I have been involved with the anti-austerirty movement since 2013. I initially got involved after reading about the ‘bedroom tax’ and discovered that two thirds of people affected were people with disabilities.
I decided it was time to stand and fight against this unfair policy and that’s when I became a supporter of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
One of the questions I frequently get asked nowadays is: ‘What is austerity?’ The dictionary definition is: Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure.
The present government have spun the lie that too much money has been spent on benefits and that we are in so much debt that we must cut back. But the cut backs affect the most vulnerable in our society and the working classes yet The Sunday Times rich list says the richest people in the UK have doubled their wealth since the financial crisis started in 2008 – nearly 7 years ago.
Many economists say the austerity measures are making things worse. We could raise income by clamping down on tax avoidance. If employers paid the living wage we would collect more income tax and reduce our bill for housing benefit and tax credits.
However, the conversation about finances is for another article. I want to look at how the cuts affect us in Swindon.
In January this year, Swindon Council leader David Renard said that £70m must be cut from the council’s budget in the next three years, adding that vital services could be at risk. So what are these vital services? People demonstrated against the closure of the children’s centres. Many people are annoyed that because our leisure services have been leased, they are losing their much prized climbing wall. A headline in our local newspaper recently told the story of an elderly lady who laid in the street for three hours waiting for an ambulance. Four days before, I read that the council are considering charges for certain elements of care which give our elderly and disabled residents the chance of a decent quality of life.
In November 2014 David Renard was one of over 100 local authority leaders who signed an open letter to the government calling for an end to council budget cuts. We should be asking our local council to stand up to the government and say that these cuts are unsustainable and undermine a decent quality of life.
People’s Assembly protest against budget cuts: 8 July
On Wednesday 8 July the Chancellor George Osborne will be announcing the contents of his post-election budget where he will tell us where the £12billion of cuts to welfare will fall. There has been speculation that children and people with disabilities will be worse off. This is following reports that disabled people have already been affected by the austerity cuts more than any other group of people, and that 2.3 million children are living in poverty in the UK.
Swindon People’s Assembly will be demonstrating along with local groups and individuals opposed to the austerity cuts. They will be meeting at the Crumpled Waterfall, Canal Walk, Swindon, in the town centre at 4.30pm.
This is part of a national demonstration across the country. Following the recent success in London, where 250,000 people protested against the cuts, we need to have a strong and organised resistance in Swindon. It is only by standing together that we can stop this government from taking away our public services and the ability to live decent, secure and satisfying lives.
We need to challenge the decisions being made on our behalf. As always, everyone who is concerned how these cuts will affect our future and that of our children and grandchildren is welcome. We will be conjuring up some inventive banners after the cuts are announced. Please come and join us. Bring your banners, your friends and families, and your ideas.”
If demonstrating isn’t for you, there are many other ways to get involved. We are having a public meeting on 17 July at the Gorse Hill Community Centre from 7.30 to 9pm. Discussions on how to organise ourselves and what we want to do next. There will be a panel of speakers on the effects of the cuts and how we can combat them.