In the absence of a functioning Assembly, the Tories have put forward a budget for Northern Ireland. Below, PBP responds to the Tories claim that the budget represents a fair deal for working class people.
Despite the spin, the Tories recent budget announcement is a “business as usual” deal, signalling more cuts and austerity at a time when services in the North are in desperate need of investment.
Brokenshire’s claim that there is to be a 3.2% daily increase in expenditure, and that the budget somehow represents a good deal for working class people; is nonsense. With rising inflation taken into consideration this so-called ‘increase’ amounts, in real terms, to a spending cut. In the allocation for Health, for example, Brokenshire presents the 5.4% increase as a major spending investment. The reality is, with health inflation sitting at 6%; this allocation is not enough to cover the rising costs of running the health service. As a result we'll see cuts in this sector, with less money to spend on hospitals, nurses and improving the NHS.
In education, it is a similar story. A below inflation budget allocation means in real terms the sector will be cut. A further squeeze on school budgets will lead to worsening learning conditions for children, and potential job losses for teachers and classroom assistants down the road.
Balancing the books is the order of the day for the Tories with this budget. And it is our public services which are set to lose out. Brokenshire is presenting this as progressive, as a good deal for services. Nigel Dodd and the DUP are gloating about seeing a mere £50 million invested here from the £1billion they allegedly received to prop up Theresa May's rotten government; this is nothing but a drop in the ocean compared with the money squandered in corrupt schemes like RHI, or the corruption uncovered by the Paradise Papers.
And that is the galling hypocrisy of the Tories budget announcement. It comes in the wake of one of the biggest misappropriation of public funds from our politicians in a generation: RHI. It also follows in the wake of the biggest tax avoidance scandal by the super-rich in history: the Paradise Papers. As we set about allocating how our taxes are spent, we should bear in mind that it is the super wealthy who've avoided paying taxes to the tune of hundreds of billions. This is where the real gap in society exists.
If we want to invest in health, education, or to alleviate the growing problems of mental health, or homelessness, or simply to invest in treatment for cancer patients; then we should look no further than taxing the super wealthy and shutting down their abhorrent tax avoidance schemes.
But of course, neither Stormont or Westminster has lifted a finger to tackle corporate tax fraud. It is paradise for the super-rich, who can avoid paying taxes. For the vast majority of us we are told there is no money, and our services
must suffer. This is an austerity budget from James Brokenshire. It is a continuation of the Tory policy of giving free hand-outs to the super rich, while attacking working class people. There is an urgency for us to get organised in communities and workplaces to resist any further attacks on services and living standards.