The impact of the comprehensive spending review and the proposed cuts in state spending of, in some cases 8% reductions year on year for five years will lead in some cases, to a 40% reduction in state provision. It is an unheard of amount and the effects cannot be easily determined. We have heard that ‘we are in this together’ and that the cuts will not be borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable in society. But while the banksters gather to grab a share in an estimated 7 billion bonus pot over the next few weeks it has certainly come to my personal attention that in fact the cuts will directly affect the most vulnerable groups in society as well as the slightly unsavoury new term to describe ‘the squeezed middle’ now being touted by Ed Miliband in an attempt to create clear blue water between a seemingly directionless opposition and a coalition hell-bent on the dismantling of vast elements of a welfare state built up over the last fifty years. There is a good reason why the cuts will be targeted (I use the word advisedly) on the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the ‘squeezed middle.’
The major reason is an astonishing ‘hands-off’ mentality from the government in relation to where the cuts will fall. But while the government may present this as giving freedom to local authorities to reduce where they determine, it is obvious that panicked and poorly lead local authorities will target the areas of least resistance and these are generally populated by those most dispossessed, most powerless, voiceless and least able to resist. The real strategy is an abdication of responsibility that will allow the coalition to avoid the difficult decisions and, more crucially the responsibilities of identifying which groups lose and which maintain their funding. There will be no winners-apart that is, from the usual suspects.
The looked after children population falls into this category. With 60.000 children and young people in care set to rise to 120,000 by the end of 2012 there will be a proposed doubling of the population of children coming in to the care system.
The domino effect will be set in train by the cumulative effects of withdrawal and reduction of benefits on the poorest families who have to date managed to keep their families together by the skin of their teeth. The difference this time is that this vulnerable group will be joined by members of Miliband’s ‘squeezed middle’ who can usually struggle along through boom and bust. With an average national salary of just £26,000 per annum these families will be taking the hit on the 5% VAT increase as well as their better off neighbours facing an imminent reduction in child benefits and tax credits which will mean the loss of hundreds, in some cases thousands of pounds a year in income. Add the hikes in transport and utilities costs and you have a perfect storm for the middle classes who earn around £37,000 per annum. Certainly never seen as a penurious income but soon to be far from comfortable
But what is astonishing about this round of cuts to me is the almost complete absence of what we might call a culture of resistance. The passivity with which the comprehensive spending review was received by the nation was remarkable. I think this is compounded by the predominant emotion in a recession which is fear but the flipside of that particular coin is anger and I sense a deep fury among the people at the injustice of this elite-manufactured recession. I would not be surprised to see a series of serious riots in the cities over the summer of 2011. I also see a political system which is rooted in ideas of society relevant to the 1950’s and completely unfit for purpose to deal with the three major challenges of the next twenty years and beyond. Namely climate change, the loss of biodiversity and increasing global instability.
Leadership in the UK is supplied by a cadre of elite educated sociopaths with a pathological sense of their own entitlement and crucially no understanding of normal economic life. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg visited Oldham in the recent by-election like Victorian gentleman anthropologists observing a tribe of African bushmen. They are so divorced from the reality of most people’s lives that they are unable to see the implications of their policies on actual lives. To them it is all theory.
This has to change. We need a new political party which is truly of ‘all the talents’. We need the leadership of the most brilliant people in their respective fields so we can have the best healthcare, the best welfare, the most effective military capability, the most effective strategies for industry and commerce, the very best and relevant educational system for all our children and it needs to be based on what works, not informed by some outmoded political cod-philosophy derived from the turn of the last century. We need an end to the ludicrous and simplistic binary polarities of Labour and Conservative. We need an integral politics and a new political party to take us forward.
I don’t see anything like this evolving presently but you know sometimes it takes a disaster to birth a new beginning. Sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, do your bit, and cross your fingers.