Unravelling the myths about austerity

The government might say that cuts to services are so that we can cut the deficit, but that’s just one of many myths about austerity

Four myths about the cuts

Since the global financial crisis in 2008, the Conservatives have worked non-stop to place the blame on too much public spending by Labour governments and, in particular, ‘wasted’ money in local government.

For trade union activists, this sometimes means an uphill battle to convince the public and even local government workers that more council cuts are not the solution and that job cuts and attacks on terms and conditions are not inevitable.

The government and other supporters of austerity often use powerful, but dangerously untrue, myths to argue for more cuts. We’ve picked our top four austerity myths and reveal the truth behind them below.

1: ‘There is no alternative to cuts’

There is definitely an alternative to council cuts. The government is using austerity as a smokescreen for redesigning local government so that it is entirely paid for by local taxpayers without central support.

This will lead to a postcode lottery when we need help from local services.

David Cameron made a u-turn on his initial claims that they were only making cuts to bring down the deficit when he said: We need to do more with less. Not just now – but permanently. (David Cameron makes leaner state a permanent goal,The Guardian, 12 November, 2013)

UNISON believes that central government could create extra income to give to local councils by, for example, cracking down on tax evaders or bringing in new taxes on empty or high-value properties.

2: ‘Austerity is working’

We know that austerity isn’t working. Cuts were supposed to bring the national deficit down, but instead, it is growing and could be £40bn by 2020.

The government is actually borrowing more money now than it did before the financial crash, because more people are forced by low wages to claim in-work benefits.

Most countries that have introduced austerity, or had it forced upon them, have seen their economies suffer even more.

The bogus recovery described by the government is based on an inflated housing market, falling wages, precarious job contracts and savage cuts.

3: ‘Councils need to manage their spending in the same way as a household’

Central and local government do not spend money in the same way as an individual or a household. Unlike us, the government is this country’s biggest employer and customer.

When it cuts spending, it cuts jobs and benefits. This has an impact on businesses, income tax, VAT and so on, all of which feeds into its own income.

What the government is doing now is the same as you or me switching off our home’s water supply to save money – it’s counterproductive and will cost more in the long run!

Our public services are essential for the entire workforce, helping us to get to work and stay healthy.

Preventative services that support children, young people, homeless people and many other vulnerable people save the police, NHS and justice system billions of pounds. The Government has to invest in public services now to save money later.

4: ‘We all have to pull our weight in reducing the deficit – we are all in this together’

Councils are already pulling their weight in reducing the deficit, as well as the weight of other sectors that have escaped the same harsh level of cuts.

The government has cut council funding more than any other sector. Local government workers have borne the brunt of these cuts and further austerity will lead to more inequality.

Only some of us are feeling the pain of austerity year after year. In Britain, the richest 1% own more than half (55%) of the nation’s resources. T

hey are going to get richer as the government continues to slash funding to services that support the most vulnerable while protecting the wealthy.

What do you think is the most challenging myth about the cuts? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook!