By Marcus Leach
Responding to the budget measures Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "George Osborne just rearranged the furniture, when Britain needed a plan B.
"Growth is shrinking, unemployment is on the rise, wages are falling or stagnant and this government is creating a lost generation of young people. No one should be fooled by this budget, it's a mirage from the architect of the most devastating cuts to jobs and services in generations.
“What is on offer is tax cuts and deregulation for corporations, whilst attacking workers’ rights in small companies. This budget has not actually created any jobs. The tax avoidance measures to claw back £1 billion of taxes is a drop in the ocean compared with the £30 billion of taxes lost through avoidance every year. If you are struggling to make ends meet, there is very little in this budget to help you."
The findings of a significant study of 140,000 working people and their journey through the cuts will be revealed to the media tomorrow (Thursday 24 March) ahead of the massive demonstration against the cuts in the capital on 26 March. The findings will expose a bleak picture of life under the Tory-led government showing working people face a collapse in living standards and a future of insecure work.
Thousands of people have also sent in qualitative reports on how the cuts’ programme is impacting their families' lives. These comments will also be available for the media to view, offering an insight into why thousands of people will feel compelled to march on Saturday.
Osborne’s ‘no budge budget’ is a missed opportunity to right Tory economic wrongs, UNISON, the UK’s largest union, said. By passing up the chance to scale back the savage public spending cuts, the Tories are condemning the economy to long-term low growth and high unemployment.
The union said that the Tory’s half-hearted attempts to tackle rising inequalities through a Learjet levy and action on tax loopholes, were token gestures, which would not restore fairness - spiralling out of control under the Tories.
“Under the Tories our economy isn’t growing, but the dole queues are. The Government’s own Office of Budget Responsibility has downgraded the growth forecast by 0.9% since the Chancellor’s last budget. The carnage going on in the public sector was completely written out of the Chancellor’s budget," UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said.
“Osborne should have used this budget to right his economic wrongs. This no budge budget flies in the face of mounting evidence of the toll Tory cuts are taking on our economy and our society. The Chancellor is pinning his hopes on the private sector driving the recovery — but the evidence shows the private sector is not creating enough jobs to stop total unemployment from rising.
“Struggling families will be pleased that tax receipts have been used to stop fuel price rises. But with dole queues rising, and business and consumer confidence low, this is a warning to Osborne — he will not be able to rely on tax receipts to top up spending much longer.
“Osborne's over-hyped increase in tax allowances will in fact be worth less than £2.50 a week to the average basic rate taxpayer. This is more than cancelled out by the increase in VAT, which will cost the average family more than £3 a week, and other reductions in benefits, tax credits and services, which will cost families even more.
“This small tax giveaway will do nothing to help the 2.53 million people on the dole and struggling to find work. It is a drop in the ocean for millions of public sector workers hit by pay freezes. With inflation up to 5.5%, any benefit will swiftly be wiped out by higher prices.
“The Learjet levy is a token gesture. The mega-rich who can afford a private plane could pay a lot more towards our recovery. Instead, public sector workers are cutting back on food, vital healthcare such as dentists and prescriptions, and are still racking up high levels of personal debt. The poor, sick and vulnerable who did not gamble away our future are paying the price, as the public services they rely on disappear.”
On top of the VAT rise and cuts to tax credits, benefits and services that are hitting all workers, public sector workers are being hit by an increase in their pension contributions that will take more than £10 a week out of their disposable income, and a pay freeze that, with inflation running at 5.5%, will have the effect of reducing their real living standards by the equivalent of another £20 a week.
The union is calling for a change of direction and a budget for growth including a Robin Hood Tax. This tax on the banks would add £20 billion to the public purse — twenty times the measures the Chancellor announced today to close tax loopholes. Twenty billion would save local services from shut down, keep children’s nurseries open, stop hospital’s shedding jobs and save adult day centres from closure.