Speakers include Matt Wrack (President FBU firefighters union), Lee Barron (Chair Midlands TUC), Ian Hodson (President BWAFU bakers union) and Caroline Johnson (Birmingham Unison).
Birmingham City Council House, Victoria Square, B1 1BB. The council house is wheelchair accessible.
Unison will also hold a placard protest from 12 noon, marching to the rally. There will also be other events held in September to make these protests the largest yet in opposition to the Coalition’s failing austerity agenda. If you want to help make the events a success, come to the mobilising meeting on 20th August.
Last year, we wrote about why austerity will not work to solve our economic problems, and then in February, we took a look at the economy to see how things were panning out – and the verdict was not good – rising unemployment, falling GDP, wages not keeping up with inflation (unless you are a director of a FTSE 100 firm) and most importantly, the budget deficit reduction was falling off target.
Things have not got better since then – we are now officially in double-dip recession, with Q2 2012 seeing the economy shrink by 0.7%, the third quarter of reduction.
The last couple of months have seen unemployment fall slightly, but people are not finding full time work – there has been a huge growth in people working part-time whilst looking for full time work, and in the number of self-employed people starting businesses, perhaps out of frustration at being unable to find work elsewhere. Those in work are finding that real wages are continuing to fall, despite the rate of inflation decreasing. Many public sector workers are facing another year of pay freezes.
Workfare rolls on, providing companies with a supply of free labour and threatening paid jobs whilst failing to help unemployed people to get into work and costing the taxpayer billions each year. The government response to the failing Mandatory Work Activity program is to expand it, and the national roll out of the Community Action Program will see 1 million people forced into 6 months of unpaid work.
The NHS is being carved up to be sold off, and facing £20bn of cuts euphemistically titled efficiency savings. Locally, George Elliott hospital in Nuneaton is getting outsourced to Circle Health and the Alex hospital in Redditch is facing cutbacks in services, including closure of A&E.
Legal aid is being stripped away from many areas of civil cases, including welfare and benefit and asylum cases.
A tiny rate of 0.8% fraud on disability benefits is being used to justify billions of pounds of cuts, with the ATOS administered Work Capability Assessment (WCA) having been exposed by Channel4 Dispatches as having targets of finding 89% of claimants fit for work, and that the WCA would used to get people off benefits. The next attack is the change of DLA to PIP, with an accompanying assessment process – and ATOS winning 2 out of 3 contracts to run the process shows that the government are not listening.
Meanwhile, the richest individuals and biggest corporations are allowed to dodge paying billions of pounds of tax every year, whilst we pay more due to VAT rises, and get less back as our services and benefits get cut.
And all of this is in the name of deficit reduction. But the deficit is not being reduced – the government claims to have reduced “Labour’s deficit” by more than a quarter, but this reduction was expected from the policies in place before May 2010. Since the emergency budget in October 2010, the targets for deficit reduction have been getting further and further away.
The month on month figures from the last 6 months show what is happening right now because of the coalition’s economic policies – the deficit for July 2012 was £500m higher than the deficit for July 2011. The underlying deficit for the first 6 months of 2012 was £67.6bn – £6bn more than the same period in 2011.
We can see across Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland that austerity does not work – we are not yet in the place that Greece and maybe Spain are, with a depressionary cycle making it all but impossible for the private sector to recover. With continued austerity measures in the UK driving down confidence in the private sector, and banks unwilling to lend even where there is confidence to invest, how long will it be until we are?The government will not listen if we ask nicely. We must demand that they abandon austerity and implement alternative policies – invest in our economy, in particular in new social housing and industry that will work towards stopping climate change. Create jobs, increase tax revenue, decrease welfare payments, create growth that works towards sustainability, and in doing so reduce the deficit in the medium to long term.
Come to the public meeting on Saturday 22nd September to build for the demonstrations in Birmingham and London in October. Join us on the streets throughout this autumn to say loudly that austerity is not working, and demand the alternatives. This government can only continue if we let them.