Readers respond to Rishi Sunak’s latest spending review.
The biggest public sector debt in history! What sickens me is the failure to acknowledge the outright lies of the coalition government in cutting back services now seen as essential. Health and social care, police, youth clubs, mother and toddler groups and all the multitude of services sacrificed as local governments had their funding slashed.
We now know that Osbornomics – or should we say Cleggnomics, as the Lib-Dems wanted even harsher cuts in expenditure – led to higher death rates and a bigger gap between rich and poor. All this we were told was essential to reduce the public debt.
We now see it was all a lie. Governments can always find the money when they have to, as is proved in wars throughout history, and as in the present battle against coronavirus. What is £300 billion when we need face masks, vaccines and needles?
By the same token, what a mean trick to say we cannot afford 0.7% of our national income for overseas aid. Shame on you Mr Sunak.
The cut in the overseas aid budget to 0.5% of national income is shameful and a move the UK will go on to bitterly regret. This is devastating news for the poorest people in the world and breaks the Conservative election manifesto pledge of 0.7%, which it should be remembered is also enshrined in law. It will not only hurt them but will have a real impact on people in the UK as well.
Such a cut is simply bad economics and will end up costing more than it saves and is bad foreign policy that reduces Britain’s influence and makes us poorer in the eyes of the world. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has committed to an increase in defence spending he claims as being worth £16.5 billion in new money over four years.
Such a move clearly shows the right-wing in the Tory party is well and truly in the ascendancy, putting military hardware ahead of helping the world’s poorest. While chancellor Sunak may claim that this overseas aid cut is temporary one should remember that income tax was only intended to be a temporary measure, and that was in 1799.
The chancellor tells us that we are facing tough times and tough decisions need to be taken. We have been here before – George Osborne pursued his policy of public sector pay freezes and cuts in public services which, with hindsight, doesn’t seem to have served the country, or the people, well. In parallel, we had the mysterious ‘quantitative easing’ which seems to have had the affect of inflating asset prices, to the benefit of the wealthy who own the assets, further increasing the divide between rich and poor.
The tough decision that the government should really be taking is to ask the EU for a 12 month extension to keep us in the single market and customs union while the pandemic plays out. Now that we all know so much more than we did in 2016, they should use the breathing space to convene a citizen’s assembly to assess the options for our future relationship with both the EU and the rest of the world.
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