On Monday 27 February, the Treasury quietly ordered government departments to find new ways to cut up to 6% off their budgets. The result will be more cuts to public services. And the axe may well fall on people already suffering at the hands of the Tories’ austerity agenda.
Conservative ministers David Gauke and Ben Gummer said that government departments have to save between 3% and 6% by 2019/2020. The actual saving of £3.5bn the government is looking to make is not new; George Osborne announced it in his March 2016 budget. But the details of the cuts are.
The government says it will “protect” NHS and core schools budgets, by setting and then ringfencing them. But as NHS campaigners, and even Tory MPs have highlighted, the ringfencing of the NHS budget means very little. In January, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said that the government had essentially been underfunding the NHS:
Over the last parliament, funding for the NHS increased annually by an average of just 1.1%, far below the actual increase in costs… The real terms increase in DoH spending for the current review period is just £4.5bn and will result in reduced spending per person.
The government is also protecting defence spending. It says it will keep its NATO commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defence. And that the budget will “rise by 0.5% above inflation each year of this Parliament”. Gauke said the cuts were to make sure:
we can live within our means while delivering maximum value for every pound of taxpayers money.
But there is an obvious place where part of the government’s axe to save £3.5bn might fall.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is a likely target. It had to make ‘savings‘ of £2.1bn between 2009/10 and 2015/16. And it is already having to reduce the cost of the welfare system by £12bn by 2019/2020, with the DWP cutting disability benefits by £4.4bn. And as The Canary reported, just last week the government announced cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). These will hit over 160,000 people living with mental health issues and ‘saved’ the government an extra £3.7bn.
Last year, a UN report slammed the government’s welfare reforms and cuts. It detailed the government’s “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. And the UN said the government has helped to create a public perception of disabled people as being “benefit frauds”, “lazy” and a “burden” on the taxpayer.
So cutting more from people’s benefits to save money because of austerity is an easy target for the government. And one which swathes of the public will probably support. But as always, it’s those on the sharp end who will suffer the most. The sick and disabled, who have suffered immeasurably already.
– Support Disabled People Against Cuts.
– Read more from The Canary on austerity.
Featured image via Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?