The Conservative Party Conference offered no hope of respite for our members working in the public sector. If the Tories get in again, they will continue with below-inflation pay rises for at least another two years. This will mean a continuation of the falling living standards experienced by our members. They will keep coming after us again and again, and that is why we are ready to take action on pay next week.
Moreover, in the name of austerity they have also decided to attack the living standards of people of working age who claim benefits through a two-year freeze. This is a mean-spirited and vicious attack on the most vulnerable in society. The Tories’ policy includes cutting tax credits that help working people top-up meagre incomes.
Don’t be fooled by their talk on raising the minimum wage or taking the low paid out of tax. The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation since 2010, and raising the income tax threshold is a regressive change – not benefitting the lowest paid at all – who would get “nothing, zero, zilch” from this reform.
Despite talk of on-going austerity, the Tories are throwing some money around – and it’s to their mates. The announcement of increasing the threshold for paying 40% income tax got rapturous applause from the Tory faithful. It will benefit people already earning in excess of £40,000 – sometimes termed ‘middle earners’ in the media but in reality this is a wage level received only by a small minority.
Last week surely removed any remaining doubt. Cameron and Osborne are not reluctantly taking “tough choices” to cut public spending. They are hell-bent on shrinking the public sector. The Tories’ narrowing of the tax base will cost £7bn that will be made up through either yet more spending cuts or perhaps further VAT rises. Either way, our members have a tremendous amount to fear if Cameron remains in No. 10 after May. Given the damage he has done and the damage he intends to do, his description of the Conservatives as the “union” for hardworking people is both offensive and laughable.