Today George Osborne stood up in the House of Commons and unveiled his latest budget. Unfortunately, all he had to say was that the pain for ordinary working people will be continued. So, austerity for the majority will continue at a time when tax cuts for the wealthiest will soon kick in. Combined with the pernicious bedroom tax, this budget is the final nail in the coffin of the Government's ludicrous claim that 'we are all in this together.'
And of course, there is great concern amongst Midlands public service workers, their families and local communities at the prospect of promised further cuts to public services. Indeed, there is a danger that further cuts will do irrevocable damage to the economic and social fabric of our communities. It becomes clearer month by month that government spending cuts have choked off economic growth, making it much harder to deliver the economic growth needed to get our economy moving.
Cutting public services has led, and we fear will continue to lead, to a vicious downward spiral of high unemployment, lower tax receipts and years of economic under performance. Indeed, austerity has been shown to fail in it's own terms. The Chancellor has had to continually revise down his growth forecasts, admitting that austerity will continue well into the next Parliament and has overseen a 'double-dip' recession that the trade unions warned his austerity addiction would deliver.
Cuts are the wrong cure. They are making the sick Midlands regional economy worse. We need a change in direction. We need a future that works.
We want to see a rebalanced economy. A rebalanced economy away from the dominance of financial services, an unequal economy and chronic business short-termism. We need investment in skills, a boost to manufacturing and construction through increased infrastructure spending and a modern industrial strategy, the offer of job guarantees, apprenticeships and quality work experience to our young people to tackle the shocking crisis in youth unemployment.
In delivering a future that works, public bodies can and must play a pivotal role. The imaginative use of procurement offers one example where public bodies can take the lead. Procurement should be used to deliver, amongst other things, increased numbers of apprenticeships, support to local businesses and to support wage-led growth by promoting the payment of the living wage throughout local supply chains. What's more, public bodies could and should work with unions on the learning agenda to ensure that their workforce is properly skilled and to demonstrate best practice to the wider economy in delivering on the skills shortage that we all know exists.
What is clear however, is that growth, a new economy and sustainable communities will not be built on the back of diminished public services. Indeed, such a supposition is paradoxical. Strong, vibrant public services must go hand in hand with a vigorous private sector. The two cannot survive without the other. Therefore, not only is it morally wrong to make public servants, and the communities that rely upon those services, pay the price for the mistakes, greed and incompetence of the financiers and bankers who engineered this economic crisis in the first place, it is also economically unsound. We need to maintain and build quality public services, working to make our communities an attractive place to invest, to raise local skill levels and to ensure that the region gets ahead in the economic 'global race'. Quality public services are central to the economic and social development of our localities.
Therefore, despite the pressing challenges, public authorities do have the opportunity of rising to the challenge in rebooting our economy and re-engineering it in a sustainable fashion that delivers growth and opportunities for all of our citizens. The TUC and our affiliate unions are determined to play our part in working with all stakeholders to deliver this outcome. Indeed, it is incumbent upon us all to look at how we can provide hope and opportunity for all in our communities and to build a fairer, strong local and regional economy.
Let us leave outdated ill-conceived and self-defeating austerity behind and instead build a future that works for all.