about to launch a massive new onslaught on teachers’ pay and conditions, Osborne said: ‘The schoolteachers review body does recommend much greater freedom for individual schools to set pay in line with performance and my right honourable friend the Education Secretary will set out how this will be implemented.’
He announced £1 billion of taxpayers’ money to be given to education privateers ‘to build 100 new Free Schools and Academies’.
He made clear he has no intention of taxing the rich, claiming: ‘Punitive tax rates do nothing to raise money,’ and admitted that this is a government for the tax evaders, saying: ‘A tax rate on the rich which raises almost no money is a tax con.’
But the poor are not to be let off so lightly. ‘When it comes to working age welfare, we’ve already made substantial reforms. £18 billion a year has been cut from the welfare bill.
‘Benefits are being capped for the first time, so families out of work will not get more than the average family gets from being in work.
‘We’ve increased efforts to fight welfare fraud. Today we announce further measures and checks to save over a billion pounds in the next four years by reducing fraud, error and debt in the tax credit system.
‘Next year my right honourable friend the Work and Pensions Secretary will introduce the new universal credit so that it always pays to work.’
He claimed outrageously: ‘We have to acknowledge that over the last five years those on out-of-work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work.’
He went: ‘Those working in the public services who have seen their basic pay frozen will now see it rise by an average of one per cent and a similar approach of a one per cent rise should apply to those in receipt of benefit, that’s fair and it will ensure that we have a welfare system that Britain can afford.’
He spelt out that as inflation roars ahead, the unemployed and low paid are to be driven into the gutter: ‘Most working age benefits including jobseekers allowance, employment and support allowance and income support will be upgraded by one per cent for the next three years. We will also upgrade elements of the child tax credit and the working tax credit by one per cent for the next three years.’
He spelt out how he is raising money from the poorest in society: ‘Let me be clear, upgrading benefits by one per cent means people get more cash, but less than the rate of inflation, and taken together we will save £3.7 billion in 2015/16 and deliver permanent savings each and every year from our country’s welfare bill.’
He concluded by broaching the privatisation of local services from 2013, saying: ‘Countries like ours risk being outsmarted, outworked and outcompeted by new emerging economies.
‘We asked Michael Heseltine to report to the House on how to make the government work better for business and enterprise.’
He said: ‘We will respond formally in the spring, but here’s what we will do now.
‘First, government spending should be aligned with the priorities of the local business community, we will provide new money to support the local enterprise partnerships (LEP) and from April 2015 the government will place more of the funding that currently goes to local transport, housing, skills and getting people back to work, into a single pot that LEPs can bid for.’