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Year 2000 No. 190, November 8-9, 2000 Archive Search Home Page

Pre-Budget Statement:

Much Hype about False Choices

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Pre-Budget Statement:
Much Hype about False Choices

Rally in Stourbridge against PFI

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Pre-Budget Statement:

Much Hype about False Choices

It was strongly suggested before the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Statement on Wednesday that the choice facing Gordon Brown was the following. Either give in to the "fuel lobby", that is those sections of society who are continuing to pursue their demands that the duty on fuel be reduced. Or accede to the demands of the pensioners for a substantial improvement in the level of pensions.

For example, TUC general secretary John Monks said that the Chancellor should give priority to increasing pensions, not cutting fuel prices. He used an opinion poll conducted by the TUC to assert that a "clear majority rightly believes that boosting pensions should be at the top of his list".

When the fuel blockades were at their height in September, the government had similarly claimed that to give in to the demands of the protesters would rob the NHS of much needed funds. Similar arguments have again been heard leading up to the Mini Budget.

Posing the choices in this way, the fuel protesters have been made the villains of the piece. In the event, the Chancellor made concessions on both fronts. He announced cuts in excise duty and 3p off the price of low-sulphur diesel, and freezing all duties on fuel in cash terms until April 2002. He also announced a rise in the basic state pension of £5 for a single person and £8 for a couple from next April. Neither meets the demands of those people concerned. Pensioners have justly been demanding a restoration of the link between pensions and average earnings, the severing of which has seen pensioners increasingly impoverished. The fuel lobbyists condemned the package as insulting and insisted the lorry convey from Jarrow to London will go ahead from Friday as planned.

The choice is and always has been false – give "concessions" to one section of the people or give these "concessions" to another. Even more basic is another false choice which is presented – either cut the level of taxes on the one hand or increase social spending on the other. The underlying reason why these "choices" are false is that under the present social system, the entire social product, the human and material resources of society, are put at the disposal of the financial oligarchy. The aim in so doing is to make them successful and competitive in the global marketplace. The hype is to cover over this fact and fool the people into believing that the government is interested in managing the economy prudently so as to benefit the majority in society.

The government has amassed enormous surpluses, as shown in the forecasts published with the Pre-Budget Statement. The Treasury’s coffers have kept getting fuller, and the amount in the form of taxes which is legally coerced from the wealth that working people produce has kept going up. Meanwhile, spending on social welfare has actually gone down. This, indeed, has been one of the aims of the Labour government ever since it came to power. Servicing the public debt continues.

Thus all this talk about "choices" and standing firm on the fuel crisis has been a cruel joke played on the people. It masks the crisis in spending on social programmes, and attempts to divide the people into mutually warring camps, suggesting that if one section benefits then another must inevitably suffer. Meanwhile, the financially oligarchy, including – and especially – the oil monopolists, continue to enrich themselves from what is little else but legalised robbery from the people.

Gordon Brown has predicted that the government would post a £16.6 billion surplus on current budget this year. This represents the extent to which more is being taken out of the economy than is being put in. Nothing else but a change of the direction in the economy is needed, with the people being the ones who should decide on this direction.

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Rally in Stourbridge against PFI

On November 4, over 800 people from different parts of the country attended the rally following the demonstration through Stourbridge in the West Midlands. The 600 Dudley health workers have been on strike for 12 weeks against plans to transfer staff in a £88m Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

A number of speakers addressed the rally. The rally started with a message of greetings from former Liverpool dockers, which was delivered to the rally by Jimmy Campbell. Yunis Baksh from UNISON Newcastle City Health, Fiona Webster UNISON Regional Officer, and Annette Place UNISON National Executive member, were among the other speakers to address the rally. During his contribution Yunis Baksh stressed that the question was about the future of public services and he called on the union to organise a day of action and national demonstration against the PFI. Fiona Webster pointed out that in Dudley the members were running the strike and having endless discussions and making the decisions. She called on everyone to stand together so as not to open the door for the government to get what they want. Annette Place called on everyone to go back their branches, communities and educate people about the strike.

Other speakers to the rally stressed that the workers have made huge sacrifices to fight PFI. The question presents itself: what kind of health service is needed by society? This question has to be answered by saying that the workers must organise so that the people’s needs are brought to the centre of the economy.

As at previous conferences, the Unison National Delegate Conference had passed a motion earlier this year that had again called for an end to the government's PFI. Rodney Bickerstaffe, General Secretary of UNISON, recently wrote to all branches of the union calling on them to give their support to the Dudley strikers.

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