Britain’s winter of discontent is the inevitable result of austerity | Daily News Byte

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When Liz Truss and Quasi Kwarteng’s infamous “mini” budget sent Britain’s finances into turmoil in September, it was hailed as a stark example of putting ideology over evidence. Both of its architects left within weeks, and the disciplined Conservative Party announced a series of U-turns. The damage was done, but it was relatively short-lived.

This makes it all the more tragic that the previous disastrous policy did not meet the same timely fate. The effects of the Conservative austerity program during the Cameron-Osborne years have been steadily accumulating over the past decade, but this winter it has become a trickle.

The chart shows that the Tories' austerity program has led to deep and permanent cuts in public spending, particularly investment, reducing Britain's state capacity.

If you are lucky, you can cut back on the investment for a few years. Everything becomes a little more delicate, but as long as there are no nasty external shocks, you can avoid disaster. The effects of cuts to public services are a bit harder to hide, but you can get away with gradual deterioration.

The problem is, when you suffer a pandemic, an energy crisis, and an act of overall economic self-sabotage in short order, your existing brittle and tired public services will cease to exist where a healthy system would have taken the strain.

Twelve years on from the start of austerity, the data paint a grim picture, from stagnant wages and stagnant productivity to rising chronic illness and the health service on its knees.

The chart shows that UK real wages are lower today than they were 18 years ago, and have fared worse than any peer nation.

Real wages in the UK are below where they were 18 years ago. Life expectancy has stagnated, Britain is below most other developed countries, and avoidable mortality – premature deaths that should not have happened with timely and effective healthcare – is rising to the highest level among its peers, except for the US, whose opioid crisis makes it unrivaled. is .

Yes, the entire NHS budget was protected, but the ringfencing of health spending hides disastrous mistakes beneath the surface.

With a rapidly aging and sick population, simply maintaining costs was insufficient. Britain has pulled away from its peers on overall health spending over the past decade, with investment in healthcare infrastructure halving between 2010 and 2013. This left the NHS with less spare capacity than other developed countries when the pandemic hit. This proved a huge drag on productivity, leaving UK health workers gasping for lack of beds and equipment.

The chart shows the effects of austerity have been severe, from ballooning waiting lists and deteriorating A&E operations, to rising avoidable deaths and stalling life expectancy.

The implicit assumption that only spending that protects and promotes the health of the population falls into the NHS budget has also proven to be a false economy. Budget cuts to housing and communities have left Britain’s homes in such dire straits that they are now causing child deaths.

Lives lost, earnings lost, years lost. Unlike truesonomics, sobriety is a slow and silent killer. For the best part of twelve years, conservatives sowed the seeds. This year they are harvesting.

john.burn-murdoch@ft.com, @jburnmurdoch



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