This is a government that is deep trouble – but the issue is not just political, it’s also economic.
Chancellor Sajid Javid’s Spending Review today will see him announce ‘new’ spending, including more money for more Brexit ‘no deal’ preparations. This comes on top of £14billion for schools, 20,000 police officers and some (not so new) money for the NHS. With all these short-term spending splurges the Chancellor has forgotten that public services are for life and not just the election.
The Tories are flashing the cash Del Boy-style as they pretend to care about schools, police and the NHS, but like Trotters Independent Traders the scam will soon fall apart before our eyes.
In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit any future Tory budget will see cash available for public services squeezed faster than we saw over the past decade of austerity as the economy tumbles over a cliff.
I wouldn’t hold out much hope of actually seeing the 20,000 police set to replace the 20,000 the Tories cut. By the time they’ve recruited and trained these officers it will be time to sack them as the government once again runs out of money.
The state has been squeezed so hard since the bankers caused the crash that rough sleeping has doubled. Yet know that austerity hasn’t come to an end because local government – the authorities best placed to solve this problem – aren’t getting anything at all.
Philip Hammond’s fiscal rules still live on, even as the former Chancellor faces the prospect of being deselected for opposing ‘no deal’.
Our services are at breaking point. Our public sector workers are too, and despite the smoke and mirrors from Javid the depressing truth is that it’s all set to continue until 2022-23 unless we get a change in government.
Somehow despite the public getting gruel, public debt has still managed to go up. Never before has so much debt been amassed for so little benefit for everyday people. We have to ask: who’s benefiting?
This is a spending review written by Dominic Cummings with Tory election leaflets in mind. It will do nothing to reverse the savage cuts in education spending, which has fallen by a staggering 8 per cent per pupil.
But beyond the most visible public services, austerity has also wreaked havoc with more hidden – but no less important – areas like adult education, which has seen a 17.5 per cent cut in state funding. This matters because we’ve got huge automation and artificial intelligence-driven changes to the labour market speeding down the tracks towards us. So the fall in adult learners shows that Britain is not retraining and reskilling.
And that means automation will bring with it more unemployment as the jobs created by technology go to the countries that are ready to operate it.
That, in turn, will drive inequality as Britain increasingly becomes a low-skilled economy where only the rich reap the rewards of increased productivity brought about by the technological revolution.
The other side of that coin is devastation in large swathes of the country left behind as a result of the government’s failure to act.
A new report released today by Class puts the economic cost of failing to prepare for automation at £55billion a year in today’s money by 2030, including £20billion wiped off our GDP.
In human terms, that means more joblessness, people dying more quickly, rising crime and increased spending on social services.
The impact can be compared to the way agrarian communities were decimated by the industrial revolution or the way mining towns were hit by the closure of the coal mines. A truly dystopian future might just be one decade away unless we get our act together now.
Trade unions have been banging on about a ‘just transition’ for workers but have been roundly ignored by this government. It is time to listen and prepare.
Not just for automation, but also to tackle climate breakdown. We need to double our funding in this area or again face higher costs in future.
With the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit relegating Britain to the back of the queue, our children will not thank us for being the generations that saddled them with the triple whammy of social and economic costs of automation, climate change and trade disadvantage.
The austerity medicine hasn’t worked over the past decade, and is set to make us sicker still over the next. Boris Johnson lecturing his about being optimistic is not going to cut it.
We need to end this ideological project, and that means long term investment not cuts. Investment in all our services over the next ten years to get Britain ready for the future.
Dr Faiza Shaheen is director of CLASS – the Centre for Labour and Social Studies – and the Labour prospective candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green