Today I attended the STUC public services conference in Glasgow. This was a gathering of trade unions, community and voluntary sector organisations to focus on responses to the public services spending crisis.
There was an excellent analysis of the UK public finances from the STUC’s Stephen Boyd. His key points were that there is no imminent debt crisis because the UK’s stock of debt is lower than the average for G20 nations. The cost of servicing that debt is low and likely to remain so for the medium term. It is therefore not a given that debt must be reduced by cutting public expenditure. A fair taxation system including cutting tax avoidance would achieve the same result. He concluded by saying that slashing public spending is not only unnecessary, but during a fragile economic recovery is simply economic masochism.
I led a roundtable discussion on local government spending. My paper outlined the disconnect between the small cut in Scottish Government allocation to councils and the massive cuts those councils are planning next year. By our current estimate around £306m of cuts and 5,400 jobs. I set out a range of reasons for this disconnect and the measures councils are taking in response to this funding crisis.
The discussion focussed on the need for a united response to the cuts by trade unions and the community. Whilst we may have some tactical disagreements, we have a common vision of the importance of the solidarity society. This is in contrast to the small state advocated by the right, who are using the financial crisis (that they caused) to promote their twisted ideology.
Finally the conference launched the STUC Public Services Charter that sets out our alternative vision of how public services can not only contribute to the economic recovery, but build a better society. There is an alternative!