Friday, 10 July 2015

Budget Day Protest in Bath

In response to George Osbourne's emergency budget on Wednesday, which will see £12bn in welfare cuts and a £20,000 benefit cap (£23,000 in London), Bath Against Cuts organised a demonstration against the elements of the budget that will affect the disabled, the poor, students and the low-waged.

After assembling at the Conservative Party HQ in Bathwick at 5.30pm, demonstrators marched to the council offices at the Guildhall where a meeting between Conservative councillors was being held. Around 100 people representing groups Bath Against Cuts, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts, 38 Degrees Bath and the local Green and Labour parties, as well as other members of the public, attended the demonstration. Speakers, including Labour councillor Joe Rayment and representatives from University of Bath UCU and 38 Degrees, addressed the protest via a megaphone, condemning the budget.

Security guards at the Guildhall were heavy-handed, with one demonstrator pushed down the Guildhall steps and other being shoved around by security.

The demonstration in Bath was just one of many that took place throughout the UK, including protests in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Cornwall, Portsmouth, Nottingham, Birmingham, Northampton, Manchester, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Liverpool, Norwich, Oxford and many other towns and cities.

University of Bath UCU vice-president Chris Roche, who spoke at the demonstration, commented: "It should be no surprise that this Tory government have a programme of taking from the poorest and most vulnerable in society to pay the rich. The question is, what do we do about it? Nothing challenges the power of the ruling class like organised labour, so join a trade union and get active within it. There's too much at stake to sit back and watch the horror show - stand up and be part of the fight back"
38 Degrees Bath commented "
Without a significant and sustained opposition to the worst of the Tory government's policies, the suffering of the most vulnerable in society will deepen and spread, and our welfare system and public services may be damaged beyond repair."

Earlier today, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts released a statement on the budget, which reads:
"George Osbourne’s emergency budget announced a devastating attack on higher education and students in addition to £12 billion of cuts to welfare. 
Here’s our summary of how the budget may affect students :
- Maintenance grants for students with family incomes below £42,000 will be scrapped and replaced by loans from 2016-17. The maximum loan will be £8,200 a year. This will mean that students are forced into even more debt, leaving the poorest students with a debt of £51,000 after 3 years.
- Elite universities that can demonstrate excellent teaching will be allowed to increase tuition fees in line with inflation from 2017-18. In effect this will create a 2-tier higher education system with better teaching only available to those that can afford to pay more.
- George Osbourne’s “Living Wage” of £7.20 an hour is nothing of the sort - it has been condemned by the Living Wage Foundation, who calculate it to be £7.85 an hour (£9.15 for London). George Osbourne’s “Living Wage” is merely a higher minimum wage. Furthermore, it is not applicable to the under-25s. 18-20 year olds will earn £5.30/hr and those ages between 21-25 will get £6.70/hr.
- Under 21s will no longer be entitled to housing benefit. Not everyone has the option of living with their parents, and this will mean many will have to live with abusive parents/guardians or be forced onto the street. This will disproportionately affect those who identify as LGBTQ.
- The youth benefits scheme will be overhauled, with an obligation placed on 18-21 year olds to ‘earn or learn’.
- Cuts to Further Education also look likely to be announced as part of the spending review in autumn.
Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts opposes this vicious attack on higher education, which will mean those from the lowest income families will be left with £51,000 of debt by the end of a 3-year course if they take out the maximum loan - which many will need to in order to survive. Those from wealthier families who can afford to pay for their children to study and live while at university will leave without that debt hanging over their heads. While the maintenance grant system went some way to addressing economic inequality, relieving underprivileged students of some of the debt burden, those from poorer backgrounds will now be put at an immediate disadvantage.
Forcing students into even more debt promotes an individualistic, corporatised vision of higher education. Education must be free - We believe that education is a public good which benefits society. Join us at the national demonstration in November to fight for free education and the introduction of living grants for all in November:"
 Bath Against Cuts has vowed to continue to fight the cuts being implemented by the majority Conservative administration. Get involved by attending their meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at The Ram, Widcombe at 8pm.

Bath Against Cuts website:
Twitter: @bathagainstcuts

If you are among the growing number of people affected or concerned by the impact this government is having on the people, the environment and on international affairs, get involved! Our directory of activist and campaign groups can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. It's particularly interesting to see a protest like this in a city such as Bath, which is well known for being very upper middle class!