Phelim Mac Cafferty: Tory cuts hit poor harder than the rich

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

Despite a major victory for anti-cuts campaigners with a U-turn on tax credits, the outlook remains bleak.

This week George Osborne announced the Conservative government’s comprehensive spending review. Despite a major victory for anti-cuts campaigners with a U-turn on tax credits, the outlook remains bleak.

We see a continued march towards privatisation of schools and health, and massive cuts to environmental sustainability. Behind the bravado and pumped-up promises, we see meagre scraps thrown toward public services, which fall far short of the growing costs of our ageing population.

In Brighton and Hove, business rates given to councils will be dwarfed by cuts to the revenue grant. A 2% rise in council tax for social care would amount to less than 15% of the proposed cuts locally in the next four years.

Osborne’s “sound finance” strategy is to sell off assets and dip into reserves to fund ever-increasing pressures on public services. The sums simply don’t add up.

Locally, there is no question that the Tories’ weak promises mean we still face savage cuts. The damaging impacts

will be felt everywhere, but particularly among the poorest households.

Brighton and Hove could change beyond recognition as low-earners are forced out of the city, libraries, parks and local businesses close, and street homelessness is driven up.

In his comprehensive spending review five years ago, the Chancellor commented that: “We are all in this together”.

Since then, we have seen yawning inequality open up: a devastating impact has been felt by the most severely disabled, facing cuts 19 times higher than most citizens. It has hit people surviving on benefits, as well as low income families working multiple jobs, significantly harder than richer families. This, while the combined wealth of the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain has more than doubled in ten years. We’ve never all been in this together.

Austerity has been roundly discredited by leading economists such as Paul Krugman, who has described the last five years of cuts as the “austerity delusion”. Following the Tories swingeing cuts to the public sector, economic growth has been stagnant and this October recorded the worst deficit for any October since 2009.

Predictions of future growth this week would have been significantly higher in the absence of austerity. According to the University of Oxford, the negative impact of austerity on growth has so far cost the average household about £3,500.

There is no question: there are alternative, fairer and more effective ways to respond to a financial crisis. A programme of investment in green technology, for example, which would pay for itself many times over in greater energy security and lower costs.

What we need now is a government with the courage to take us toward a more sustainable, prosperous economy which works for all.