Sunday, 8 August 2010

Women to bear the brunt of savage cuts

Excellent and hard-hitting article in today's Observer, 'Thousands of women fear bleak future as they bear the brunt of public sector cuts', which begins:

'Some of the fear being felt by women who work in the public sector can be seen in Newcastle. It is there that Natasha Nicholson, an outreach worker for Sure Start, jokes that next year she will be able to afford only beans on toast for her young family. "The reality is we might not even be able to pay for the bread," says Nicholson, 25, through a choked laugh.

And in Yorkshire, in Hebden Bridge, Lisa Ansell, a former civil servant and social worker, remembers settling down with a calculator after watching the chancellor, George Osborne, deliver his emergency budget. "I suddenly realised just how much I rely on public services: on subsidised public transport... on Sure Start."

Travel 290 miles south to Worthing, West Sussex, and there is Dee Luxford, 40, with her husband and three children. She and her colleagues in low management and administration roles at HM Revenue & Customs (mainly women) fear for the service they are providing. "If we tighten the belt any more, we are going to suffocate," she says.

All feel nervous about one thing: repeated reports that suggest the government's axe is hovering over them. Some claim that women will shoulder three-quarters of the pain as the most severe austerity measures in a generation start to take their toll.

It is those fears that led the Fawcett Society to launch its unprecedented legal challenge. In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, the women's rights group is seeking a judicial review to declare Osborne's emergency budget unlawful. They will find out if they are successful later this month.'

The rest of the article is well worth reading. I'll just add two comments of my own. Firstly, the budget was generally regressive, not just in the way it impacts disproportionately on women. One economic analysis established that the poorest are hardest hit, while the rich are least affected. The worse off you are to begin with, the more likely you are to suffer.

Secondly, the unfairness and injustice of the government's policies are an important part of why we need to build active resistance to them. The critical question of our time is "Who pays for the crisis?" The Tories are determined to make working class people pay the price, with the most vulnerable as the worst affected. Meanwhile the super-rich, bankers and speculators, i.e. those who generated the crisis in the first place after reaping the rewards of prosperity, get off very lightly.

As the new statement from Tony Benn and 73 other campaigners, calling for a coalition of resistance, puts it:

'The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.

Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors.

We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.'

Email to add your name to support for the statement.


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