While the Green New Deal remains central to our policy and the recent multimillion contract won by H&W shows the potential to develop the green economy our priority over the next year must be to oppose and expose the Tory cuts and highlight the disastrous impact they will have on the Northern Ireland economy.
While we accept there is a need to reduce government borrowing the governments proposals are reckless, vindictive and ideologically motivated. The Tory press keep insisting there is no alternative. There are of course many alternatives including the proposals set out by Alistair Darling which has seen reduced unemployment and encouraging economic growth in the first half of the year. Many economists including a number of the Tories argue that the proposed cuts are in danger of driving us back into recession.
The Tories claim that they are fair and everyone must share the pain. This is clearly not the case as the recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out that the budget was regressive and will hit the poorest hardest particularly those with children.
It is like many previous Tory budgets focused on cutting services for the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable and instead of imposing taxes on the banks and financial institutions which caused the financial crisis, the Tories increase VAT the burden of which falls heaviest on those of low income. Similarly the cuts in welfare, housing benefit, disability allowances and tax credit will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable. According to the IFS this is the most regressive budget in generations.
George Osbourne has claimed that his budget has protected poor families from cuts. The IFS disagrees pointing out the welfare cuts meant working families on low incomes particularly those with children were the biggest losers. It will also have a dramatic impact on the regions in the UK such as Northern Ireland which are more dependent on public services.
These policies have little to do with the economic situation but are based on ideology and hostility to public services.
The budget deficit has provided the Tories with an opportunity to attack the public sector. They are committed to reduce public sector services and Osborne has admitted as much. The public sector is not an awful waste of tax payers’ money as some Tories seem to believe but it is there to provide a safety net and essential services for the young, elderly, disabled, poor and most vulnerable members of our community.
Unfortunately we in Northern Ireland have a high proportion of people relying on public services and we will be worse hit than other areas of the UK.
We must not mildly accept the cuts or believe that there is no alternative. We must continue to highlight the alternative and the fact that the policies set out by the government are largely based on ideology rather than economic necessity and are grossly unfair and fall heaviest on the poorest.