Don’t cut public services, we need them more than ever
We are starting to hear reports of ‘green shoots’ in the economy: the markets are up; banks are back to record profits; and bonuses are back in the financial sector. Some headlines have even triumphantly proclaimed that the recession is nearly over. But the reality is that the recession is far from over. It is not over for the hundreds of thousands of people who have already lost their jobs, those fearful of being made unemployed, or the millions of young people who can’t find work.
Premature calls to reduce the public sector deficit are threatening to derail efforts to stimulate the economy and address unemployment. The political debate has somehow shifted from how we deal with the economic crisis to how to reduce the debt by cutting public spending and services. We’re told it is the public sector that will have to face the consequence of this recession that originated in bank boardrooms. Those who depend on public services and public service workers didn’t cause this crisis, but they are being made to bear the brunt of the problem.
Slash-and-burn public spending cuts will do irreparable harm to our economy and society. Our public services are necessary to help individuals, communities and businesses out of the recession and prepare for recovery. The public sector supports local economies and provides decent jobs. Cuts and pay freezes will take household demand out of the economy and inhibit recovery.
Attempts to reduce the deficit at this stage of the recession will make it worse. Of course, in the longer term, the deficit must start to come down. The best way to do this is through economic growth and a progressive tax regime that asks those who did well out of the economic boom times to contribute more than those who fared less well.
Our public services have undoubtedly improved over the last decade or so, thanks to extra investment in infrastructure, services and people. We cannot let this progress be damaged by knee-jerk calls for spending cuts, pay freezes and privatisation. Our public services are too important for that.