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Theresa May is a threat billboard, June 2017. Photo: The People's Assembly Against Austerity

Theresa May is a threat billboard, June 2017. Photo: The People's Assembly Against Austerity

A new report shows austerity is strangling the UK economy and impoverishing working people, writes John Rees

We can now tell you exactly how much austerity has cost us. It amounts to a massive £3600.

That’s for every family in the country and just for the single year 2019-2020.

Austerity has cumulatively sucked £100 billion out of the economy since the economic crash.

What does this look like at street level?

A new report from the IPPR think tank tells us ‘there is the staggering social cost of the cuts’.

As the report catalogues, crime is up, but life expectancy has stopped rising. Inequality is growing again. Over a million people a year are now using foodbanks. Homelessness has more than doubled. And poverty is on the rise once again: one-in-three children and around one in five pensioners have now dropped below the poverty line, according to DWP figures this year.

Unsurprisingly, most people are sick to death of austerity and desperate for an alternative. The latest British Social Attitudes Survey finds that support for higher spending has risen to 48 per cent, higher than at any time since 2004. Eight in ten people want more spending on the NHS and seven in ten, on schools.

The truth is the Tories have lost the argument over austerity. That’s why Theresa May makes an annual speech declaring that it’s over, while simultaneously pushing through policies which ensure that it is not.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that even if the government makes a moderate overall spending increase over the next five years most aspects of social security, prisons, local government and adult education are still facing an average annual cut of 0.4 per cent per year.

This hyper-austerity regime is exceptional even by the standards of other cash-strapped European economies. The UK only exceeds European spending in one department: arms and defence.

The UK taxes corporations more lightly than other European countries. On average European countries have higher taxes totalling 41.8 per cent of GDP compared to the UK’s 33.3 per cent.

The truth is the Tory experiment in austerity has failed and is discredited in the minds of the majority of the population.

We must re-commit the labour movement to one overriding priority, more important than any other issue, including Brexit. It is to drive the Tories from government and end austerity.

John Rees

John Rees

John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.

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