Unions respond to the Chancellor’s public spending announcement

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding in the House of Commons to the Spending Review statement, said:

The Chancellor spoke for over 50 minutes – but not once did he mention the real reason for this Spending Review today: his comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and on the deficit too.

Prices rising faster than wages. Families worse off. Long-term unemployment up.
Welfare spending soaring.  The economy flatlining. The slowest recovery for over 100 years. And the result of this failure? For all the Budget boasts, borrowing last year not down but up. Not balancing the books as he promised, but in 2015 a deficit of £96 billion. More borrowing to pay for his economic failure.

That is why this Chancellor has been forced to come to the House today and to make more cuts to our public services.

 

Commenting on the spending review, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“Today’s spending review reveals the true extent of the Government’s failure.  The Chancellor has got it horribly wrong – despite all the promises, the austerity measures and cuts, he still hasn’t got the country out of recession.  We are still in the slowest economic recovery in 100 years and yet all we get from this Chancellor is more of the same.

“The Government is losing grip on economic reality if they continue travelling down the same path, expecting to arrive at a different destination.  They need a plan B and they need it now.

“The idea that the NHS is being ring-fenced would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.  We’ve all paid into the NHS and we expect it to be there to deliver when we need it.

“How can anyone believe the Chancellor on unemployment because the figures do not add up. Despite the best efforts of the private sector any jobs being created are part-time, low wage and do not replace the hundreds and thousands of public sector jobs that have been lost. There are 2.5m people out of work, 1m are young and that is a shocking statistic.

“Instead of more cuts and austerity what the country desperately needs is an economic boost to stimulate jobs, growth and spending.“

 

Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, said: “The scale of cuts announced today for 2015/16, on top of those already being delivered in this Parliament, will result in many departmental budgets having been cut by a third.

 

“Additionally, removing pay progression without ensuring civil servants get the real rate for the job will end up causing lower morale and a faster exodus of talent.  This cannot be a viable approach for a Government focusing on reform, fairness and growth.

 

“Many public servants have seen their incomes fall by around 20% under this Government and the widening pay gap between the civil service and private sector is already making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the best people, as was recognised by last week’s National Audit Office report.

 

“For the Government to have reform, growth and fairness in its policy delivery, civil servants need reform, growth and fairness in their employment.  This means a new approach to reward instead of arbitrary caps and cuts; resourcing that matches civil service jobs and training to the priorities the Government wants to deliver; and recognition of the role the civil service plays at the heart of society, rather than simply as a means to reduce the deficit.

 

“The Chancellor’s announcement today does nothing to address these long-standing problems and simplistically tries to portray public sector pay as a burden to be cut, rather than a means to motivate and recruit those that are tasked with delivering ever greater reform with ever reducing resources.”

 

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said “I predict another 70,000 local council jobs will go in these cuts on top of the 420,000 that have already gone. This will take total number of jobs lost in local government to nearly half a million since the election in 2010.

 

This is more than half of the entire public sector job losses. This has coincided with a three year pay freeze. It really has been a dire time for local government under the coalition.

 

Council services have already been decimated as a result 26% cuts to local authority budgets and the freeze on council tax.

 

This further reduction will mean the average council having to find another £30m in savings at a time when local communities need more support than ever. Councils are coping by cutting services but they should really be saying ‘enough is enough’. Transferring money from other budgets to local councils is a “smoke and mirrors” exercised and does no change these cuts which are down 10% on a like for like basis.

 

Things like the £10bn backlog of pothole repairs blighting our roads and the £20bn funding gap for care for the elderly. This means the elderly are left to struggle isolated at home with fewer services or put in chronically underfunded care homes. These are the legacy of council cuts and there are many more examples.

 

The Chancellors sideswipe at public sector workers by questioning their pay progression also reveals a lack of understanding about pay systems.

 

People begin at a starter rate of pay and through experience progress to the rate for the job, typically after five years. If anything, public sector workers are actually underpaid for too long and should accelerate much more quickly to the rate for the job. Furthermore, performance related pay systems have been widely shown not to work.

 

This is just another unpleasant dig at public sector workers who have already been made scapegoats for problems they had nothing to do with.”

 

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