Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement today showed once again that the Tory government has totally failed to wake up to the damage austerity is causing.
This is true both in terms of the sheer scale of suffering austerity is inflicting on people and their communities, and the underlying damage being done to our economy, which is being starved of much-needed investment.
In 2010, the current Prime Minister and Chancellor were members of the Conservative-led Cabinet that made the decision to slash investment and then deprive the economy of the investment it needed for years to come, whilst giving tax breaks to large corporations and the super-rich.
Alongside this, a political choice was made to target some of the most vulnerable people in society with ever deeper cuts, many of which are still to come.
Former Chancellor George Osborne was recently boasting about the achievements of austerity and Philip Hammond’s boasting tone today was also misplaced.
Already, austerity is a national tragedy – ruining millions of lives, and being linked to 120,000 deaths in a recent study.
To give a detailed example of the effect of austerity on one section of society, in the run-up to the Spring Statement, Labour has rightly highlighted the devastating impact on children and children’s services of austerity.
Over 500 libraries, 300 children’s centres and almost 500 playgrounds either have been or are being closed by this government.
Children’s services as a whole are facing a £2bn deficit. The head of Action for Children recently said that children’s services are facing a “crisis” that could become a “catastrophe”.
It’s hard to believe that in one of the richest countries in the world, we are seeing reports of schools so short of cash that they have to write out to parents begging for donations for pens and pencils. It is a direct consequence of austerity, which has led to our schools which are now facing the first real-terms per pupil funding cuts since the mid 1990s, meaning that secondary schools are at risk of losing the equivalent of six teachers over the next five years.
To put it simply, this government has turned its back on the next generation, and remains determined come what may to pursue cuts that mean the potential of millions of young people upon whom Britain‘s future depends will not be unlocked.
This is the sixth largest economy on the planet and we can and must do better for the majority of people.
So what is the alternative to more misery under the Tories?
As the economist Larry Elliott said this week, “Higher investment spending makes a lot of sense. For a start, it would help offset higher interest rates from the Bank of England. It would also provide a much-needed boost to the UK’s struggling construction sector. It would help address the problem of weak long-term productivity growth identified by the OBR. And it would raise activity in the short term, putting the UK in a stronger bargaining position in the Brexit negotiations.”
Only Labour will deliver this much-needed investment, with its proposal for a National Transformation Fund to deliver £250bn over a decade in our infrastructure, from broadband to the railways.
Alongside this, a real industrial strategy will target focused investment in critical, national priorities like renewable energy.
In contrast to Labour’s plan for a better future, today showed once and for all that the Tories won’t change direction from austerity – whatever the economic damage it does, and whatever the human costs are.
It’s time for them to go.
Only a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government, with John McDonnell as Chancellor will deliver the drastic change of direction we really need, moving away from the disastrous failure of austerity, and to start once again to fund our public services and invest in our economic future.
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