A rejection of the Assembly Executive’s Draft Budget
Stop the Cuts Campaign submission to consultation on Northern Ireland Draft Budget
The Stop the Cuts Campaign was formed in August 2010 and organises workers, the unemployed, young people and communities to fight cuts to jobs and public services. It is broad based, with the backing of trade unions such as the Fire Brigades Union and the teachers union INTO, as well as socialist, trade union, student and community activists.
1. It is not our intention to detail every area outlined in the Draft Budget. Many different submissions have already outlined the impact of cuts to jobs and service provision. What is evident is that the cuts agreed by all the political parties in the Assembly Executive (DUP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionist Party, SDLP and Alliance Party) will have devastating consequences, especially for working class people and the poorest sections of society. The attempts of the Assembly Executive to hide the true picture of the cuts contained in the Draft Budget by refusing to specifically identify what actual services will be cut or removed itself shows that this is a draft budget which cannot be defended.
2. According to Mike Tomlinson and Grace Kelly, researchers of a major study of Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, the Executive’s Draft Budget will lead to a loss of 38,000 jobs. This though may turn out to be an underestimation, since the impact of the deepening economic crisis in the South of Ireland, the potential for further shocks to the global banking and financial sectors and the sizable reduction in spending power due to cuts in benefits have not been factored into the calculation of this figure. Nonetheless, 38,000 job losses will bring severe hardship to many thousands of families and will result in higher poverty levels and increasing inequality between the rich and the rest of society.
3. It is well established that the economy in Northern Ireland is heavily dependent on the public sector. The private sector has proved too weak for many years to provide growth and jobs that could compensate for a reduction of jobs in the public sector. The strategy of the Assembly Executive of relying on investment from the private sector, in particular in the form of US Foreign Direct Investment has been a complete failure. In reality there is a strike of investment in the private sector on a global scale. A cut in corporation tax which the political parties in the Executive are campaigning for will not result in a sudden tidal wave of investment into the North. Increasingly investment is geared not to Western Europe but towards super-low wage economies such as India and China.
4. The implementation of cuts contained in the Draft Budget will have a major impact on the weak private sector, especially the construction and service sectors which rely so much on public sector contracts and the spending power of public sector workers. The effect of these cuts will severely undermine any prospect of economic recovery and will in fact deepen the recession.
5. Cuts to public services contained in the Draft Budget will overwhelmingly hit the poor and the most vulnerable in society. So-called ‘frontline services’ will inevitably be cut. From cuts to transport services for the disabled, elderly and school students to the introduction of hospital charges, plans to privatise car parks and other public assets, the Draft Budget will impact on real services to real peoples’ lives.
6. It has been stated that funding for the health service will be ‘ringfenced’. However, as has been noted by health workers, trade unions and healthcare specialists, in real terms the health service budget will see a cut in the region of £250million by 2014/15. The Draft Budget follows on the back of the Assembly Executives implementation of ‘efficiency savings’ (another term for cuts) over several years which has left our health service in real crisis. The decision of the Assembly Executive to close accident & emergency services at the Mid-Ulster Hospital, Whiteabbey Hospital and cut hours at the Downe Hospital have already caused severe distress and damage for patients and has placed massive pressure on remaining hospitals such as Antrim Hospital. The refusal of the Assembly Executive to fund the health service to meet peoples’ needs in the Draft Budget will make this crisis even worse.
7. The truth is these cuts will cost lives. Cuts in funding for social workers in recent years has inhibited their capacity to intervene and provide assistance to vulnerable people in the community. The tragedy of youth suicide in many communities has shown the need for urgent investment in health and social services. It is not a coincidence that areas suffering from high unemployment and low incomes are also areas worst affected by poor mental health and suicide rates. There are of course many factors which contribute to declining mental health, but the destruction of jobs and the knock-on impact of the cuts contained in the Draft Budget will without doubt worsen these problems in communities.
8. The Stop the Cuts Campaign refuses to engage in a debate on where cuts should be made. We are opposed to ALL cuts to public services.
9. The Stop the Cuts Campaign rejects the excuses from the political parties in the Assembly Executive that they are not to blame for cuts to services since it is the UK Tory/ Lib Dem Coalition government which has cut the bloc grant to Northern Ireland. The Draft Budget in reality is an agreement to implement the Tory/Lib Dem cuts on their behalf. It is a political decision to stand together with the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government in implementing savage cuts against ordinary people. Those who claim to oppose cuts to public services must refuse to implement cuts and oppose this Draft Budget. The fight to secure necessary funding for public services must be carried out by organising ordinary people, public sector and private sector workers, alongside the trade union movement to actively resist the cuts and link up with the millions of people across Britain who oppose the cuts, including initially a one day public sector strike. All workers who take strike action against cuts to services should be given 100% support.
10. The wealth to finance decent public services exists. Big business and rich individuals are allowed to get away with avoiding and evading approximately £120billion in taxes every year. An extra £4.7billion could be raised immediately by introducing a 50% tax rate on incomes over £100,000. The scrapping of privatisation schemes such as Public Private Partnerships and Private Finance Initiative in the health service alone would save £20billion a year. Instead of bailing out banks, they should be nationalised under democratic public control and used to fund a massive programme of useful public works in order to create millions of jobs.
Stop the Cuts Campaign
c/o 2nd Floor
13 Lombard St
Tel: (028) 90 311778