TUC says most people will not recognise picture Chancellor paints of UK economy

OsborneUnions have reacted angrily to today’s Budget, calling it a “brutal assault” on public services, “senseless” and “draconian”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Chancellor’s Britain, where happy people skip to their secure jobs to celebrate their rising living standards, is not one that many will recognise.

“But it’s what he did not say that is most significant. He did not spell out where, if re-elected, he will make the huge spending cuts he plans for the next parliament, nor did he tell Britain’s low paid workers which of their benefits he will cut.

“Nor did he address the big problems faced by those not living in the Chancellor’s Promised Land – the chronic shortage of housing, an NHS in crisis and the huge growth of zero-hours and other insecure jobs. For all the warm words, austerity is set to continue year after year.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is just another brutal assault on unemployed, sick and disabled people from a government that has done more than any other to undermine our social security system.

“If the prospects for growth and our economy are so rosy, and employment is at record levels, this political attack on those who are out of work or on low incomes is even more unnecessary and distasteful.

“George Osborne promised to clamp down on tax avoidance but has only committed to collecting £5 billion when our public finances are deprived of tens of billions every year.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “Osborne has claimed more recoveries in the past five years than the RAC. Even a blind person would see the short term bribes Osborne is offering today.

“What he is planning however is the most draconian cuts in services that we rely on for a civilised way of life. If the Tories are re-elected people would have more chance of winning the lottery than seeing police patrolling their streets or seeing waiting lists in the NHS coming down.

“The recovery underway should be much further ahead than it is. The recovery has been the weakest of any in the past 100 years.

“The new jobs being created are mainly low skilled, low paid and very precarious jobs. Even skilled workers in the UK face being undercut while wages are stagnant or falling in real terms.

“Most workers have seen little or no evidence of any recovery in living standards arising from real economic growth based on investment and productivity gains. On tax evasion there is too little, too late, and many of the schemes that help the multi- millionaire elite avoid tax remain in place.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “George Osborne’s smugness today is utterly out of place for someone who missed every target he set himself.

“He cannot hide the long term economic pain he caused to the decent people of this country with his senseless austerity, run away from the living standards that he levelled back to 2007, or hide from the record levels of personal debt swamping the people of this country.

“People simply aren’t feeling the economic growth and the sun which the chancellor says is beginning to shine is clouded by insecurity and low wages for millions of families.

“Behind the short-term sweeteners and budget bluster, the reality for millions is that their wages won’t last the month. Millions more are trapped in ghost jobs with pay so pathetic they need benefits to make ends meet.

“Osborne’s is not an economy where the gains are shared fairly, and people know this all too well. Take away today’s gimmicks and this budget is a window onto five more years of Tory rule – more savage cuts to essential public services and the deepening spread of inequality.

“If you’re a hedge fund, wealthy retiree, or a business shy of providing fairly paid, secure employment, Osborne’s Britain is the place for you. If you’re looking for decent job, a home in which to raise your kids or a safe NHS, then it is not.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The Budget Statement was the last chance in this Parliament for the Chancellor to begin to rectify the terrible toll that the economic policies of his government have taken on vital public services, ordinary working families and some of the most vulnerable in society.

“Yet there was no respite for the 3.7 million children who are living in poverty as a result of this Coalition’s economic policies. There were no words of comfort for the thousands of families who are homeless.

“There were no plans to restore the vital specialist support services which have been reduced or lost as a result of deep cuts to local authority funding.

“There was no recognition of the teacher supply crisis as a result of the Coalition’s relentless attacks on teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions.

“It was a budget that clearly signalled business as usual. Our vital public services, including health and education, already reeling from five years of savage attacks on their budgets, should brace themselves for the Conservatives’ final assault, unless there is a change of political direction at the 2015 General Election.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Defence has risen rapidly up the political agenda in recent months with many commentators identifying a mismatch between ambition and reach and resourcing.

“We face a resurgent Russia as witnessed by events in Ukraine and increased military activity in the seas and skies around Britain. We also need to be mindful of the increased global terrorist threat from groups such as Isis.

“In 2010 defence spending represented 2.6% of GDP. That figure has dropped as the potential threats we face have continued to rise.

“We need to see real political leadership across the political spectrum. There is a need to signal that defence spending is a key priority. We are looking for a commitment that defence spending will not be allowed to drop below 2% of GDP as a crucial first step.”

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The Chancellor’s statement confirms that austerity is here to stay in the UK should the Tories be elected in May. The proposed cuts of up to £30bn to public services and welfare will mean more pain to those that can least afford it.

“There is precious little to welcome for low paid workers and those in vulnerable employment. For the Chancellor to have the audacity to stand and boast that the economic plan is working while 1m people rely on food banks, over 1m jobs in the UK are Zero Hours, and twenty per cent of all workers in the UK earning less than the living wage aptly demonstrates the contempt that the Tories have for workers. Thankfully on May 7th people will have the chance to remove them from office.

In response to the announcement that there will be consultation on tax relief for home to work expenses paid by Umbrella Companies, Steve Murphy said: “While we welcome any consultation examining the operation of Umbrella Companies in our industry, what is really needed is for these companies to be outlawed and driven out of the construction industry as they only exist to exploit building workers for their own profit.”

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Regardless of what the Chancellor said, the living standards of millions of people have fallen under this Government, and cuts to public services have been a cause rather than a solution. This Budget, and the Government’s economic policy, offer nothing to improve most people’s lives or get the economy on track.

“The government needs to completely rethink its support for young people as they have been particularly hard hit by low wages, under-employment, poor job security and zero hours contracts. It needs to invest in education, skills development and training, and reverse its devastating plan to cut non-apprenticeship adult education funding by 24%.

“Cutting funding for the 95% of young people who are not in apprenticeships is misguided and a false economy. Over the last five years it is estimated that more than half a million adults have missed out on employment-related learning and skills because of the government’s cuts to funding and making learners take out loans to train and study.

“Now the growth forecasts have been revised upwards, the government should take the opportunity to row back from continuing to make severe cuts. The Chancellor forgot today that for the economy to serve people of all backgrounds, the government needs to make sustained investment in education and skills, and in jobs that provide good quality, appropriately rewarded, long-term work.

“It must do more to help the unemployment blackspots where young people’s prospects are limited, and it must protect, not cut, schools funding and guarantee fair pay for education staff and other public sector employees. Without fair pay, a teacher recruitment and retention crisis will damage a generation of children’s education immeasurably.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “For five years of pain, there appears to be very little gain on offer today for ordinary workers.  With more money than expected at his disposal, the Chancellor could have called time on the government’s damaging austerity policies.

“Savage spending cuts have forced many local services to close as council and police budgets are squeezed, and hospitals struggle to cope with unprecedented demand at a time of diminishing resources.

“But sadly there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, if the Conservatives are re-elected in May, there’ll be another four years of painful cuts, with the most deprived areas of the country continuing to be hit the hardest.

“There’s been much talk of growth today but millions of public servants continue to feel shut out of the recovery. For many people trapped in low-wage jobs with unpredictable hours, the good times seem a long way off.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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