Union leaders slam Osborne over 'wildly out of touch' Autumn Statement


Union leaders accused the Chancellor today of being “wildly out of touch” with the lives of millions of people and of refusing to change unpopular policies.

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said George Osborne's plans were "miles off course".

He added: "Two years ago we said austerity wouldn't work and we were right. It didn't work then and it won't work now, but the Chancellor is refusing to change track, presenting a smoke-and-mirrors statement that will do nothing to boost our ailing economy.

"Such a toxic combination of arrogance and economic illiteracy would be laughable if it wasn't so serious, if real people's lives and communities weren't being torn apart by this Government's failed policies."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "Osborne is in denial that the economy is making progress and that the cuts are hitting people in a fair way.

"He says that austerity will last until 2018 but he is likely to be sacked by the electorate well before then for stalling the recovery he inherited."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "Today's statement is more proof that the Chancellor neither knows nor cares about what ordinary working people in this country are going through.

"The austerity agenda means that families across the country have even less to spend on everyday essentials, while tax winners at the top have more. Raising personal tax allowances is small beer for families facing rising food and energy bills."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "When you are self-harming you should stop, not look for better sticking plasters.

"With the economy still scraping along the bottom, unemployment set to rise and the Chancellor missing his own debt target, we need a fundamental change in direction, not more muddling through.

"Cuts, austerity and squeezed living standards stretch seemingly without end into the future. What is missing today is any vision of a future economy that can deliver decent jobs and living standards - it's pain without purpose."

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association said: "Local government has borne the brunt of cuts to public spending so far and, while it is pleasing our campaigning has resulted in councils being protected from additional cuts next year, the extra 2% cut in 2014/15 is unsustainable.

"Cutting council funding to help pay for nationally-administered economic stimulus programmes would be bad for local frontline services and makes no sense economically. Local government is one of the few parts of the public sector which actively promotes economic growth. It does that in every part of the country in a way which cannot be matched by Whitehall. The Government must enable that role rather than implement fresh cuts which will force councils to further wind down the essential support they can provide to local economic growth. A blinkered, centralist approach will undermine national economic prosperity, as the Government's own reports make clear."

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: "The Chancellor's statement does not give low income working parents confidence that he's on their side.

"New legislation will have to be introduced because he wants to break the connection between inflation and benefits.

"With inflation at 2.7%, his proposed one per cent increase in benefits will hit many working parents in receipt of tax credits and child benefit hard, when they are already struggling with pay freezes and rising costs, including childcare."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Less than two weeks ago, the Prime Minister declared that Britain was in the midst of an 'economic war'. Unfortunately, the measures set out in the Government's Autumn Statement fail to match the urgency of that declaration.

"Three words need to be on every minister's lips - urgency, scale, and delivery. The Chancellor has taken a number of very positive steps, despite being constrained by politics, budgets, and Whitehall inertia.

"Business will cheer his announcement of major new capital allowances to encourage investment by small and medium-sized companies, as well as his move to shift money from current spending towards the infrastructure needed for growth."