The future prospects for today’s young people are the worst for generations – unless communities and trade unions organise to fight this Government’s cuts.
Of course we have faced unemployment and cutbacks before, but spending cuts of this scale have not been seen in Britain since the 1920’s. The hope of ‘progress’ – that your life will be better than that of your parents, and your children’s better again than yours – will be shattered. Everything that has been won by the labour movement – like the national health service, pensions, housing and disability benefits, affordable university education – is all under threat.
It is predicted that the cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review will mean the loss of at least 1 million jobs. Unemployment could rise to 4 million. And now the Tories are threatening that they will force the unemployed to work for their benefit. As usual, young people, working-class and minority communities will be worst hit.
The escape route through gaining qualifications at school and college will also be blocked. The Education Maintenance Allowance for post-16 students will be scrapped. Funding for courses for English for Speakers of Other Languages will be axed. Universities face a staggering 80% cut in the funding. To help balance budgets, university tuition fees will rise to £9,000 per year. How many families will want to risk their sons and daughters taking on those kind of debts?
Things are little better in schools. The axe may not have fallen quite so harshly as on some other services but big cuts are still being made. Even with the promised ‘pupil premium’ to help education, most schools will see their budgets fall. Class sizes will increase as teaching and support staff posts are lost. Cuts in council grants are already leading to significant job losses amongst the specialist Local Authority staff who provide support to schools.
To escape cuts, schools are being bribed with the ‘Trojan Horse’ of abandoning their Local Councils and becoming an independent Academy school. But, like every privatisation of services, Academies will make education worse, not better. Instead of elected councils planning education in the interests of the whole community, individual Academies will only look after their own interests – and those of their business backers. Again, the most vulnerable parts of the community will be the losers.
Government Ministers tell us that ‘there is no alternative’ but to swallow this harsh medicine. But throwing millions out of work won’t improve the economy, it will make it worse.
They say that ‘we are all in this together’. Yet, while ordinary families suffer, Britain’s corporation tax for big business stands at only 28% - the lowest in the developed world. Now they want to cut it even further to 24%! The UCU, the University lecturers’ union, point out that just raising corporation tax to the average 32% would be enough to fully fund universities and get rid of tuition fees altogether.
Ordinary Londoners, teachers and students are the ones that must be ‘all in this together’ – united against the attacks on education and fighting for the future of our young people. Unless we campaign, communities could be divided by racism, youth divided by gangs and destructive rivalry.
The Con-Dem government needs to be warned that British workers can take action just like our brothers and sisters in Spain, France, Greece and other countries. The ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher was turned to rust when she tried to attack the whole community through the hated ‘poll-tax’. These cuts are an even greater attack on all of us. Together, we can defeat them again.