22 January 2011

The ten worst (and five best) things the coalition have done...so far.

Most of the 'worst' things listed below were actually denied by the Tories before the election with the wonderfully worthless phrase 'we have no plans to do this'.


1. Scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance. - This is a particularly mean thing the Tories and Lib Dems have done. They talk in vague terms about 'targeting' help to the 'poorest' but there is no sign of that. The scrapping of this £30 a week to the poorest students studying their A'levels also makes little economic sense - see Chris Dillow's stumbling and mumbling blog. EMA has been somewhat overshadowed by the less serious student fees increase (which actually is a better deal than students currently get).

2. Increasing VAT to 20%. I don't care how much the Tories and Lib Dems claim this is 'progressive' and 'fair', the fact is this will increase the tax burden on the poorest the most. It is a terrible tax that the Tories always put up, remember Thatcher and Major who put it up from 7% to 17.5% and extended it to utility bills. At a time when inflation is a problem, the VAT increase will add to inflationary pressures on the Bank of England to put up interest rates. Remember that rich people LOVE higher interest rates - the debt burden will increase and debt is basically a way of redistributing money from poor to rich.

3. Scrapping meaningful statistics collection To make sure we lefties cannot back up our claims that Tory medicine is completely regressive, inequality will be measured differently, crime figures will exclude anti-social behaviour etc etc. The usual Tory tricks used in the 80s and 90s basically.

4. 80% cut to university funding This is a far bigger issues than fees, pity the media don't cover it.

5. Massive cuts in public transport grants leading to 20% increase in bus and rail fares. And they have the cheek to tell those forced out of their homes by benefit cuts (see 6) to catch the less frequent and more unreliable bus to work that is now far more expensive thanks to the Tories and Lib Dems. Who relies on public transport the most? You guessed it, the poorest. This also makes a mockery of their claim to be green.

6. Housing benefit cuts Once again the Tory media machine managed to focus everyone's attention on the attention grabbing 2% of the housing benefit budget that goes to those in inner London where rents are extortionate and people pay over 20k a year for a roof over their head. The real headlines should have been the reduction in the LHA from the average rent to the bottom third of rents EVERYWHERE which will mean the poor having to leave London and most other cities and towns and commute huge distances to find work on the now uselessly underfunded and expensive buses (see 5).

7. Targeting the £83bn of national cuts at local government in a shameless and cowardly attempt to shift the blame The Tories and Lib Dems claim they are enacting progressive 'cuts' to services. Pleeeaase! They talk of 'localism' and empowerment, of democracy. Yet what is more regressive than targeting urban poorer councils with the largest cuts while protecting wealthier rural areas? What is more undemocratic than reducing local authority grants and stopping councils from raising revenue in other ways by freezing council tax and restricting car parking charges. While charges on the elderly, disabled and other service users rocket (that's if the service hasn't disappeared altogether). Not to mention their reduction in benefits in line with a CPI rather than the more appropriate RPI. Inflation for the poorest is higher because they spend more on fuel and food where prices are rocketing at 10% or more. During the election the Tories had no plans to cut benefits, raise VAT and cuts would not affect the frontline so they said. Now millions will be put on the dole by the cuts as efficiency apparently means more potholes and less libraries, taking £30 a week off the poorest teenagers in education, cutting child benefit and employing less police, less teachers, doctors and nurses, street cleaners and social workers.

8. Opening the NHS up to even more greedy accountants and lawyers GPs are supposedly paid to help patients not administrate and negotiate EU competition laws. Postcode lottery they say, absolute chaos and US corporate takeover of the NHS more like, resulting in more waste of public money. This really is very scary.

9. Reneging on curtailing excessive bankers bonuses As if we expected anything else really.

10. Avoiding their taxes? Inheritance tax trusts, offshore interests, multi-millionaires claiming 20k a year off the taxpayer to pay their mortgage while lecturing those claiming pitiful subsistence level benefits. And these shadow cabinet millionaires lecture us all about 'we are all in this together' yet we know we can't trust these guys to collect taxes off the rich and powerful and big corporations that pay for politicians holidays and helicopters and election campaigns. Direct action is the only answer and changing the electoral system they defend so robustly because it allows them to fiddle boundaries in their favour - a far more powerful seat winner than winning more votes.

And the far less significant...


1. Raising the income tax allowance Helpful but when the tax system is so vastly skewed against the poorest, it is pissing in the ocean and less progressive than the VAT increase was regressive.

2. Allowing councils to use a small amount of housing revenue to build social housing and allowing councils to borrow to build. Limited but better than nothing.

3. Cutting police numbers There really is little evidence that police are cost effective in reducing crime although I understand why people might think this and they certainly don't support these cuts - this is brave for a Tory led government and Ken Clarke though the cuts are small compared to cuts to local government and benefits.

4. Ken Clarke making the argument that prison does not work Reducing prison numbers will be an achievement of this government if they do it. Prisons are universities of crime. Shamefully Labour backed the tabloid campaign against this forcing Cameron to u-turn a bit.

5. Cutting defence Once again, defence got off lightly compared to other cuts - you basically could cut the entire 'defence' budget and spend it elsewhere, the country would benefit massively. Good to see the Tories willing to do something though - maybe the Lib Dems have had an influence afterall.

There you have it, fancy adding to either list in the comments?


  1. You missed another good thing they have done, which is to block any further airport expansion and in particular cancel 3rd Heathrow runway. Both coalition parties promised this and they seem to be sticking to it.

  2. Surprised you have not included the constitutional and planned voting reforms as part of the good things list. Or are you only including completed things? As a Lib Dem who has always been obsessed with the famed "Charter 88" issues, I am greatly excited by the planned reforms in these areas and am holding my nose about the spending cuts, which I deplore, because the referendum and fixed term parliaments mean more to me because I have been debating the need for them for 40 years, and a chnace wont come round again in my lifetime. I am taking stick from fellow left of centre activists for supporting the coalition but it's mainly for the planned reforms to governamce & parliament that I support them. I am surprised you did not list abolishing the ID Cards plan and cancelling the third runway and proceeding with Crossrail, Thameslink and essential railway electrification. These are all very exciting and could have been cancelled. So your positives list seems half complete to me!! Chris Bowden-Smith. Age 59.