Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a speech today (March 2), pre-empting next week’s Tory Budget with three modest demands for Philip Hammond to meet. What a shame that we can already bet that it won’t happen.
Mr McDonnell called for emergency stop-gap measures to protect the health and social care services.
He called on Mr Hammond to protect families from the rising cost of living and stagnant wages.
And he called on Mr Hammond to stop inflicting public spending cuts that fall disproportionately on women.
Here’s a handy infographic to remind you:
Mr McDonnell said:
Based on estimates by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, the NHS and social care face a funding gap of between £8.5 and £15bn by 2020.
Published figures indicate that tax receipts are currently higher than anticipated.
Given that we’re facing an immediate crisis in the NHS and social care, I’m calling on the Chancellor to use that money to address this NHS and social care emergency.
Any measure less than this is likely to be inadequate.
Britain has the distinction of being the only large developed economy in which wages fell even as economic growth returned after the crash.
And now rising inflation as the government mishandles Brexit is devaluing people’s wages further.
Yet the government has reneged on its promised National Living Wage level, and is continuing to pursue cuts in in-work benefits.
Analysis out this morning by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that low-income working families with children will suffer most.
The average household will be £5,000 worse off by the end of this Parliament than they might have expected.
If the economy is growing, the benefits must be shared fairly.
The Chancellor must reverse the £70bn giveaway to the super-rich and giant corporations between now and 2021.
And the cruel £3.7bn cut to Personal Independence Payment for disabled people must be halted.
Labour will bring in a £10 an hour Real Living Wage to make sure work always pays fairly.
And he said:
Our public services, from education to local councils to prison services and social care are in deepening crisis and the burden is falling disproportionately on women.
It is women who are bearing the brunt of low pay, cuts to in-work benefits, and the public sector pay cap.
Independent estimates by the Women’s Budget Group suggest that 86% of cuts in public spending since 2010 have fallen on women.
The Chancellor must take action in the Budget next week to fund our public services and end this discrimination.
In the place of austerity, Labour want a Budget that works for women, that invests in jobs for women, funds the services that women depend on and advances women’s equality and economic independence.
Of course there were a few tasty criticisms of the Tories as well.
Mr McDonnell said: “If progress has been so significant, and all is going so well – why is the government continuing to pursue spending cuts?
“From the NHS to social care, from prisons to education, our public services are in crisis.
“I fear the approach from this government on the economy is to continue the failures of the past.
“Low investment over many decades has led to a low productivity, low wage economy.
“Insecure and poorly-paid work dominates new job creation. That, in turn, means that the tax base needed to secure our public services is less stable.
“Deliberate decisions by this government to privilege tax giveaways to the super-rich and giant corporations have further undermined the tax base.
“The Conservatives will soon have added three quarters of a trillion pounds to the national debt since they arrived in office.
“At the same time, they will have imposed the first spending cuts on schools for forty years.
“An NHS in a state of profound crisis.
“So when the Treasury casually announces that it is looking for a further 6% of funding cuts to some government departments, as they did this week, it is an act of gross irresponsibility.
“And the comments today from the head of the Care Quality Commission that the NHS “stands on a burning platform” have driven home the scale of the crisis.
“Cuts to social care, amounting to £4.5bn since 2010, have brought the system to the brink of collapse… Social care has a £1.9bn deficit in funding for this year.
“Over one million vulnerable elderly people, including many who are very frail, now lack access to the care they need.
“This is one of the richest countries in the world, and yet Tory austerity has brought our public services to the brink.
“The reality of our economy is that average real hourly pay remains over 10% below its level before the crash.
“The record on living standards is the worst of any leading economy.”
The Tory-supporting mainstream media have managed either to suppress reporting of the speech or distort its message.
For example, the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us the spectacle of Andrew Neil asking Labour’s Andrew Gwynne where the party would find the funding for the measures it demanded, even though Mr McDonnell made clear references to funding sources in his speech.
And will the current Chancellor, Philip Hammond, pay any closer attention to Labour’s demands?
Informed thinking suggests not.
He’ll rely on the mass media to suppress criticism of his government and present his punitive policies to us as if they were presents.
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