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When the government announced an additional £7.1 billion for education over three years in September 2019, the Education Policy Institute was sceptical about whether this was enough.
At the time, the government declared that overall school funding was 40% higher per pupil than 20 years previously.
What they failed to acknowledge was that per-pupil funding had fallen by 8% over the previous ten years and local authority spending on children's services had fallen by 20% in the same period.
The proportion of primary schools in deficit rose to nearly 8% in 2018-19 for secondary schools it's nearly 30%.
The spending review promised an additional £2.2 billion for schools. It's welcome news, but won't go far enough.
It won't fundamentally change the number of teaching staff, class sizes, increase resources or improve curriculum. It won't pay for all the modernisation that is required.
Although my college has been modernised over the last few years, students and staff are using outdated and slow laptops.
And although teaching staff asked to be tutors this year, some staff have been given 30-plus students to support.
Education staff are crying out for change. We know instinctively what works and what doesn't.
Yes, we need more funding for education, but we need workers' democratic control and management of schools and colleges alongside it.
Sunak's spending review includes £2.9 billion for a new 'Restart' jobs scheme, for those who have been unemployed for over a year. £1.6 billion is handed to the 'Kickstart' work placement programme; the Tories claim it will create up to 250,000 jobs for under-25s.
Kickstart is dressed up as support for young people, but the reality is that it gifts private employers with cheap state-subsidised labour - with no promise of a job at the end of it.
The Tories say that Kickstart will help with young people's "CV and skills". But help with CVs is not going to have any material impact on the lives of working youth if there aren't enough jobs.
Tory unemployment schemes have not helped young people in the past, and the same bogus schemes are being repeated.
Sunak's budget offers no long-term plan to create useful jobs for the future, such as in the green energy sector.
If the government really wanted to support young people out of the economic crisis, it could bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance (grants to help college students with travel and other costs), scrap tuition fees and debt, and invest in socially useful job creation - with trade union rates of pay, secure and stable hours, free training schemes for skilled work.
Universal Credit consistently does not provide enough to cover the basic cost of living in so many circumstances, including mine.
My and my partner's benefit claim already does not cover basic living costs. We find ourselves regularly falling behind on priority bill payments, leaving us with having to then pay interest on top.
And now there's the threat that the £20 increase will be scrapped in April. Also, hundreds of thousands of households will be left at risk of destitution come Christmas, when their benefits are capped after the 'grace period' implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.
Capitalism is failing millions of working and unemployed people. The benefit system should give people the financial freedom to train or find relevant skilled work without falling into debt and a poorer living situation.
We are not failing, we are being failed.
Sunak's spending review will hit millions of future pensioners' incomes. The switch in how pension inflation is calculated from 2030 will knock off 1% every single year from many company pensions.
When you can no longer earn, you probably depend mainly or wholly on a pension. Any cuts in its real value are unlikely ever to be restored under a business-friendly government.
Since the 1980s, the UK has moved from one of the better pensions in western Europe to near the bottom, particularly for the poorest pensioners.
I worked on London buses. After privatisation in 1994, any new driver or any, like me, who were transferred to a different employer, was no longer entitled to a final-salary pension.
Many pensions are so low, retirement is dependent on state benefits. Like low-wage employers, those who provide poor pensions are effectively being subsidised by the state.
For most people, a decent retirement is another myth peddled by lying capitalist politicians. Pensioners of the world unite with workers and young people.
According to Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak: "Unlike workers in the private sector, who have lost jobs, been furloughed, seen wages cut, and hours reduced, the public sector has not".
But local government services have already been cut to the bone, with government core funding to councils reduced by £16 billion in ten years - a 38% cut.
The County Councils Network predicts a £1.7 billion funding shortfall next year for their 36 councils. 32 are controlled by the Tories. 60% said they would need to reduce frontline services, including social care, and/or introduce charges.
Metropolitan districts - primarily local authorities in cities - are mainly controlled by Labour. They are even harder hit. Government grants previously made up a larger share of their income.
Many are struggling to provide even statutory minimum services. Croydon, a Labour council, has effectively declared itself bankrupt and more could follow (see 'no cuts in Croydon or any other council' at socialistparty.org.uk).
Sunak has given councils more powers to increase council tax, but any rise is just another austerity attack on working-class residents.
Sunak's promised additional £3 billion for Covid-related support may sound like a lot, but falls well short of the £10 billion coronavirus black hole we were warned of. Sunak's initial promise in March 2020 of 'whatever it takes' was an empty one.
Article dated 2 December 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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