People Before Profit Cllr Gerry Carroll has hit out at the Assembly for agreeing an austerity budget that is “an attack on ordinary people, on our services, and a handout to big business.”
“The DUP and Sinn Fein have touted this deal as a ‘fresh start’ for people,” said Cllr Carroll. “It is anything but. This is an austerity deal plain and simple.”
“It is just the same old politics that gives handouts to corporations and tells the rest of us to accept austerity. The same rotten politics that brought tens of thousands of public sector workers out on strike earlier this year.”
“I have no doubt that big business will be happy with the deal, with the commitment to cut corporation tax to 12.5% by 2018. This is a move that will serve no one except the wealthy, with no evidence that working class people will benefit as a result.”
“We will be told that this will make our economy ‘competitive’, and ‘harmonise’ the rate with the South. But even the official rate in the Republic disguises the reality of enormous tax subsidies to the corporations there.
In the South, the official rate is 12.5% but the actual tax that is payable by corporations amounts to only 5-6%. The cut in corporation tax in the North will lead to similar tax scams here, and result in a race to the bottom as the South seeks to undercut it. And it is working class people who will lose out as a result.”
“The Agreement warns of ‘challenging cost reduction targets for each of the nine new departments’ and boasts of the cuts it has already made to the public sector, and contains many of the same type of coded neo-liberal language that are embedded in austerity practices all over Europe.
There is a commitment to ‘structural reform’ in health, education, housing and justice. This is simply code for outsourcing and greater use of private capitalists. There is also a call for ‘benchmarking’. This will mean more managerialism, paper work and cuts to front line staff.”
“Thousands of jobs will be lost as a result, our public services will be under strain and the health crisis will continue to worsen. There is no mandate for this programme of cuts. None of the establishment parties had this in their manifesto. In fact, we were all told that they would ‘stop the Tory cuts’.”
“Many low income and vulnerable people will be hit hard by this deal too. Next week the Assembly will agree not only to the Welfare cuts introduced in 2012, but also to the new Welfare cuts currently before Westminster. A benefit cap will be introduced, that will have an adverse effect on children already in poverty.
“As well as this, the new Welfare cuts include cuts to all working age benefits including Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and even Employment and Support Allowance which is a benefit for people who have been found not fit to work. The rate for each of these will be frozen for the next four years, which taking inflation into account, will mean a significant cut, while tenants in social housing will see a 1% year on year cut to their Housing Benefit. This is all on top of the cuts to Tax Credits, over which Stormont has no control.”
“As well as children, disabled people will be the other group to see their incomes slashed under this deal, as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) ends and is replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The Department for Social Development which oversees benefits in the North has admitted that a full 25% of people currently receiving DLA will not receive anything under PIP while a further 33% will receive a reduced award.”
“Despite it’s much talked about opposition to austerity, Sinn Fein has also gone along with the DUP in appointing a supposedly ‘Independent Fiscal Council’. Just how independent this will be can be judged by the fact that its membership must be agreed with the Tory government in Westminster.
In reality, this Fiscal Council will become a neoliberal platform embedded in the Stormont institutions to press for even more ‘reforms’, and an inbuilt institutional get-out clause for implementing cuts in the future. In contrast with this, the Assembly plan to reduce public consultation periods from 12 weeks to 8 weeks on Stormont policy. More say for unelected quangos, less say for the electorate. It beggars belief.”
“It is clear from this deal that Stormont have failed the vast majority of people here. People Before Profit will do all it can to help build an alternative to this failed politics of austerity, and fight to create a consensus for change through grassroots campaigning and people power. It’s the only way forward.”