This is the text of a letter I sent to the Somerset County Gazette, published (with some slight alterations) on 11th October. It focuses on Theresa May’s empty claim that austerity has ended and highlights just some of the damage that the Coalition and Tory governments have done since 2010 that it will take a Labour government to repair. But as we know, there is plenty more that the government and our local Tory Councils should also be called to account for…
It would be churlish not to welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of the end of austerity and the dawn of a secure future for the many thousands living on precarious incomes, in insecure homes, or whose disability benefits are put at risk by the deeply flawed Work Capability Assessment regime.
In the PM’s words (Observer October 7) “security for families and the country, freedom under the rule of law and opportunity for everyone -can unite our people and help build a better future for our country”. Well, yes.
But how did we get here? Contrary to the Government’s repeated claim, the economy was recovering from the global banking crisis by 2010. It was a Tory/Lib Dem coalition that ignored Keynesian lessons, choosing instead to strangle the recovery with the harsh and lengthy austerity project that has starved public bodies of resources and continues to hit the poorest hardest.
With great fanfare this Coalition then launched their so-called ‘Red Tape Bonfire’, removing hard-won safeguards against civil rights abuses while slashing Legal Aid so that many thousands of people with limited resources no longer have access to justice.
For an encore, Government rhetoric and actions engineered a ‘hostile environment’, not just for those who look or sound ‘foreign’ but also for anyone in need of support from a welfare state which is itself under severe attack.
So with the end of austerity supposedly in sight perhaps our MP can tell us when can we expect justice for the many in Taunton Deane who are denied it under the seriously discredited Universal Credit system? How soon will Somerset’s local authorities regain the many millions of pounds cut from their government grants, and rebuild our services?
When will we see the return of proper community policing and our schools getting the resources they need to do the best job they can for our children? And when can we expect to see our councils using their borrowing powers to build the secure council homes so badly needed?
Investment in good public services is not a profligate use of taxpayers’ money (the poorest are paying taxes through VAT and Council Tax). It’s the glue that holds the country and communities together and keeps us safe. It’s an investment we make to support our health and wellbeing, to create opportunities for young people, and to prevent unnecessary life crises and suffering.
It’s not ‘extremist’ to want and expect such things, or to call on the wealthiest and the tax avoiders to pay a proportionate share. It’s fair, it’s sensible and it’s long overdue.