Wednesday, 19 May 2010

There is an alternative to spending cuts

Ravi Subramanian, UNISON Regional Head of Local Government, had a column published in today's Nottingham Post outlining an alternative to the proposed £6bn of spending cuts. See below for the text of the article.


As Nick Clegg gets used to sharing power with David Cameron, the country waits to see what this marriage of convenience will bring. Speaking to Tory councillors, David Cameron said: "You demonstrate Conservative government – your values, your achievements, represent our party in action." Post readers already know what Tory councils are like.


Notts County Council recently implemented £28m of cuts. UNISON did a detailed analysis of the council's finances and showed the £28m could easily be found and the cuts were ideologically driven. Vital services like welfare rights were slashed and some old people had increases in user charges of over £20 a week.


Tory-run Barnet Council is adopting an "EasyJet" model with basic services provided free, with top-up charges for extra services. It's cuts by another means, as those who need higher levels of service are least able to pay the extra.


In tough times we need public services more than ever. They support communities, help people back into work, give our children the best start and care for our sick and elderly. Putting money into local services helps kick-start economic growth. When the Notts pits closed the local economy collapsed, as people had less money to spend in local businesses.


Big cuts are not inevitable; they are a political choice. It's not just UNISON saying this. Less than a month ago the Lib Dems pledged to oppose the savage £6bn of extra cuts proposed by the Tories. Now they are part of a government that has agreed to the £6bn of extra cuts. This coalition is nothing more than a shabby deal, for the benefit of politicians who are prepared to shed their principles in a grab for power.


It was not ordinary taxpayers or vulnerable people who caused this financial mess; it was greedy bankers. You'd expect UNISON to be against cuts and you might well ask: "Where's the money going to come from?" The people who got us into this mess can help get us out of it; around £30bn could be raised annually by introducing a major financial transactions tax on UK financial institutions.


Further annual savings could be made as follows: £10bn by reforming tax havens and residence rules to reduce tax avoidance by corporations and "non-domiciled'' residents such as Tory donor Lord Ashcroft; £14.9bn to stop tax relief being used to disproportionately subsidise incomes over £100,000; £1bn by halving local government agency workers costs (Notts County Council spend around £19m each year); £5bn could be raised with an empty property tax on vacant dwellings.


The Lib Dems had a chance to smooth off the worst excesses of a Tory government but they've agreed to the extra £6bn of unnecessary cuts. Labour said "vote Lib Dem, get Tories" and were scoffed at for scaremongering. Sadly, they were proved right.


In the 90s the unjust Poll Tax was defeated by a public campaign. These cuts can be defeated, too. UNISON's Million Voices for Public Services campaign aims to do this. All we want is a civilised, fair and compassionate, society with decent public services. Even in these difficult times, this is still possible by implementing a fairer tax system.

No comments:

Post a Comment