Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The "agony" of the well-heeled?

Gordon Brown, whom the Daily Mail would have us believe has declared "class war" on the rich, has announced that he will curb a "culture of excess" in senior public sector pay and bonuses. According to the Independent, the move will "cut another £3 billion from the cost of running Government." As such, "many salaries above £150,000 and £50,000-plus bonuses would in future require ministerial approval as part of an efficiency drive."

On the surface, this is an excellent idea. As Brown points out, whilst "excellence at the front line" of public services should be the priority, "some senior pay and perks packages have lost sight of this goal and lost touch with the reality of people's lives." Specifically, as with all lines of work, those in middle-to-senior management who earn hundreds of thousands of pounds for doing nothing whilst those doing all the real work struggle to get by.

However, examining the issue in-depth offers a quite different scenario. As in July, when Alistair Darling warned public sevants that "the cold blast of recession is going to hit their pay packets," it appears that the burden of these "curbs" will fall on the workers, not the bosses.

With the General Election campaign looming for the new year, the different parties are battling against one another to prove who can be the "toughest" on the public sector. The Liberal Democrats promise that they will "scrap entire departments," thus making Government "cheaper and more accountable" by erasing the livelihoods of thousands of working class people. The Tories top this by not only erasing jobs but also by massively increasing the workloads of those left behind, achieving "more with less" through "a continuous efficiency drive." Because "top civil servants will have their pay linked to delivery of efficiency savings," this paves the way for the private sector scenario of worthless fat cats raking in cash by cutting jobs and depriving workers of a dignified job at a living wage.

Gordon Brown, never one to be left in the cold when there's poor people to attack, has promised an even more devestating upheaval. When "the great majority of our large transactional services ... become online only," the promised savings are in the "billions" with untold numbers of workers conveniently made redundant. Brown is "not putting a figure on that today," but we do know that at least 15,000 jobs will be "relocated" from London and the South East.

As Public and commercial Services Union (PCS) General Secretary Mark Serwotka points out;
What we are seeing is the continuation of a bidding war on who can cut the most with little thought for the impact on public services. Added to which you have the government preparing for the sale of the century with a fire sale of key assets and agencies.

Cutting arms-length bodies may sound all well and good, but let's not forget that these are organisations that the government themselves set up and include organisations such as Jobcentre Plus. The government has to ask itself what it is going to stop doing.

While not against relocation in principle, they should not be forced, hit the black and minority ethnic community disproportionately or be based on flimsy business plans which offer no value to the taxpayer.
The mainstream media was quick to hype up Labour's supposed return to "class war" tactics. Indeed, one of the main mechanisms of the media is to pump out propaganda decrying even the slightest perceived attack on privilege. Hence yesterday's Independent also tells us that "Britain's middle classes and the rich will face the biggest squeeze on their living standards in decades." We are supposed to lament at this "most vicious assault on their living standards in three decades," through "swingeing income tax and national insurance hikes," as it has "see[n] their spending power cut by as much as 9 per cent." That's £5,000, which ordinary people on basic wages will never have spare after the bills have gone out, let alone be able to utilise as "spending power."

Still, we should pity them as "reversing cuts in inheritance tax and taxing bankers' bonuses will only add to the agony of the well-heeled." Poor sods. I'm sure the former Corus steelworkers now taking courses on coping with redundancy will be eager to do a whip-round for them. At least, that is what the government seems to believe as it attacks the poor in order to shore up the privileged.