Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hold on tight this could get bumpy...

So the big day is here - George Osborne and his fellow millionaires in government will tell us we've all been spending too much and begin the great welfare slash and burn programme they've been itching to deliver since the election.

490,000 public sector jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector which are reliant on the spending of either public sector organisations or workers, communities facing devastation, services cut - the toll looks grim.

For our members at S4C, BBC, World Service and Monitoring the news is alarming. A last minute deal between BBC management and will see the BBC licence fee frozen at the current level of £145.50 for the next six years, a 16% cut in real terms.

The BBC has also agreed to relieve the Government of funding for a range of services and take on the burden themselves.

Among the extra commitments the BBC has signed up to are to fund the World Service and Welsh-language broadcaster S4C out of the licence fee from 2015. The BBC has also agreed to take over funding of BBC Monitoring.

In addition it will provide £150m a year for the rollout of superfast broadband to rural areas from 2013 and £25m a year for local TV and online content. A further one-off capital investment in local TV and online services of £25m will also come from the licence fee and the BBC will also underwrite the rollout of the digital radio network nationally.

In total, the BBC has committed to spend an extra £340m of licence-fee money to fund all these undertakings by 2014-15. Government expenditure from central taxation will fall by an equivalent amount.

Initial estimates suggest that more than 3500 jobs will be at stake and that some BBC services will have to be cut. As Bectu General Secretary Gerry Morrissey said last night this is the BBC doing the Government's dirty work.

We are led to believe there is no alternative. That's bollocks. The Tax Justice Network and unions have set out a clear alternative. The problem for the Government is that doesn't fit with their ideology.

Yesterday I went to the TUC's rally in Westminster Hall, a good start to the campaign against the cuts. Today I'll be speaking at 3 rallies in Parliament, at Downing Street and at the start of a feeder march in Lincoln Inn's Fields. Saturday there are demonstrations in different parts of the UK. It's gonna be busy.

In between times I'll meet the BBC to hear more details of how the cuts will impact and attend the TUC General Council to discuss the campaign with other unions.

Yesterday we briefed MPs in our Parliamentary Group about these issues and the campaign for Charles Atangana, the Home Office's Rapid Review of Terrorism Powers (which includes Section 44), the threat to council-run information services, the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry in to phone-hacking and the likely bid by Rupert Murdoch to take full control of Sky.

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