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International Socialism, February 1975


Notes of the Month

More Cutbacks in Welfare


From International Socialism, No.75, February 1975, pp.5-6.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Gordon Peters writes:– How is the Labour Government translating its election pledges on developing education, the environment and the social services? A recent circular (DOE 171/74) to local authority chiefs spells out the penny pinching and commercial criteria for survival which now threaten the welfare state.

Following on Healey’s budget,

‘It would be necessary to establish firm control over the demand on resources of the public sector ... so as to ensure that public expenditure programmes did not increase in demand terms by more than 2% per cent on average over the next four years.’

This at an annual inflation rate of at least 20 per cent. Councils have been told they can only spend money on what is ‘absolutely inescapable’. Some measure of this is given in services for the old and sick: ‘neither the expansion of existing concessionary fare schemes nor the introduction of any new schemes will be possible.’ If the old and sick fall by the wayside, what about preventing unemployment? – Public transport savings and profitability criteria make the situation clear:

‘The reduced level of expenditure will affect the direct labour organisations of some authorities where major contracts come to an end in the course of the year or where they have built their direct labour organisations in the expectation of substantial expenditure on new schemes.’

Stagnation and redundancy in basic services is the government’s contribution to business investment. And just to make sure the poorest sections pay doubly: ‘Where fares have not kept pace with costs in recent months the need will be for higher increases still.’

However the cuts are not altogether uniform. No limit is put on police expenditure. A desired increase of 1,000 officers is called for, but if exceeded, specific grants will be paid! What about housing? Already up to 80 per cent of council housing income goes to the city in interest and repayment charges. The saving here is to be on the pitiful standards of upkeep: ‘Where it is not possible to achieve full compensatory savings in management, reductions in repair or maintenance expenditure should be made.’ What about schools? ‘The government accept that there will be no scope for any general improvement in standards of material provision in schools and colleges.’

And for personal social services, essential help to 15 per cent of the population, net nil growth is spelled out in starkest meanness: previous recommended levels must be slashed and ‘indeed some services may have to be provided on a reduced scale.’ Behind the cold print it means less home helps, meals-on-wheels, chronically sick transport etc.

The NHS will be under ‘similarly severe financial restraint’. The means test is to be let loose in unfettered form; each authority is to ‘concentrate on the task of identifying people most in need’ and ‘reconsider any policies under which services or facilities are provided on a uniform basis to broad categories of people without reference to individual need’, and, worse, ‘ensure that staff vacancies are not filled automatically.’ In inner London, councils run at 20-25 per cent constant under-staffing, as it is.

Huge increases in rates are about to come, as well as public utility (gas, etc.) charges. This reduction in basic services and standard of living happens at the same time as the government is increasing Rate Support Grant from 40.5 per cent to 66.5 per cent on average. In an inflationary situation such tinkering only serves to emphasise coldly how the working class must go on subsidising the profiteers.

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