By Callum Towler
When the Tories claimed a surprise majority back in May, we knew debilitating cuts were inevitable. Today, in his Autumn Statement, we’ll find out exactly where George’s Osborne’s axe will fall.
Conservative ideology involves a ruthless commitment to shrinking the state. Balancing this with ambitions of winning an election in 2020 means targeting cuts at groups least likely to vote Conservative: the young and working poor. While safe-guarding mid to high income earners and pensioners, who turn out in their droves at election time, usually to vote Tory.
The backlash against proposed Tax Credits cuts means Osborne must be creative with his devotion to reducing welfare support. Expect slashed Housing Benefits – effecting the very same poor families – and a reneging of his self-imposed welfare cap.
Further education cuts are likely, with a focus on college education. The future is bleak for a society that fails to nurture it’s young talent. But this is of little importance to a government more concerned with regaining power in five years.
Expect even deeper cuts to local government – an already pillaged sector, suffering a loss of over 1 million jobs under Osborne. The small things that make communities what they are – libraries, leisure centres, road maintenance work – will disappear or drop dramatically in quality. Of course the Tories understand this, but it’s a price worth paying when an outraged public will blame Town Halls rather than Whitehall. Or do they understand it? Cameron’s pitiful letter to his council, complaining of worsening standards, reveals a prime minister unaware how his cuts effect local areas.
Defence spending is expected to rise following Paris, while a noticeable drop in police street presence is likely, with more job losses to come on top of the 17,000 already lost. Heightened surveillance in France, after Charlie Hebdo, failed to thwart the savagery inflicted on Paris later that year. Surely more police on the streets will make people feel safer from a similar attack.
These cruel cuts rest on an economic fallacy: Osborne’s belief that debt impoverishes the future. Relieving this debt through austere measures – always targeted at the poorest and weakest – is a political choice, not a necessary one. Many economists propose borrowing more in times of trouble, to create assets and infrastructure for the future. For them, it’s about stimulating not debilitating our economy.
Even Osborne’s justification for austerity has shifted. When the former head of the Treasury accused him of using debt as a ‘smokescreen’ to shrink the state, his response was telling; past talk of sparking growth had fallen by the wayside, replaced instead by warnings of the unpredictability of the global economy. Apparently, inflicting cuts on the poor is now about saving money for a very rainy day.
Today’s statement is set to be a stark reminder of why Cameron and Osborne came into politics. To alleviate financial burdens on the state, to deepen inequality even further, and to hold onto power at the expense of our future.