UPDATE: Free coaches are available from Birmingham for unwaged and low paid people, and there are spaces available on union coaches for ununionised people. Click here for details.
Does austerity work? It would appear that if you are already very rich, it does. The Sunday Times rich list for 2012 it shows that last year, the richest 1,000 people got richer, taking their wealth to a record £414bn. In the past 3 years this tiny group of people have amassed an additional £155bn in wealth – enough to cover the annual deficit with some £30bn to spare. In Birmingham, the Birmingham Post does a local rich list of 50 people, and the 2012 list also showed them getting richer – by £3.37bn in the past year alone..
Meanwhile, austerity has put the economy back into recession, public sector pay has been frozen and overall average pay rose by just 1.4% – a real terms pay cut with inflation running between 3%-5%. Unemployment has increased, and workfare is supplying this pool of labour to companies for free. Ever rising fuel and food prices are hitting hard, not helped by rises in VAT. Meanwhile, the richest 1% – those earning over £150,000 a year – see their tax rate fall.
Pregnant women in Birmingham are getting their meals from foodbanks, and across the country hundreds of thousands depend on charity for food. People with disabilities are having benefits cut and withdrawn, and housing benefit caps are going to force hard working families with low incomes to leave their homes and community – not just in London, as a recent report highlights Birmingham as somewhere that is expected to have problems with homelessness following the implementation of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) that will replace housing benefit. The government is criminalising squatting of empty, unused residential buldings, creating a new group of criminals amongst this vulnerable group.
Our schools are being portioned off as academies to for-profit education firms; our NHS is being handed to Virgin and Serco piece by piece; fraudsters A4e and killers ATOS rake in the profits by failing to help benefit claimants; G4S, responsible for deaths in custody, are in line to take over policing duties. How long before Blackwater are being contracted in to run our armed forces?
We have a cabinet of millionaires, who have no understanding of what living on an average wage means, let alone on minimum wage or benefits. They do not know the price of milk, or when they last had a pasty. They have no connection to anything other than the world of the 1%, the group of people who are doing rather nicely right now. Bankers and lawyers, the sons and daughters of bankers and lawyers. Is it any surprise that they think austerity is working?
We need a future that works, an alternative to austerity and ultimately the demands for growth and consumption of capitalism that is environmentally unsustainable. We need to invest time and money now in creating a zero-carbon future, and housing and living environments suitable for a post-oil world.
It is clear this government is failing to deliver economic recovery, and are only calling for more of the same set of failed policies that have driven Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy to depression and the Euro to the brink of collapse. It is up to us to demand change – and we cannot wait for the next election in 2015 and the hope that Labour policy evolves into a true alternative to cuts.
The TUC have called a mass demonstration in London, on Saturday 20th October. Trade Unions are organising coaches from Birmingham and we will be seeking pledges from them to provide spaces for benefit claimants, pensioners & unionised workers and to ensure that coaches are booked with wheelchair spaces. As details of coaches are confirmed, we’ll collect them here.
You can find out more about the demonstration on the TUC Website dedicated to it: AFutureThatWorks.org
Two weeks before that, the Tories are in town for their conference and there is a demonstration on Sunday 7th October.
In March last year over 500,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate against cuts, long before the effect had begun to be felt. In November, 2 million went on strike around the UK. By October we could see unemployment topping 3 million and a full year of recession, pay freezes and price rises continuing to squeeze everyone’s household budgets.
The work to make October the biggest month of demonstrations and resistance to austerity begins now. If you are in a trade union, start putting motions to your branch asking them to book coaches. Start asking friends if they are going. Print off an A4 poster for the Birmingham demo and stick it up in your workplace, local shop or window. Read about the alternatives and why austerity won’t work.
Only through mass action, on the streets, in our workplaces, job centres and public services, can we change the course of this government.