Darlington Council is embarking upon a massive programme of £22 million cuts that will cripple the Council, cutting from line services, and throw in the region of 1,000 staff out of work. The bulk of these cuts end services to the old, disabled, people with learning disabilities and children. The Local Education Authority function is to be effectively privatised. These cuts will hit the vulnerable, and the redundancies will impact on the local economy leading to business closures and loss of private sector jobs. Throughout the UK over a million people will lose their jobs.
There is no need to close the Civic Theatre and the Arts Centre, or claim victory in keeping them open by privatising them.
Contrary to what you hear in the media there is no need for these cuts. The attacks on the public sector are purely political. This crisis has been caused by the banks, big business, and their political backers. They should pay; not ordinary people. Other polices to get us out of a ‘recession’ include benefit cuts, pay freezes, and VAT increases. With inflation at 4.5 % and the falling pound increasing the cost of food and goods, people are facing big cuts in their standards of living.
The debt that the Government is trying to eliminate is not as severe as the politicians exaggerate. One measure of debt is as a % of GDP, the countries income. It is 47 %. Compare that to many young couples who have mortgage debt at three times (300%) their income and new graduates with debts equivalent to more than their first years pay (100+%). The government has just introduced measures to double this student debt, because they believe they can afford it. With low interest rates the Government can afford this national debt. It does not need to cut it so quickly and deep.
We too, however, believe that it is wrong for ordinary people to be burdened with the government’s debts. The interest payments on these debts paid by the taxpayer go to guess who? The bankers, who the government bailed out with our money. No wonder they can afford to keep paying themselves £million bonuses.
What do we say that should be done instead?
The Government wants to save £81 billion of public expenditure with this round of cuts.
Did you know that the rich and big businesses avoid paying their fair share of tax? According to the PCS, the tax collectors union, over an extra £120 billion could be collected each year if tax loop holes were closed and non payers were pursued. This is without even raising any tax rates or thresholds on the rich and better off.
Scrapping Trident, the nuclear missile and submarine replacement programme, would save about £100 billion.
Even bolder measures could be taken. After giving the banks £1.3 trillion the Government owns some £850 billion of bank assets. This is more than the total government debt. Rather than treating these banks as private companies, soon to be given back to the private sector at knock down prices. These banks and other debtors should be properly taken into public ownership and their assets used, to help the economy, to support public investment, and give loans to small business something the banks will currently not do.
How do we change things?
Sitting back and ringing one’s hands while saying how terrible it is not an effective strategy. A political campaign against every cut should be waged. Mass demonstrations are required and elected representatives who disagree with these cuts should not only stand up and say so but also refuse to implement them. Such activity will threaten the Government. Rebel local Authorities have beaten right wing governments and obtained concessions by standing up against the government, for instance in the UK in the eighties and also in other countries like Italy and the USA.
Even if our elected representatives don’t fight, but instead dutifully pass on the cuts, others are willing to stand up and fight. There are local council elections in May.
Darlington Against Cuts is a coalition of trade unionists and community activists co-ordinated by Darlington Trades Union Council.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 0771 588 1901 to get involved.