Did You Know?

On this page we give examples of how austerity is affecting people both locally and nationally. There are some common myths surrounding austerity which we aim to debunk. Finally, we present some alternatives that would make society fairer for all of us.

Austerity in Yorkshire

  • Dewsbury A&E Threatened with Closure

    The Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust are proposing the following changes to Dewsbury & District Hospital:

    - Closure of the Accident & Emergency department

    - Severe cuts to the Maternity Unit

    - ALL other departments within our hospital reduced to provide only non-urgent medical care, i.e. planned procedures.

    Local people would have to travel as far as Wakefield or Pontefract to access vital health services for ALL urgent medical needs and many non-urgent procedures.

  • Leeds Hospital Staff on Zero Hour Contracts

    Leeds Teaching Hospitals have 456 of it's staff on zero hours contracts.

    "Zero-Hour contracts are a sub-human way to employ our NHS nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants. These staff members live a hand to mouth existence never knowing the contents of their next pay cheque. It places untold power in the hands of their superiors who divvy out hours to their favourites, or those prepared to work under the most trying of circumstances. It is impossible for Zero-Hour workers to accurately calculate their working tax credit entitlement, or indeed to qualify for a mortgage because their last 3 months pay packets bear no relation to their expected earnings. Worst of all, Zero Hour contracts are used to bully and intimidate a workforce into submission as the punishment for non-compliance is poverty." says Dr Éoin Clarke of greenbenchesuk.com

  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service Slashed

    Over the next five years £46 million will be slashed from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. Unqualified staff with only a few weeks of clinical training are already being used to crew ambulances and there is increasing reliance on private ambulance firms.

    When the Unite union, representing 500 skilled ambulance workers, raised the real risks to patient safety that the cuts entail, the Trust responded by de-recognising the union, in a move almost unprecedented in the NHS.

  • Bradford Council to Make Further Cuts of £115 million

    National spending cuts, combined with inflation and increasing demand for services such as social care, mean that the Council is estimating it will have to cut up to £115 million by 2016-17. That's over a quarter of its current budget. This is in addition to the £100 million the Council has already had to cut from its budget in the last three years.

    Bradford is the 26th most deprived authority in England placing it in the top 10% most deprived, and has taken a £147 per head reduction in funding. The least deprived councils have had an average reduction per head of £20.29. (Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010.)

  • Leeds West Foodbank Overwhelmed

    Leeds West Foodbank at St George's Crypt said the number of people using it had more than doubled in the first five months since it opened in March 2103. It has been forced to temporarily close because it does not have enough space to hold the amount of food needed for struggling families.

  • Yorkshire's Poorest Face Council Tax Rises

    Charities across Yorkshire and Humber are predicting a wave of social problems as new analysis reveals how much extra poorest households will have to pay towards council tax. Figures released by Involve Yorkshire & Humber estimate that nearly 240,000 people previously exempt from paying council tax will be face bills of up to £200 - some will pay more.

    The changes follow the Government scrapping its national council tax benefit scheme as part of its welfare reforms. Instead, local councils have been told to design and run their own schemes from April - but with only 90% of the cash previously spent on council tax benefit.

    Mark Gamsu, Trustee at Involve Yorkshire & Humber said: "The clear message from charities across Yorkshire and Humber is that homelessness, use of food banks and debt are already going up. If you take more out of people's pockets it will inevitably get worse."

  • Health & Social Care Cuts in Rural Yorkshire

    Residents of Yorkshire's most remote villages are finding health and social care services increasingly difficult to access as public sector cuts bite, charities say. And it is feared the problem will worsen as changes to funding and commissioning under the biggest-ever shake-up of the NHS take effect.

    Some 3.1 per cent of countryside residents live more than 6km from their nearest practice, compared with 1.6 per cent nationally, the report says. At the same time, some rural surgeries are only open part-time, with others considering cutting hours or merging with market town practices in response to rising operating costs. And the loss of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) - which compensates GPs whose surgeries have a lower footfall - could add to the problem when it is phased out next year.

    Changes to funding and commissioning under last year's Health and Social Care Act are also hitting services provided by the voluntary and community sector. New contracting arrangements, such as payment by results, is more difficult for small organisations working in rural areas, "whose capacity to work in this new environment may be limited", warns Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY).

  • Library Closures in Yorkshire

    According to 'Public Libraries News', since 1st April 2011 the Yorkshire region has seen the closure of:

    Mobile libraries:

    Calderdale - 1
    Sheffield - 3
    North Yorkshire - 10


    Doncaster - 2
    Sheffield - 1
    Wakefield - 4
    Leeds - 13

    And libraries that have changed to volunteer-run/social enterprises:

    Doncaster - 5
    Leeds - 1
    North Yorkshire - 2
    Wakefield - 2
    Bradford - 4

  • Further Slashes to Leeds Council Budget

    An article in the Yorkshire Evening Post on the 8th August 2013 said that Leeds will have to save almost £55m in the coming year in what the council has described as the most "painful" budget in recent times.

    Civic hall bosses revealed eight residential homes and four adult day centres could close, a grant for school uniforms could be scrapped and nursery fees may rise as they try to slash the city's running costs in 2013/14.

    More than 300 public service jobs will also be shed - taking the total of redundancies to 2,000 since 2010.

    Council leader, Coun Keith Wakefield, said "We all know in the last two years we have had to find £145m in savings and this year we thought we would have to find £10m to £15m because we were going to see a 0.8 per cent cut [in government grants]. What we have actually found by slight of hand, smoke and mirrors, is that our grant cut has meant we have had to find £55m. That makes it one of the worst settlements in the country"

Over 550 services in our area are being cut, privatised or reviewed. For a comprehensive list, see the False Economy website.

Austerity Nationwide

  • Fall in Wages

    People fortunate enough to be still in work during the financial year 2010-11 suffered the biggest fall in real wages ever recorded, according to recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    Real wages are still falling, and prices rising fast. Since 2009 the average worker has 'lost' £4,000.

  • ATOS Assessment Failures

    1,300 disabled people have died after being assessed as fit to work by ATOS, the government's back-to-work assessors, according to a speech made in Parliament by Michael Meacher MP in January 2013.

  • Health & Social Care Act Abolished 'Healthcare for all'

    The Health & Social Care Act 2012 abolished the 64-year old duty of government to secure and provide healthcare for all, completely undermining the foundational principle of the NHS.

  • Cuts to the NHS

    NHS finance boss Richard Douglas has stated that there will need to be cuts of £50 billion to the Health Service by 2020 - alongside other facts this amounts to a total loss of 50% of funding.

  • Privatisation of the NHS

    "Privatisation is an inevitable consequence of many of the policies contained in the Health and Social Care Bill." Source: British Medical Journal, 17 May 2011.

  • Bedroom Tax Causes Hardship

    The Bedroom Tax will cut housing benefit for 670,000 households. The average household affected will lose over £700 a year, with disabled people and lone parents hit particularly hard.

  • 6,000 Less NHS Nurses

    NHS cuts have seen 6,000 nursing posts lost, and A&E and maternity services are under threat. Pressure to privatise is fracturing NHS services locally and diverting front line service funding into bureaucracy to support competition.

  • Lone Parents and Pensioners Hit Hardest

    Lone parents and single pensioners - most of whom are women - will suffer the greatest reduction in their living standards to public service cuts. Lone parents will lose services worth 18.5% and female singles pensioners services worth 12% of their incomes.

  • Library & Sure Start Closures

    Centrally-imposed reductions to council funding mean as many as 400 libraries risk closing, as well as other local services from youth centres to playgrounds. Hundreds of Sure Start centres have already gone.

  • Increase in People Seeking Help

    Numbers of unemployed people going to Citizens Advice Bureaus for assistance with hardship payments and sanctions taken out against them went up by 40% year-on-year to this March. Numbers asking for help with sickness and disability benefits went up by 50%. Numbers in trouble with rent arrears with social landlords went up by 88%. Source: Independent, 6 June 2013.

  • No Public Support

    Every opinion poll now shows that over 30% of the population is against all cuts. That's 1 in 3 people who reject government austerity outright.

  • Local Government Cuts

    In response to the government's spending review in June 2013, Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the Local Government information Unit (LgiU) expressed his disappointment at a further 10% reduction in the local government resource budget on top of the 26% reduction already made. "Many in local government will feel this is unfair as they are once again asked to take the biggest cuts in the public sector and they may wonder why the services that councils provide: caring for elderly people, protecting vulnerable children, keeping our streets clean, are so much less important than the services delivered by central government, or protected spending like health or education."

But Aren't The Cuts Necessary?

  • Myth Government Debt is the Highest it's Ever Been

    The UK's government debt is currently around 70% of GDP.

    Government debt never fell below 100% of GDP between 1920 and 1960.

    Around the end of the second world war, reached 250% of GDP. Even with debt this high, the government of the time created the NHS and the welfare state.

  • Myth The UK Debt Crisis is One of the Worst in the World

    IMF data (IMF World Economic Outlook Database, April 2010) shows the UK has the lowest government debt as a proportion of GDP among the G7 countries (the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy and France).

  • Myth Government Debt is Unsustainable

    The sustainability of government debt is not just dictated by its size, but by its make up.

    While countries such as Greece tend to owe money to external financiers, the vast majority of UK debt - about 70-80% - is held within the country.

    And the UK's debt is not so short term. Countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal have average debt maturity rates of between six to eight years, but UK government debt stands out among international comparisons as being much longer term at well over 12 years on average.

  • Myth The Government Shouldn't Get Into Debt Just as Your Own Household Shouldn't

    It can be prudent for households to take on debt - particularly if they are borrowing to pay for something (a house or educational qualification) that might reasonably be expected to improve the household's income and well being in the long run.

    In just the same way it is often sensible for governments to take on debt to pay for investments (such as housing or transport infrastructure) that will make the economy work better and so pay for themselves over the longer term.

    But the public economy is also different from the household economy. What might make sense for a household could, for the government, deepen a recession. When times are hard households tend to tighten their belts - reducing their spending and borrowing. But if everyone does this at the same time, the effect is counterproductive: total demand for goods and services falls, which makes it harder for businesses and individuals to generate an income, and everyone ends up worse off.

    This is exactly what is happening now, which is why it is essential for the government to compensate for households' reluctance to spend and invest.

  • Myth The UK Has a Big Public Sector

    Public spending in the UK is lower as a proportion of the economy than in the likes of France, Italy, Austria and Belgium, as well as the Scandinavian countries (OECD World Factbook 2010).

    And spending on core areas such as health and education remains comparable or low in relation to other OECD (broadly speaking, 'rich') countries.

    For example, the UK spent just 8.4 per cent of its GDP on health in 2007, roughly half that spent in the United States (once the large private sector is taken into account) and well behind Germany, France and most other west European nations.

    On education, the UK again spends less per pupil than most comparable OECD countries.

  • Myth Public Sector Workers are Overpaid

    It is true that very recently average wages in the public sector have moved marginally above those in the private sector. This is mainly because privatisation has pushed many low-paid jobs out to the private sector.

    The trend is not that public sector wages have risen sharply, but that private sector wages have fallen - a characteristic of the economic crisis. If we take a longer view, since the 1990s average public sector pay has not seen significantly more growth than the private sector.

The information in the section above is a shortened version of Red Pepper Magazine's Mythbusters

The Alternative

  • Fairer Tax

    £3.5bn could be raised every year with a permanent tax of 50% on bankers' bonuses higher in excess of £25,000

    £4.5bn could be saved every year by reversing the government's cut in corporation tax to levels lower than the US or any other G7 economy

    £4.7bn could be raised every year by a 50% tax on incomes over £100,000

    £5bn could be raised every year with an Empty Property Tax on vacant dwellings which exacerbate housing shortages and harm neighbourhoods

    £10bn could be raised every year by reforming tax havens and residence rules to reduce tax avoidance by corporations and 'non-domiciled' residents

    £14.9bn could be raised every year by using minimum tax rates to stop reliefs being used to disproportionately subsidise incomes over £100,000

    £20 to 30bn could be raised every year by introducing a Major Financial Transactions Tax (or 'Robin Hood Tax') on UK financial institutions

  • Cutting Real Waste

    £1bn could be saved every year by halving the local government agency bill, as has been achieved by high performing councils

    £1bn could be saved every year by eradicating healthcare acquired infections from the NHS - the extra cleaners would cost half this

    £2.8bn could be saved every year by ending the central government use of private consultants who bring little discernable benefit

    £3bn could be saved in user fees and interest charges every year if PFI schemes were replaced with conventional public procurement

    £6bn could be saved in reduced tax credits and improved tax revenues every year if private companies paid all their staff a living wage

    £15bn could be saved each year if we brought military spending closer to the EU average, reducing overseas commitments and focusing on domestic security

    £76bn could be saved over 40 years by cancelling Trident

The information in the section above is taken from Unison's Alternative Budget - We can afford a fairer society