Dear Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer

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A letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from Prue Plumridge

I feel I must write to you in response to your speech at the Conservative Conference in which you referred to the medium-term challenge of dealing with the public finances so as not to burden future generations.

Aside from the fact that your government has been promising to deal with the public finances for the past seven years whilst regularly moving the goal posts for achieving it, failed Tory promises show astonishing ignorance about how the state finances work in practice.

Or, is it, perhaps, that you do know but prefer to keep the public in the dark with fake messages about household budgets, living within our financial means, paying down our debts and saving for a rainy day.

You (and George Osborne before you) have abused the trust of the public with your myths and lies about maxing out the credit card and going broke.  Neither of which can happen in a sovereign currency issuing state.  I’m sure you know that really.  In truth, this has suited the pernicious ideology of the Tory government which claimed that Labour overspent and austerity was unavoidable.  Neither was true.  But, as a result, seven years of cuts to public spending have led to rising poverty and inequality through the redrawing of welfare provision and the decimation of public services not to mention the on-going attacks on employment rights and the rise of insecure working and the gig economy.

And, all the time, while you tell us that there is no money for those services upon which we all depend from the NHS, to public infrastructure and services and local government we are witnessing the ongoing transfer of wealth into ever fewer hands and public money being poured into corporate pockets.

Admit it, Chancellor, this exercise has never been about necessity.  It has always been about ideology which can be best expressed in the words of the former head of John Lewis who said recently ‘the only way to provide good public services is to ensure a vibrant business economy’ …… which is not only neoliberal bunkum trading on the lie of discredited ‘trickle down’ but shows how this false narrative dominates the mainstream and infects public understanding.  To quote Richard Murphy from Tax Research on the NHS  (and whilst he doesn’t mention it, public services too)

there is no reason why we should not have health care in thirty years’ time, whatever that care might be…… All we have to do is decide we want it. Then we can pay for it. It will not be a matter of not affording it. It’s just a matter of setting priorities. “

Moving on to your claim that borrowing takes money from the pockets of future tax payers is plain wrong to put it bluntly.

As the economist Professor Bill Mitchell notes “Each generation chooses its own tax rates and that means that the mix of public and private sector involvement in the economy is a political choice”

In this case yours.  Government spending in the form of deficits (assuming of course a government that takes seriously its responsibility for the well-being of the nation) can work on behalf of citizens to create a healthy economy and a fairer distribution of wealth.  This not only helps today’s citizens but also creates investment in public education, public health and other infrastructure which benefits both current and future generations.  Or, of course, it can, as in the case of the Tories and already noted, represent wealth transfer to the already rich and public money leaching into private corporate pockets.  And just to be clear as I can hear you whispering but what about the printing presses, inflation and Zimbabwe I am not suggesting that deficits don’t matter – they do but not in the way you tell us they do.  The fact is that whilst governments are never revenue constrained spending will always be limited by available productive capacity and resources.  And that is what has to be managed.  It should never be about balanced budgets rather it should be about creating a balanced economy.

So, Chancellor, in conclusion, I will finish by saying that a time is coming when you will no longer be able to fool the public into believing your household budget version of the state finances which has claimed that we can’t afford public services, the NHS and the welfare safety net.  They will then understand that you made a choice to deny them the public infrastructure that ensures a healthy economy and the well-being of their families.  They will understand that you played with their lives and their survival.

It is to be hoped that in the near future you will indeed have plenty of time as a shadow minister in her majesty’s government to reflect on where the Tory party went wrong but then again you probably won’t.

Regards

Prue Plumridge

Brighton Fringe – #MMT with the one and only Prof. Bill Mitchell #Lab17

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Many of us now realise that the scares about deficits and debt are nothing more than useful devices to justify cuts and sell-offs of our public services.  Austerity is a political choice.  There was/is nothing necessary about the last 7y of Tory asset-stripping.  If you’re in Brighton for LP conference (or any other reason) come and hear Professor Bill Mitchell explain how the economy really operates.  You don’t need to be a LP member and it doesn’t cost you anything to be informed by a world class economist.

Monday 25th September, 2pm until 5pm at the Brighthelm Centre (just a few steps down from Brighton station).

SHOCK – Public Sector Employment Share Lowest for Seventy Years 

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SHOCK GMB FIGURES SHOW PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYMENT SHARE NOW AT LOWEST LEVEL FOR 70 YEARS

Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days before the NHS was founded

GMB, the union for public sector workers, has published figures that show public sector employment as a share of the labour market has fallen to a seventy year low.

Official figures released this week show that 16.9 per cent of workers were employed in the public sector in June – a 0.1 per cent fall on the previous quarter.

This is the lowest share since the ONS’s current records began in 1999 – and historic Bank of England data reveals it is the lowest share since 1947, the year before the NHS was founded. [1]

Even under Margaret Thatcher the public sector’s share of employment did not fall below 20 per cent.

Just under a million public jobs have been lost since 2010 due to funding cuts, privatisation and outsourcing.

The majority of the jobs lost have been in local government. [2]

A new GMB report published this week argued Government’s review of public sector pay policy is ignoring the 55 per cent of public sector worker who are not covered by a Pay Review Body, such as local government workers and school support staff

Thre report also reveals:

.· Central Government has removed an estimated £5 billion from local authority budgets in order to enforce the pay cap across the whole public sector;

· As recruitment and retention challenges mount, the cost of agency and temporary workers has increased by £2.5 billion since 2012/13. By contrast, the Treasury estimated that the cap would save £2.2 billion in 2017/18 – raising the prospect that the cap is not saving any money at all;

· On average, PCSOs (who are not covered by the new pay award for police officers) are set to lose £9,580 in real-terms by 2020 due to the pay cap. [3]

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:

“These shocking figures are a stark reminder of the scale of the catastrophe that befalling our public services.

“Any sensible opportunities for efficiencies are long gone – funding reductions are now cutting into sheer bone.

“GMB’s members are performing miracles but the vital services they deliver are being stripped-back and hollowed-out and denied the resources they need, and workers are being denied the fair pay rises they deserve.

“We should celebrate the fact that people are living longer, but if services don’t get additional funding then crises of provision are inevitable. That breaking point has already arrived in the NHS and social care.

“Seventy years ago the Labour Government of Attlee and Nye Bevan created cherished public services that have improved and saved millions of lives.

“Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days of the past instead.

“Enough is enough. We need to properly fund public services so they can cope with sharply rising demand, and real pay rises for the heroes in the workforce who sacrifice so much and are being denied the reasonable standard of living they deserve.”

Contact: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk
[1] ONS, Public sector employment UK statistical bulletin: June 2017, published 13 September 2017:https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/publicsectorpersonnel/bulletins/publicsectoremployment/june2017

Bank of England, A millennium of macroeconomic data, table A.51, updated 31 April 2017: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/research/Pages/datasets/default.aspxSee also the complete table in note 5.

[2] Figures from the ONS June 2017 public sector employment statistical bulletin:Changes to public sector employment (headcount) by classification, seasonally adjusted (thousands) 

YEAR Central government Local Government Total General Government Total public corporations Total public sector Of which: Civil Service

2010 2819 2908 5727 670 6397 517

2017 3021 2115 5136 304 5440 423

       
Year  Central gov  Local Gov. Total general government  Total public corporations.  Total public sector.  Of which:Civil  Service

[3] GMB, End the Public Sector Pay Pinch – Public Sector Pay and the Forgotten Three Million, 13 September 2017: https://thinkleftdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/2cda8-paypinchreport2-finalspreads.pdf

[4] Changes to public sector demand levels identified by GMB:

 Adults aged over 80* 2,854,694  (2010) , 3,170,900 (2017)  Change. +  11.10%

Monthly A&E attendances** 1,752,381 (2010),  1,924,103 (2017) Change + 9.80%

Pupils in state-funded schools *** 6,929,000 (2010) , 7,490,000 (2017) Change + 8.10%

* Figures for the UK in 2010 and 2016 – the latest year for which figures are available.
** Total attendances in the month of August in England
*** Figures for England

ONS, Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 22 June 2017: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland

NHS England, A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions (timeseries), updated 14 September 2017: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ae-waiting-times-and-activity/ae-attendances-and-emergency-admissions-2017-18/

[5] Public sector employment as a share of the overall workforce – 1937 to 2017 

(data sources given in note 1):
Year.      Public sector share of employment % 


                                                                                     

Overworked Ambulance Staff forced to take 80,000 sick days due to stress.

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GMB INVESTIGATION REVEALS OVERWORKED FRONTLINE AMBULANCE STAFF FORCED TO TAKE 80,000 SICK DAYS DUE TO STRESS
Twelve per cent of all paramedics and ambulance health care assistants in England were sick due to stress or anxiety last year.
GMB, the union for ambulance staff, has revealed 12 per cent of all ambulance staff were forced to take a total of more than 80,000 sick days due to stress last year. A total of 2,468 paramedics and health care assistants – or one in eight workers – had to take time off due to stress. The total number of days lost across England was 81,668 on the financial year 2016/17.
The shocking figures come from a series of Freedom of Information requests sent by GMB to all ten Ambulance Trusts in England. In two of the trusts – East Midlands Ambulance and North East Ambulance – a shocking 23 per cent and 22 per cent of frontline staff took sick days due to stress. [See note 1 for regional breakdown].
GMB is campaigning for the paramedic retirement age to be equalised with other physically demanding front-line emergency service roles, such as police officers and firefighters who are able to retire at 60.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer, said:
“These disturbing figures once again prove what we already know – that our frontline ambulance workers are in the midst a stress and anxiety epidemic.

“They are consistently overworked, underpaid and expected to do incredibly difficult jobs – such as dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster or Manchester bombings – without adequate staff or resources. “It’s no wonder almost 12 per cent of the whole workforce is sick with stress.

“Theresa May needs to stop buying her head in the sand and start listening to front-line ambulance workers.

“Workforce numbers haven’t kept pace with sharply rising demand.

“Forcing ambulance staff to work up to the age of 68 is another major cause of stress. There’s no justification for treating paramedics differently to comparable physically demanding front-line roles.

“The absences caused by staff shortages and overwork are already contributing to potential delays in the attending incidents.

“The absence of staff due to stress will only compound this situation.

“If any patients lose their lives as a result, the blame falls fairly and squarely on an uncaring Tory Government for not dealing with stress and anxiety of our frontline emergency staff.

“It’s time paramedics and other ambulance staff workers got the support they deserve.”

[1] Paramedic and other ambulance staff absences due to stress, anxiety and related conditions in 2016/17
Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 09.37.13

iGMB asked Ambulance Trusts to provide “details of how many of your paramedics and emergency care assistants have taken time of work due to stress in the financial year 2016 – 2017.”
Employment totals for the financial year 2016/17 are taken from the March 2017 ‘Organisation Tables’ of NHS England’s NHS Workforce Statistics – March 2017 publication: http://www.content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB24214