It gets worse…

In the run up to the 2010 General Election, Alistair Darling warned that making cuts deeper and faster than he was planning would put the UK’s economic recovery at risk. At the same time, George Osborne was criticising Labour for the credit ratings agencies giving the UK’s credit rating a negative outlook. He also maintained that cuts could be made much deeper, and much faster than Labour were planning.

It was Labour economic policy that delivered a recovering economy in the first two quarters of 2010. Growth was a modest 0.6 and 0.7% respectively, but decent all the same following the recession brought on by the unchecked recklessness of the banks. It could also be argued that the 3rd quarter of 2010 was the final legacy of Alistair Darling’s policy making – 0.6% growth. But, since Osborne’s austerity has taken hold, we’ve had contraction in 6 of the following 9 quarters, with the UK’s economy officially entering a “double-dip” recession. The cumulative effect of Osborne’s disastrous economic policy has been a paltry 0.4% growth over 2 years. Osborne and his Lid Dem partners in crime tell us that the answer is further damaging cuts. But they’ve sucked all the demand out of the economy. It’s fairly simple that if you cut the incomes of those contributing most to the economy, then growth will suffer. Austerity is self-defeating. Demand is sucked out of the economy, so the answer would be do something to stimulate that demand. The answer from the Tories? More cuts, further hitting demand.

Several economists as well as a number of economic organisations have criticised the austerity being delivered by the Tories. People being hit by them – people who didn’t actually cause the economic crash – have criticised it. But George Osborne is completely immune to any advice that is contrary to his economic lunacy. But the Madness of Chancellor George has finally be laid bare.

Back in 2010 when the UK’s credit rating was given a negative outlook, Osborne was quick to jump on it. The UK had enjoyed a AAA rating since 1978 – under Jim Callaghan’s Labour government. Not even the excesses of Thatcher’s regime could dent that. Osborne told us that the UK’s rising debt was the serious threat to our AAA rating. A commitment was made to cut the UK’s national debt. But, since then, the debt has gone an increased. The reason is fairly simple. Osborne’s savage cuts have killed off any hope of tax revenue being grown. So, as the costs of the cuts increase – people are actually losing their jobs, contrary to what is being reported (taking people off of unemployment statistics when they are moved on the heinous workfare isn’t reducing unemployment) – its simple arithmetic to work out increasing expenditure and falling tax revenue will increase borrowing.

That lack of growth has finally led to Moody’s downgrading the UK’s credit rating from AAA to AA1. Based on Osborne’s comments in 2010 that maintaining AAA was the be-all-and-end all, this is a clear and massive failure on his part. His economic policy has led us to disaster. Incredibly he maintains it’s the UK’s debt that is the problem, but the reality is that it’s the complete lack of growth that has brought us to this point. Moody’s say there is little hope of seeing any recovery until 2016 at the earliest. Osborne says he plans more cuts. When it is obvious that it has been this lunacy that has resulted in the negligible growth that is giving way to rising debt, this course of action is nothing short of economic madness. Cameron shows no real leadership and will back his old school chum. But, if this is allowed to go on, it will end in a massive mess. Osborne has failed, and must resign. But the Tories have failed. The policies the Tories said would let our economy flourish have led to recession, misery and now the loss of Osborne’s cherished AAA rating. It’s what they expected to be judged on. They’ve now been judged, and have been found sorely wanting. We’ll see you at the ballot box and give you our judgment. Don’t expect mercy.

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Bedrooms vs Mansions

Back in the General Election campaign in 2010, David Cameron announced should they win the election (which they didn’t), the Tories would govern in the national interest, and not in the interests of the Tory Party. Well, the PM’s pandering to the Tory Party’s Eurosceptic right to maintain his waning control over his Parliamentary party. But it’s the Tories welfare and taxation policy making that gives the game away on how they’re not interested on governing for the good of all in the UK. Its mansions vs bedrooms.

Housing Benefit is regularly attacked by Tories and their media friends as being a “sponger’s delight.” Paid to people who lie in until midday, then play on their x-boxes on widescreen TVs. The truth is different of course. The majority of HB claimants are in work, and are the “strivers” the PM likes to laud these days. Claimants are likely to have been in their current home for a number of years, and are close to family, friends, and work. Housing Benefit will allow them to remain close to work letting them contribute to the economy.

Then there is families of disabled children, and the disabled themselves. Circumstances beyond their control mean that they may need a bigger house than otherwise may be the case. Again, Housing Benefit means that they can afford to have an extra bedroom that allows them to receive therapy and have care provided to them in the home, which in many cases would greatly lessen the anxiety suffered by many disabled people. The disabled, particularly those with mental health issues (I speak from experience, having two children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder) will have built up a strong local support network over a number of years which allows them to live an independent as possible life. It allows them to live, period.

But in a stroke, the government will turn those lives into absolute chaos. The “Bedroom Tax” – the government may deny it is a tax, but the name has stuck – will blight lives. Government advice for claimants to find additional hours at work (which would be mitigated by a further reduction in means tested Housing Benefit) to offset the reduction in Housing Benefit due to the Bedroom Tax is ridiculous to start with. Just where are these hours? Where’s the extra work? The bottom line is that it will mean thousands of claimants face a stark choice. Remain where they are, unable to pay their rent, ending up being evicted, leaving Local Authorities to pick up the tab when they present as homeless, or be forced to move, perhaps a considerable distance from their present home.

The impact will be tremendous. Tenants with mental health issues rely on their support networks for help. Those on the autistic spectrum, who need a settled routine with no unexpected deviations from routine, could face an uncertain future being forced to move home. It could be devastating. Carers in particular will be expected to pick up the pieces, and people who are already very vulnerable will be made even more vulnerable be a government who is supposed to be helping them. It will tear children away from friends, people away from family. All to save a few million pounds. People affected by this “tax” may well ask, why them.

Of course, Iain Duncan Smith is revelling in it. His angry denunciation of detractors to his hatchet job on the most vulnerable gives his particular game away. No Tory MP is standing up to object to this assault on the vulnerable. But, raise the issue of an alternative to these inequitable cuts, stand back and wait for Tory MPs to explode. The “Mansion Tax” seems a reasonable way to ensure those most able to bear the brunt of cuts and/or tax increases to pay their way. Osborne’s cuts are falling squarely on those least able to afford it. But the howls of opposition to it from government benches are shrill in their angst.

How is it fair that someone living in the same house for 20+ years is thrown out of their house thanks to a cut that they can’t afford to bear, while another living in a house with more bedrooms they need (Lord Freud and his eight bedrooms?) bears little of the hardship the government’s austerity measures are bringing? In the interests of fairness, the “Bedroom Tax” should be halted before it does tremendous damage, and the “Mansion Tax” needs implementing without delay. Of course, this would mean the government looking after all, and not just their own. Over to you Mr Cameron.

Painful Cuts

Modern education is stressful enough for “normal” kids, but even harder for special needs pupils. We always knew it would be difficult having to deal with one autistic child in the educational system, but that was before Daniel was also diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Their time in the educational system comes at a time where Local Authorities and individual schools are under increasing pressure to implement damaging cuts by an uncaring government. Matthew and Daniel need additional support on a daily basis, but cuts to education spending is making in increasingly difficult for the boys’ school to be able to provide that support.

Its disguised as their needs being met without additional support, but both of them are “typically” autistic, and won’t volunteer information so how would anyone know they need support. Its to the boys’ credit that they are progressing as well as they are really. Matthew has been the victim of bullying this session, which is going unnoticed because he won’t – or can’t – speak up. The lack of support – particularly in the classroom – is getting to him. Its gone as far as him being kneed in the face in the classroom, losing a (wobbly) tooth. Needless to say this wasn’t noticed by the teacher!

They are both having a hard time, with Daniel, who was so looking forward to school, staring to say he doesn’t want to go in the morning. They are so vulnerable, and need the support being denied them. This is the real effect of spending cuts being imposed by a heartless and dogmatic government. They are so slavishly following the deficit reduction mantra, that they have completely lost sight of the human cost. People don’t matter, just the markets, and the almighty deficit. The result? The most vulnerable who are most in need of support aren’t getting it. Not only is this having a direct impact on those with special needs, but it is having an indirect effect to others in the class when a teacher either can’t cope with special needs kids, or has to devote so much time to fire fighting that the class as a whole suffer.

Cuts to classroom support really is false economy. It benefits all if classroom support and SEN teachers are involved in providing support to the teacher in and out of the class. The special needs children get the one-on-one support so vital to building their confidence and self esteem in the class setting, and the pressure is taken off the teacher with the special needs kids becoming becalmed and less of a disruptive influence.

Cuts aren’t all about slashing welfare. The middle classes may have seen headlines about cuts to Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Council Tax Benefits etc, and thought they’d not affect them. Well, they are now. Cuts to classroom support is affecting their children too and any country who fails their children in this way needs a really good look at itself. Critics of the government’s austerity programme call for it to be stopped, or reversed, to let the economy recover. That’s vital of course, because people need jobs, which will reduce the impact on the welfare state, and help grown tax revenue. But they need to be stopped so children in need in the classroom get the vital support they need to allow them to flourish and to give them every chance they need to realise their potential.