Reduce spending and UK will suffer double-dip recession, unions warn

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Spending cuts made by the next Government will lead to a "double dip" recession and risk provoking the return of major social unrest in Britain's main cities, union leaders have warned.

Both Labour and the Tories have admitted that tough choices will have to be made about future spending as a result of the perilous state of the public finances. But speaking on the eve of the TUC Congress in Liverpool, union bosses said that cutting spending would kill off any recovery and warned of a return of the riots seen after previous booms in unemployment.

Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC, said that unemployment could rocket beyond the four million mark if cuts were made in public services, leading to a "double quick, double dip" recession. "Last time we suffered slash and burn economics we had riots on the streets here in Liverpool," he said. "It would take us back to the days of a deep north south divide and once again hollow out whole areas of the economy.

"Prolonged mass unemployment would not just do economic damage, but have terrible social effects. I don't think Britain is broken, but this would be one way to break it." He added that reducing the public sector would be "astonishing" and an act of "pure economic masochism". He sent a warning to David Cameron that unions would not shrink from industrial action should the Tories go ahead with deep cuts to public services.

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of one of the UK's largest unions, Unison, said that the next Government had to "learn the lessons from history" to avoid the unrest caused by spending cuts. "We had it in the 1920s with the General Strike, and in the 1950s and 1960s. That is something we have got to be wary of. At the extreme, it could lead to major problems."

Mark Serwotka, the head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), also warned of social problems if the public sector were targeted and called on unions to take united action.