No to Austerity, Yes to One Million Climate Jobs at Budget Day protest in Leeds

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“The tax and welfare changes between them mean that poorer households have lost quite significantly.” Paul Johnson, Director, Institute of Fiscal Studies. (9/7/15) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2015/jul/09/reaction-summer-budget-conservative-george-osborne-politics-live

“Today’s offering from the Conservative government, unencumbered by its Liberal Democrat former coalition partner, contains little positive news for the UK’s low-carbon transition.” Simon Evans, Carbon Brief (7/7/15) http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/summer-budget-2015-key-climate-and-energy-announcements/

“When is a carbon tax not a carbon tax? When it’s a tax on zero-carbon things. That might defeat its purpose of course, but only if your aim is to incentivise low-carbon energy. If your new aim is to undermine renewables and mount a tax-raid to make yourself look tough then it makes perfect sense.” Alisdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth. (9/7/15) http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/like-making-apple-juice-pay-alcohol-tax-clean-energy-faces-carbon-tax

On the day of the budget, July 8th, we attended Emergency Budget Day protest in Leeds.  In spite of poor weather, there was a good turn-out in the City Square, next to the train station. The event was organised by Leeds TUC and brought together trade unionists, campaigners against the privatisation of the NHS and other anti-austerity campaigners.

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There were speakers from the NUT and the PCS, the latter mentioning the strike at the National Gallery (which has brought together trade unions and climate activists), the Green Party and the People’s Assembly.

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We turned up to oppose the government’s austerity policies- making the most vulnerable pay for the financial crisis. But we also wanted to bring the message of ‘One Million Climate Jobs’, a message of hope for the economy and the planet. You can download the ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ pamphlet at http://www.campaigncc.org/greenjobs.

We weren’t the only ones with this message: Leeds Green Party supporters held up ‘Carbon Cuts not Job Cuts’ banners. There were numerous other memorable placards – ‘OXI  to Osborne’ has become popular, and of course, there were many creative hand-written ones like the one that said, ‘I’m Furious George.’

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The climate dimension of opposing austerity was well expressed this week by Claire James of the Campaign Against Climate Change http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/austerity_is_taking_us_in_the_wrong_direction_in_climate_change_fight

George Osborne described his budget as representing ‘a new settlement’ in British politics, pinching Labour’s policy on the Living Wage and combining it with Conservative welfare cuts http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/09/summer-budget-2015-working-tax-credits-cuts-work-penalty-labour-chris-leslie

Even if what is to be taken with one hand were equal to what is to be given with the other, this would be a significant shift in politics in shrinking the state. However, what is to be given is not equal to what is going to be given away as Paul Johnson, the Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies clearly stated today.

Here are some of his highlights:

“Given the array of benefit cuts it is not surprising that the changes overall are regressive – taking much more from poorer households than richer ones.”

“The key fact is that the increase in the minimum wage simply cannot provide full compensation for the majority of losses that will be experienced by tax credit recipients. That is just arithmetically impossible.”

“Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.”

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2015/jul/09/reaction-summer-budget-conservative-george-osborne-politics-live

So the budget was hard on the people. That’s not all. It was hard on the planet, too. Coming hard on the heels of the government’s announcement that it would be ending subsidies for on-shore wind one year earlier than planned, George Osborne put a £3.9 billion tax on clean power. Renewable energy will no longer be exempt from the Climate Change Levy, even though the Climate Change Levy was designed to encourage business to operate in a more environmentally friendly way. This has paid for the £1.3 billion that the Chancellor gave away in tax breaks to fossil fuel companies in the March budget. This week’s budget built on this by expanding tax relief for oil and gas exploration, estimated to amount to about £10 million.

Finally, Osborne said that he would be reforming vehicle excise duty from 2017. He will scrap the sliding scale for cars, meaning that a 4×4 vehicle will pay that same as a low emissions vehicle.

On July 10th the Treasury killed off a long-standing commitment to make all new homes ‘zero carbon’ from 2016. Ed Davey, Secretary of State at DECC until three months ago said, ‘Cameron may as well hug a coal power station.” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/10/george-osbornes-budget-green-fuel-tax

You can read analysis by Responding to Climate Change here http://www.rtcc.org/2015/07/08/uk-budget-climate-ignored-but-oil-sector-handed-tax-break/

Carbon Brief here http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/summer-budget-2015-key-climate-and-energy-announcements/

Friends of the Earth here http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/like-making-apple-juice-pay-alcohol-tax-clean-energy-faces-carbon-tax

Campaign Against Climate Change here http://www.campaigncc.org/emergencybudget

and the TUC here http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2015/07/budget-aftershock-osbornes-3-9-billion-tax-on-green-power/

At the end of the demonstration we met with climate campaigners in Leeds. There’s some interest in Leeds in doing some sort of regional demonstration- or set of actions- in Yorkshire during the Paris Climate Talks in late November- early November. If this interests you, please email us and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.

The next national anti-austerity demonstration , organised by the People’s Assembly, will be at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday October 4th.

 

 

 

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