UNISON says chancellor should ‘Stop digging and start growing’

“The country will plunge into a decade of despair if the Chancellor keeps digging the economy deeper into a hole, instead of pursuing growth”, is the stark warning from UNISON, the UK’s largest union today (18 March).

Publishing it’s alternative to the Coalition’s failing austerity agenda*, the union is presenting hard facts showing that there is a viable economic alternative that would set the country on the road to recovery.

Continued reductions in public spending via the Coalition’s programme of cuts, has led the UK’s economy through a double-dip recession and into stagnation. Austerity should be ditched in favour of a pro-growth strategy involving job creation and a package of early investment in infrastructure, homes and the services our economy needs, says the union.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, went on to say:

“George Osborne is bankrupt of ideas and he is dragging the country the same way. He needs to look beyond Westminster and come up with a Budget that helps the many, not just the privileged few.

“Throwing the public a scrap by suggesting that they will delay the rise in fuel tax, will not get the economy or family budgets on the road to recovery.

“This whole Government needs a reality check on the millions of people who are suffering in the UK because of its policies. It is time to face up to what most people have known all along – Osborne’s austerity agenda is making matters worse.

“While the 2008 financial crisis created the economic world in which we find ourselves, it is the Coalition’s decision to cut spending too hard and fast that has failed to get the economy moving again. That basic mistake by the Chancellor has helped lose the UK its AAA rating and committed the country to two more years of extra cuts in public spending beyond the 2015 election.”

* Growing our way out of trouble: UNISON’s alternative budget for jobs and public services. (see attached)

Key Points

· UNISON is calling for a moratorium on the damaging job cuts in public services.

· Cutting public service jobs are a false economy – the redundancy costs and knock-on effects on employment, growth and tax revenue and consumer confidence only make the situation worse.

· An instant boost to the spending power of millions of UK taxpayers could be achieved by reversing Government’s public service pay policy.

· The tax and benefit changes that reduce the incomes of those on low to middle incomes should also scrapped.

· A large and determined programme aimed at building affordable housing would help overcome the 1930’s-style depression we are currently experiencing by creating tens of thousands of jobs and stimulating economic activity whilst providing homes the country desperately needs.

· The Government should immediately introduce a “Funding for Infrastructure” plan, administered at arms-length from political control by Ministers, perhaps via a state investment bank or, like the Asset Purchase Facility, a fund administered under the auspices of the Bank of England.

· For the first two children in every family, reverse the 3 year freeze on Child Benefit imposed by the Chancellor’s 2010 Budget and help 12 million children by scrapping the millionaires’ tax cut and restoring the 50p higher rate of income tax to raise the necessary £1.27bn from April 2013 generating around £200m for the Exchequer through indirect taxation.

· Introduce an empty property tax.

· Close tax loopholes that allow wealthy individuals and corporations to use tax havens and cheat the system whilst the rest of us bear the tax burden.