As cuts begins to bite, the fightback must begin now

Submitted by Matthew on 18 February, 2010 - 11:16 Author: Dan Katz

The UK jobless total now stands at 2.46 million unemployed, or a rate of 7.8% — including 923,000 16-24-year-olds. More job cuts are on the way. A survey of 700 employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reveals that firms in all sectors plan to shed 6% of their workforce in the first quarter of 2010.<--break-->

The government wants to cut higher education funding in England by £449 million. The University and College Union (UCU) says 6,000 university jobs were already at risk across the UK and 9,000 more could go in England alone.

Although the government has delayed a Comprehensive Spending Review, which would have contained all the really big decisions on cuts, until after the election, there are already programmes in place for big “efficiency savings” in the public sector.

The government has made a start on cutting the benefits bill by scrapping plans to extend maternity pay from nine to 12 months.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has announced plans to cut more than £45 billion off the budget deficit in the next four years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies claims spending on public services and administration will have to be cut by 11% over four years under the Treasury's plans, and that the pledge to freeze NHS spending in real (inflation-adjusted) terms over 2011-13 would not spare the health service from its biggest two-year squeeze since it was set up in 1948.

The NHS budget for buildings and buying medical equipment is set to fall sharply. The capital budget for the NHS in England will be reduced by more than a fifth in the next financial year. The total reduction is £1.4 billion, according to figures obtained by Channel Four News. Similar restrictions seem set to be placed on school building budgets.

Whatever the result of the election, we can expect attacks on universal benefits, such as child benefit, and on public sector pay and pensions.

Gail Cartmail from Unite said: “In cities such as Newcastle where two thirds of those economically active are employed in the public sector, the impact of public sector cuts would be devastating to the local economy — reduced taxation, reduced spending and, ironically, greater reliance on public services such as Job Centres and increased government expenditure on supporting the unemployed and their families.”

With all of these cuts already underway — put in place by the New Labour government, Tory and Lib-Dem controlled local authorities or by the SNP in Scotland — it would be foolish for anyone in the labour movement to wait for the result of the general election, as if that result will change the basic picture. The fightback must start now. We need a network of labour movement campaigns against the cuts, linked to the unions, taking up the issues that are affecting working-class communities.