In many ways the departure from the government and the DWP of Ian Duncan Smith MP was a triumph for decency. IDS was the architect of many of the extreme policies attacking decent working people. His resignation attack focused on the other principal architect of governmental extremism, George Osborne MP.
With the dust settled we must reflect upon the salient points.
IDS has introduced a plethora of actions which detrimentally impact both in work benefits and out of work benefits for ordinary members of the public of the UK. Sadly the general public are often blissfully unaware of the majority of his damaging actions, such as sanctions for minor indiscretions on attending JobSanctionPlus, unless they are directly in the line of fire. It is only when the media hype up a particular issue that it becomes a national issue, such as the now reviled “bedroom tax”. And yet there are still people totally unengaged and unaware of even the major headline issues.
It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to expect or achieve any headway in explaining that, despite these two cynical exponents of the Austerity agenda and the excuses for the continuous attacks on working people, that there is much more to the Government’s cuts agenda.
There has been, negligible for sure, media coverage of the following. But has the impact of these actions been fully realised by the people who will in the fullness of time be the unfortunate recipients of the impact of these cuts?
Tax office closures
HMRC are to close 170 offices and move them into supposedly 13 regional ‘hubs’. Having reduced the HMRC tax collecting complement of staff from 115,000 to 56,000 it is clear why tax revenues for the government are increasingly failing to address the tax avoidance and tax evasion issues. The remaining staff now having the same level of work coming in prior to the cuts. In simplistic terms each remaining member of staff now has to conduct twice the workload expectation for no salary uplift. And there are the 56,000 families dreams, expectations and basic family life provisions annihilated with the staffing reductions.
Court closures will now see a further cut in an ongoing attack on access to justice for working people. In 2010 the UK had 660 courts for both civil and criminal issues. Now at the beginning of 2016 the next (and not final…) phase of court closures will leave court provision for the UK at 350 courts. A senior MoJ official stated recently that the government objective is to reduce staffing in MoJ HMCTS by 6,000 staff by the end of the term of this government. And once again the remaining staff will be expected to absorb the remaining levels of work coming in and consequently be conducting probably two person workload for a single salary unimproved over 6 years !!
These are not cuts; this is a government deploying the nuclear option of destroying in perpetuity all that stands before it. It is a direct attack on democracy. If you no longer have an appropriate venue for dispute resolution where all sides respect the independent decision and outcome of any hearing how will citizens resolve their issues, will we each have a different view of how that will end, but the consistent perception is that it will not be good, fair or just!!
DWP Office closures
DWP office closures in the last parliament were the equivalent of 1 in every 5 offices and now a further 20% reduction in this parliament. In total a closure programme which will, by its end, see the department shrunk by 40%. If you reduce the staff levels by less than this this will still account for a huge number of staff in one of the largest government departments. It is fair to assume that once again staff will be required to assume workload responsibilities way in excess of any salary increase. This may result in the IDS sanction happy department offering sanctions to its staff whilst the reductions may result in fewer staff available to sanction its ‘customers’.
The BIS Relocation
More than a decade ago government policy was to move some departmental headquarters from London to other centres in the UK, such as BiS to Sheffield. Staff were invite to uproot their families and “follow their job”. And now in a masterstroke of joined up governmental thinking it is announced that these departments will be closed and their functions returned to London. Even if the staff were invited to once again (and they haven’t !) “follow their job” they would not have the means to do so. Their salaries have not increased and moving to London with London property costs for rental or purchase are simply prohibitive.
And as for the Northern Powerhouse, just as this figment of a mindless imagination unfolds the Government determines that the department for business move back to London. Clearly there is no bigger official hoax than this cheap PR stunt backed up by more closures.
If you want to see any progressive government policies it may be as well to think back the 1970s. There is nothing on offer here in our current Government that is remotely progressive or for the good of the country, despite their rhetoric. EVERY government department is subject to one form of cut or another and once again the staff are bearing the brunt of this mindless vandalism. The overarching strategy appears to be aiming for the Singapore model where the hugely wealthy acquire further huge wedges of cash, the middle classes are negligible and the majority of the population scratch out her meagre living as deemed ‘acceptable’ to the hugely wealthy.
If you do not want this future you may have to consider getting active and voting for a change to enable both your Trades Union and your political leaders to actually lead us to a future.