Blog: The government paves the way for Austerity 2.0

‘Austerity affects peoples’ lives so profoundly that its legacy can last for generations’

Portrait of Christina McAnea

“It’s going to be rough” is what we’re hearing in news reports from government sources today. That’s the reality of toxic public spending cuts that are being threatened in Westminster’s latest narrative.

Sound familiar? Well, it is, because we’re heading to Austerity 2.0. We’ve been here before – the first round was painful, damaging and lasted over a decade. In a speech about the economy in 2010, on his plans to deal with the fallout of the global economic crisis, David Cameron said: “The measures that we need to deal with it will be unavoidably tough … I make no bones about that, but we will get through this together.”

Well, of course, we weren’t in it together at all. And here we are again, slap bang in the middle of our NHS strike ballot over pay, hearing rumours that Rishi Sunak and his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, are planning to make public sector workers poorer, with a proposed limit on public sector pay rises to 2% in 2023/24.

Driving down living standards and the quality of life for public sector workers won’t make the UK more prosperous and isn’t a price worth paying.

I spoke this weekend at our national disabled members’ conference about the challenges ahead, because it’s important to acknowledge that the cost of living crisis bears down heaviest on our disabled members.

But I also spoke about how all our members are the real wealth creators in society. It’s a false economy to depress public sector wages and to starve services of funding. In the end, it forces dedicated and experienced staff out the door.

The likes of Amazon and Google – who should be paying their fair share in tax – rely on our members to keep their businesses booming. They need access to a workforce that’s been educated and is are fit and able to work, that can drive on roads that are well-maintained, and where health and care services are available for workers and their families. And if an accident happens, businesses will call 999 to get help from an emergency service.

More importantly, austerity affects peoples’ lives so profoundly that its legacy can last for generations. Over the last decade, the demand for food banks has soared and now even these charities are struggling to feed everyone who needs help. Child poverty has increased to shameful levels, and we haven’t seen the economic growth we were promised.

We’ve been saying this for 12 years now, while campaigning to protect our public services. We’ve been saying to the government that their ideology doesn’t work – it ruins lives.

But we won’t stop campaigning against this damaging Tory government until they’re kicked out of power and our public services are no longer in their hands.