Friday 16 March 2018

Spring economic statement: continue to stew in the mire.

The government must be relieved that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Spring Statement on the economy (which now replaces all the flummery of what used to be Budget Day) was squeezed off the headlines by the apparent attempt to murder a former Russian spy and his daughter, and Donald Trump's sacking of his Secretary of State.

Mr Hammond claims to be able to see "light at the end of the tunnel" when, by the end of the year,  there may just be a surplus on current tax receipts over expenditure.  When that is achieved any excess may be split three ways between paying off more of the National Debt (actually a high but perfectly manageable 86% of GDP), a little bit of additional government spending, and, would you believe, some tax cuts for the comfortable

In other words, in spite of Mr Hammond's relatively favourable image  compared to his neo-liberal predecessor and current colleagues, we have the misguided "mixture as before": continued austerity whcih stopped in its tracks the recovery created by Alistair Darling and Labour before they were forced from office in 2010.

The respected Oxford Economist Professor Simon Wren Lewis calculates that the mistaken and unnecessary austerity policy has cost the average family some £10 000 each.  You can study his methodology here and see for yourself

There is virtually nothing in Mr Hammond's projection to tackle the ills which have been exacerbated by the mistaken and wholly unnecessary austerity policy which include, from the top of my head:

  • our NHS creaking on its knees;
  • a crisis in the supply of housing;
  • embarrassing homelessness;
  • around a third of our children living in poverty; 
  • cruel cuts in welfare payments, especially for the disabled;
  • schools starved of funds and teachers leaving in droves;
  • subhuman conditions in prisons, bringing inmates  to the verge of riot;
  • a contained  and massive deficit on international trade;
  • funds squandered on vanity projects such as HS2 rather than than more prosaic projects such as the upgrade of the Northern Railway network;
  • local government forced to abandon civilised amenities such as parks and libraries;
  • an economy kept going by debt-fuelled consumption rather than investment, exports and innovation;
  • creaking provision for the care of the elderly (full disclosure, could include me soon.)
Just one more illustration of the daftness of our government: special funds are to be made available to places like Bradford and Burnley where there are racial tensions.  The provision include additional money for ESOL (English Lessons for Speakers of Other languages).

No mention that ESOL provision was cut by 60% as a result of George Osborne's austerity measures following 2010.  The relevant department at Bradford Technical College was dissipated, in spite of strong protests and all the warnings. It  will take some time to rebuild. In the meantime many valuable opportunities have been missed

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