Public sector workers can expect more of the same: Chancellor
9:07am Thursday 21st March 2013 in News
HUNDREDS of public sector workers across Bolton walked out on strike over cuts to jobs, pay and pensions — as Chancellor George Osborne announced there will be more to come.
More than 500 Bolton civil servants downed tools and manned picket lines yesterday as part of a national day of industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.
Bolton Crown Court, the Department for Work and Pensions disability assessment centre at Elizabeth House, Bolton and Farnworth Jobcentres, and the driving test centre in Weston Street were hit by the 24-hour national strike.
It came as the Chancellor delivered his Budget, and revealed the country’s growth forecast for this year had been halved from 1.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent, and that there would be £11.5 billion of further cuts earmarked in his 2015-16 spending review.
Mr Osborne announced an extra £3 billion a year in infrastructure spending from 2015 to 2020 — including the construction of 15,000 new “affordable” homes — to stimulate the economy, but that some of the money would come from more public sector cuts.
He said public sector pay increases would be capped at one per cent in 2015-16, and that over the next two years most government departments would see a one per cent spending cut — except for schools and the NHS.
But he also announced the three per cent rise on fuel duty, which had been planned for September, would be scrapped, and that the annual two per cent above-inflation “beer escalator” tax was also being axed.
From Sunday, beer duty will also be cut by one per cent.
Personal tax allowance will also be raised to £10,000 from next year, not from 2015 as originally planned, meaning workers will be able to earn £10,000 before they start paying income tax.
Mr Osborne unveiled a new “help-to-buy” scheme, meaning if someone puts down a five per cent deposit on a new build property, the government will offer a 20 per cent loan, which would be repaid when the house was sold.
He said a mortgage guarantee scheme would also help lenders provide loans to people without deposits.
Peter Middleman, PCS North West Regional Secretary, said: “The strikes were very well supported but the budget just confirmed our worst fears.
“In terms of more cuts, all the low-hanging fruit was picked off years ago so how he can find more savings without harming front line services is anybody’s guess.
“The medicine has been killing the patient for several years now, our members are hurting and they’re not spending money on goods and services.”
David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, added: “He spoke for an hour saying what he would do in future years but not what he would do immediately.
“The penny off a pint is welcome but it’s not much in the grand scheme of things and just something he dropped into a very dull budget.”
But David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton’s Conservative group, welcomed news of the £10,000 personal allowance being brought forward as well as plans to build more homes.
He said: “This is a budget that supports people who want to work hard and aspire but will encourage growth without increasing borrowing, which is what Labour wanted us to do.”
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi, claimed the government was “trying to dig a bigger hole” between what it deemed to be the “deserving and non-deserving poor”.
She said: “The thing about buying a house is it’s for people who’ve got a decent income, but what about the people who are unemployed?
“What about the disabled, the young and the vulnerable?
“There was nothing in this budget for them.”
Roger Hayes, leader of Bolton Liberal Democrats, said: “I’m pleased they’ve taken forward two of our policies, bringing forward the income tax threshold and single persons’ pensions.
“I’m pleased about the house building and support for new housing, but am disappointed there’s nothing in there for new social housing.”
Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said: “This is a budget of cuts today and jam tomorrow — after the next General Election.
“Once again the Chancellor is promising high and delivering low.
“He still has no answer to a flatlining economy, one million unemployed young people and ever-squeezed hard working families.
“Yet he is still going ahead with his tax cuts to millionaires.”
Bolton Unison branch chairman Matt Kilsby said: “Osborne is out of ideas and should be out of a job.
“The economy is in crisis and yet he refuses to halt the Tories’ vicious cuts agenda that is wreaking havoc on our public services and throwing hundreds of thousands of workers onto the dole.”
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