Britain: Protests as poor hit with bank bailout bill

Students protest austerity cuts in Britain, Downing St, October 20.

On October 20, thousands of students and workers marched on Downing Street in London to protest against the savage cuts in social spending announced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, reported that day.

The protest was organised by the Coalition of Resistance, Camden Trades Council and the People’s Charter.

The cuts in public spending announced by British chancellor George Osborne that day amount to 81 billion pounds.

It follows a government bailout of banks that the Bank of England (BoE) estimated totalled 1.3 trillion pounds, an October 21 article by James Meadway said.

The October 20 Morning Star said: “Protesters could be heard for miles, chanting: ‘Vive la France’, in solidarity with striking French workers who are opposing the EU-wide austerity cuts.”

The Morning Star said National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport general secretary Bob Crow and his National Union of Journalist counterpart Jeremy Dear criticised Britain’s Trade Union Congress for failing to organise the protest.

Both urged trade unions to co-ordinate industrial action to oppose the cutbacks.

Crow said the cuts were similar to “somebody stealing your credit card, running up a huge bill and then asking you to pay for it”.

Black Activists Against the Cuts spokesperson Zita Holbourne pointed out the cuts would have a disproportionate effect on black people in Britain, the Morning Star said.

“These cuts will have huge impact on black women and will drive more of us into poverty”, said Holbourne.

Four people were arrested after protesters broke into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Morning Star said.

Other protests took place across Britain the same day, with marches in Newcastle, Sheffield, Barnsley, Cambridge, Luton, Southampton and Bolton, an October 21 Morning Star article said.

“Public-sector unions also protested in Cardiff, while students at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities in Scotland also held demonstrations”, the article said.

“In Doncaster a march was led by a coffin and hearse to symbolise the death of public services.”

More national protests were planned for October 23.

The Morning Star said, in an attempt by the government to convince the public it was spreading the costs of cuts driven by the huge bank bailout, banks would be hit with a levy of 0.01%.

This is expected to generate 2.5 billion pounds a year, barely a seventh of the 18 billion pounds being directly cut from the welfare budget, the article said.

The Morning Star said bonuses to bank executives were predicted to exceed 7 billion pounds this year.

Unite union joint general secretary Tony Woodley, who has announced a national campaign against the cuts, said that the levy was “another slap in the face for working people, who will pay most heavily in the cuts”.

Woodley said the real figure of the total cuts was a “colossal” 145 billion pounds, the Morning Star reported..

Meadway detailed the cuts in his article: “Welfare payments are being slashed by an extra £7bn. Housing benefit is being chopped.

“Social house-building will slow to a virtual standstill, and exorbitant ‘market rents’ charged to tenants.

“Council Tax benefit will be cut 10 per cent. A family depending on benefits will lose an average of £1,000 a year.1.5m children will miss out on child benefits …

“The Education Maintenance Allowance, £30 a week paid to the poorest 16 year olds to help with the costs of attending college, has been axed.

“The university system will be hammered by £4.3bn cuts, backed up by the introduction of unlimited fees.

“Local councils will see their budgets fall over 7 per cent every year, for four years. Local authority care for the impoverished elderly is facing 30 per cent cuts.

“The replacement of Incapacity Benefit, the Employment and Support Allowance, will only be paid for a year. Disability Living Allowance will be cut for those in care.

“Women will suffer disproportionately. A House of Commons audit of June’s emergency budget found 70 per cent of the cuts would be borne by women. Over the next ten years, men’s retirement age will rise one year — women’s by six years.”

Even pro-capitalist economists have warned such extreme cuts could drive Britain into a deep recession. Professor David Blanchflower described the cuts as the “greatest error seen in our lifetime”, the Morning Star said.

Blanchflower, a highly respected economist holding posts at the Stirling, Bonn, Munich and Dartmouth universities and who was awarded a CBE last year for his services to the BoE, said: “There’s no example in history where such a thing as this has ever worked. It generates double dip recession.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stigltz said in an October 19 Guardian opinion piece that the severe austerity measures were a high-risk economic gamble unlikely to pay off.

“Austerity”, Stigltz said, “converts downturns into recessions, recessions into depressions”.