We still face a hostile Government that does not share the values or promote the interests of UNISON members.
Today, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer had his opportunity to break decisively from the failed austerity policies of George Osborne. Philip Hammond had talked in advance of his Autumn Statement of a more pragmatic approach and an economic ‘reset’, but those of us who hoped for much-needed investment in our public services were left disappointed, if not entirely surprised.
Instead of a reversal of austerity, we heard Hammond boast about cuts to public expenditure since 2010 and suggesting that they had not done any harm to services. UNISON members in public services know that the opposite is the case – that our services are only ‘just about managing’, and that staff are working flat out to try to protect the public from the effects of the cuts. And we know that those cuts in public spending that Hammond is so pleased about have been achieved through reducing our real pay and our living standards. It is clear that we cannot rely on this or any other Tory Chancellor to treat public service workers fairly.
Hammond is planning to continue with Osborne’s ridiculous further cuts to corporation tax rates – squandering billions of pounds of potential revenue for public services. Even the Financial Times has questioned the wisdom of continually cutting taxes on big business, as the UK already has the lowest corporation tax rate in the developed world.
Hammond is finding some money for investment in infrastructure projects, but he is not boosting funding for our valuable health and social care infrastructure. This is despite calls from NHS Providers and the Health Select Committee that there needs to be an urgent increase in NHS funding, and despite UNISON identifying £2.4bn of business rates income that the Government could allocate to social care. Hammond says we have to “live within our means” but health spending is falling as a percentage of GDP – it is not that we don’t have enough money, it is that the Government is choosing to spend less of what we do have on the NHS.
It should come as no surprise to us when a Tory Chancellor works to undermine public services while throwing money at big business. The initial rhetoric of May and Hammond might have been slightly more palatable than that of Cameron and Osborne, but we should be in no doubt that we still face a hostile Government that does not share the values or promote the interests of UNISON members.