Sajid Javid has delivered a sickening ‘gift’ to working people. The day before so-called Brexit Eve, news circulated that the chancellor has well and truly shown government departments that austerity is here to stay by demanding further cuts to their budgets.
Tory Brexiteers in 2016 and the Conservatives in 2019 suggested to working people that, upon leaving the EU, the government would be throwing money at their public services. But it seems the opposite’s happening.
Just three months before the 2019 general election, Javid stood up in parliament and said:
No department will be cut next year. Every single department has had its budget for day to day spending increased at least in line with inflation.
This was the “end of austerity”, he exclaimed. This was him ‘turning the page’ on austerity, he crowed. But it turns out that was total bull. Because he wrote to ministers on 29 January demanding cuts to their spending plans. In his letter requesting cuts of up to 5% from government departments’ plans, Javid said:
We have been elected with a clear fiscal mandate to keep control of day to day spending.
This means there will need to be savings made across government to free up money to invest in our priorities.
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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell argued that the revelation made one thing crystal clear:
We were promised by [Boris] Johnson and Javid that austerity had ended and the cuts in public services were over.
They clearly aren’t on this evidence. Another Johnson lie exposed.
But in an apparent contradiction of his own demand that there need to be savings “across government” (i.e. in all departments), Javid then said:
This will allow us to refocus our efforts towards the things which matter most: strengthening our NHS; making our streets safer; and levelling up opportunity across the country
So although the chancellor is cutting department budgets, he suggests those savings will be ‘refocused’ towards areas like the NHS and policing. But he didn’t explicitly mention additional funding for those public services, merely “efforts”. Furthermore, the Guardian writes that Javid has said he will still aim “to match current spending with tax revenues”. According to the media outlet, this means that:
the Tories’ more immediate manifesto promises, including recruiting extra nurses and police, will have to be funded partly from within existing budgets
‘Definitely not austerity’
In short, with Javid’s muddled messaging, it’s impossible to tell yet whether services like the NHS and policing will be spared the new round of austerity; or, indeed, whether they will receive a windfall due to it.
But there’s one area of government spending where Javid very clearly doesn’t want austerity to strike. He’s reportedly backing the highly controversial high-speed-rail network HS2 in government talks over whether to scrap the beleaguered project. A recent leaked government review revealed it could end up costing £106bn, nearly double the £56bn estimated in 2015. Meanwhile, as the Guardian recently reported, a comprehensive study of the project’s impact on nature has found that:
HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 legally protected sites of special scientific interest
Regardless of this catastrophic cost to wildlife and the public purse, however, Javid is apparently eager to make sure austerity never hits HS2; all while forcing yet more austerity on government departments and, ultimately, the public.
But, yes, happy ‘Brexit Eve’ everyone.
Featured image via FCO/Wikimedia
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