In fact there are very important differences between the Labour and Tory spending plans. The Autumn Statement made it clear that the Tories plan to reduce public services to a level not seen since the 1930’s. As the UK government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) put it;
"Between 2009-10 and 2019-20, spending on public services, administration and grants by central government is projected to fall from 21.2 per cent to 12.6 per cent of GDP and from £5,650 to £3,880 per head in 2014-15 prices. Around 40 per cent of these cuts would have been delivered during this Parliament, with around 60 per cent to come during the next.”
While Labour’s spending plans are not all the trade unions might wish them to be, they are planning a different approach.
As the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis of the political parties plans puts it, Labour’s looser fiscal policy allows them to “spend more or tax less to the tune of around £43bn in 2019-20 and still remain on course (just) to achieve their targets”. That is before any additional taxation, such as the planned ‘Mansion tax’ or an increase to the top rate of income tax.
While Labour's messaging on austerity can be confused by the perceived need to balance economic credibility with attacking Tory austerity - union members should not be misled into thinking there is no difference between the parties. £43n at UK level is around £4bn of a difference to the Scottish budget. That really does matter!