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Them & Us: Budget special
On the morning of the budget George Osborne, new to Twitter, tweeted: 'Today I'll present a budget that tackles the economy's problems head on helping those who want to work hard and get on'.
Sounds strangely familiar to what he was planning to do in each previous budget. But tackling the economy's problems doesn't seem to be going very well for him - he revealed that 'growth' in the economy this year is predicted to be only 0.6% - halved from previous predictions.
The chancellor's failure in his main aim explains why voters have such little faith in him - a recent Ipsos Mori poll showed that 15% fewer people support the government's core economic policies when told that Osborne is the author!
The misery facing public sector workers will be dragged out even further if Osborne gets his way - he announced an extension of the 1% cap on pay rises to include 2015/16.
Even official statistics for inflation put it at over 2%, meaning this cap is a real-terms pay cut.
And then we're expected to be grateful for a small cut in the price of beer - 1p a pint. But that means, even drinking ten pints a week, you only save £5.20 in the course of a year.
The amount you can earn tax-free is being raised to £10,000 a year - finally an actual help for someone other than the super-rich.
But while giving this with one hand, Osborne takes much more back with the other through pay cuts, rocketing prices and attacks on benefits.
And besides, it's nothing when compared to the advantages added to the tax system for big business. Corporation tax is being reduced by a further 1%, on top of 7% already cut since the Con-Dems came to power. By 2016/17 this will lose £800 million from the public purse.
We're all probably sick of the Tories' bleeting on about 'making work pay'. The idea that this lies behind their policies has been proven nonsense time and again - just an excuse to cut benefits rather than reduce unemployment or increase pay.
In the budget some positive steps were taken to help with the cost of childcare. But the same mantra is being used to limit the help to the poorest - the government will cover 20% of the cost of childcare for under-fives whose parents work and are not in receipt of universal credit or tax credits.
That's great. But leaves the lowest paid and unemployed unable to access the help. How can they be expected to find work or work more hours if they can't afford childcare?
There was, of course, no U-turn on cuts. In fact, Osborne announced even more than we had previously known about - an extra 2% cut to most government departments over the next two years and an extra £1.5 billion cut in 2015/16 than was announced in the Spending Review.
So, more of what we've had already - which, among other things, has so far resulted in:
- Hundreds of thousands of public sector job cuts
- 6,000 benefit claimants referred to foodbanks last year by Jobcentre staff concerned they don't have enough money to eat
- An increase in the suicide rate
- A majority of children in the UK set to be living below the breadline by 2015
- More than one in ten people providing unpaid care for disabled or elderly family members, friends or neighbours
- A £922 million decrease in the amount spent on foreign holidays by 16-34 year olds
- Rocketing rents, a 23% increase in rough sleepers in a year and a rapid rise in the number of people sleeping in sheds
In The Socialist 27 March 2013:
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