There is an alternative to cuts!

Ahead of the Chancellor’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference today, the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, has written to the Chancellor setting out a ten-point alternative to the Coalition Government’s proposals for cuts to public services.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Since 12 May when the Coalition Government took office, the constant mantra emanating from ministers has been that there is no alternative and that cuts are inevitable.

“A relentless propaganda campaign has sought to point the finger of blame for the economic crisis variously at the public sector, the previous Government or both.

“The banks and financial institutions, which caused the crisis in the first place through their greed and recklessness, conveniently are forgotten.

“The global nature of the economic recession that the UK is facing is ignored.

“The fact remains that there are alternatives to the regressive economic strategies being proposed by the Coalition.

“The resistance by the Coalition Government to even consider any possible alternative or even to have a ‘plan B’ seems to demonstrate that their proposals for the economy are not about tackling the deficit but about fulfilling a political agenda to reduce the size of the state and abandoning the historic commitment to the welfare state and public services from which this country has benefited for generations.

“Nevertheless, the NASUWT believes that it has a responsibility to continue to press for alternatives to be considered and has, therefore, put ten points to the Chancellor that we believe will help to tackle the budget deficit while continuing to raise standards of education and build the knowledge and skills young people will need to support economic recovery.”

Below is the text of the letter the NASUWT has sent to the Chancellor.

Dear Chancellor

As General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest union representing teachers and school leaders throughout the UK, I am writing to you to set out the Union’s ten-point plan for tackling the budget deficit while continuing to raise standards in education.

There can be no doubt that investment in education is critical to long-term economic recovery. Education develops the skills that are needed for the UK to compete in the global economy and secures a more cohesive and stable society.

Education ministries around the world are facing up to the challenge identified by UNESCO of a shortage of qualified teachers able to deliver the knowledge and skills that young people will need in the future.

It is in this context that we offer the following points to inform your decisions about the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The NASUWT believes that the following are required:

1. real terms increases, year on year, in per pupil funding;

2. investment in the school building stock to create environments that meet the learning needs of children and young people in the 21st century, as well as providing jobs for construction workers in the private sector and apprenticeship opportunities for young people who are bearing the brunt of unemployment during this recession. The starting point would be to honour, in full, the building programme of hundreds of schools, which has been stopped;

3. a cap on school balances, to prevent schools storing up excessive balances, and redistribution of the £2.3 billion currently sitting in school balances to maximise the use of the funding available;

4. effective measures to maximise value for money and quality across the education system by establishing procurement and commissioning arrangements that end the waste of allowing each of the 22,000 schools in England to be individual spending units;

5. investment in extending access to wider services for children and families to remove barriers to learning and support the most vulnerable by, for example, establishing a national framework for special educational needs;

6. an additional £2 billion over and above current education spending to deliver a pupil premium targeted at the most vulnerable pupils;

7. maintaining public sector jobs, which is the best way to stimulate growth in the private sector. Cuts of only 10% in the public sector will lead to an estimated 200,000 job losses and wipe out £17 billion off spending in the private sector. The up to 40% cuts being considered will have a catastrophic adverse effect on both the public and private sectors;

8. measures to ensure that the private sector provides decent occupational pensions for employees, thus removing the current disproportionate burden placed on every tax payer by the failure of some private sector employers to do this. In addition, there should be an end to the £10 billion per year tax relief burden paid by every tax payer currently to subsidise the top 1% of earners;

9. rigorous collection of the current estimated £25 billion lost to the Treasury each year as a result of tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and large corporations;

10. support, implementation and promotion of the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ of 0.05% on banks and financial transactions, which, alone, would raise sufficient tax revenue to halve the country’s deficit in one year and would obviate the need to make ordinary families and public services pay the price for the recklessness and greed of the banks and bankers that caused this economic crisis.

These proposals offer a viable economic alternative to the root and branch cuts currently being considered. If it is the Coalition Government’s priority to tackle the deficit, rather than to pursue a political agenda to reduce the size of the state and abandoning the historic commitment to the welfare state and public services from which this country has benefited for generations, then the NASUWT believes that you will give serious consideration to these proposals.

Yours sincerely

Chris Keates

General Secretary

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