TG: Austerity Is Already Here And Causing “Great Pain And Suffering”

Together Gibraltar has said that austerity has hit Gibraltar, in particular the GHA. The party claims that “Medical staff throughout the department are being stretched to the limit, working with inadequate staffing levels due to vacancies not being filled, supply staff not being renewed, and professionals being hired on a precarious basis.”

A statement continued:

“Just over a week ago, in his May Day message, Fabian Picardo stated that the costs of COVID would be fully repaid without bringing any austerity into the economy. He lied.

“This was the latest in a string of lies the CM has been feeding the people of Gibraltar throughout his tenure. In his desire to justify an economic agenda riddled with vanity spending, cronyism and clientelism, he promised the people of Gibraltar that Gibraltar was a Tiger economy with robust public finances and plentiful rainy day funds at our disposal. In March 2020 we were told we had £150m in reserves. Roughly six (pandemic) months later, a UK bailout in the form of a soft loan was necessary to keep Gibraltar afloat.

“Now we are being told that no austerity will be implemented in Gibraltar, when it has become abundantly clear that this is not the case. Austerity is already here, and it must be called out for what it is. In the last year we have seen cuts across most departments, but none quite as visible and painful as within the GHA. Medical staff throughout the department are being stretched to the limit, working with inadequate staffing levels due to vacancies not being filled, supply staff not being renewed, and professionals being hired on a precarious basis. The insinuation that problems of access to appointments in the PCC are linked to staff absenteeism is simply an insult to a workforce that has just carried our community through a pandemic, working tirelessly through terrifying times.

“Whoever in the GSLP government thought that it was a good idea to implement these cuts while dealing with the clinical aftermath of the pandemic should accept their responsibility and resign. These are not cuts of waste or abuse. These are decisions that are costing our citizens pain, sickness, and in some cases potentially death. Together Gibraltar has received representations from severely sick citizens unable to see a doctor at the PCC for weeks; cancer patients whose tests have been delayed, A&E patients not being sent for life-saving surgery on time, disabled, elderly or severely impaired patients left to wait unaided for months for treatments and referrals, and of course, dozens and dozens of citizens who simply cannot get through to the PCC when they need it, after spending hours on the phone.

“When protesters coined the slogan “Austerity kills”, this was exactly what they were referring to.

“The government’s plan to cut waste and abuse in the system amounts to an admission of maladministration. TG agrees that this maladministration exists and that it is costly, and that some measure of reform is necessary. Gibraltar need to streamline most of its public services, modernise processes and improve the management of its resources. The party also believes that only by limiting political interference and introducing real accountability can these changes take place.

“Together Gibraltar believes that asking the relevant authorities to fix the problems in the PCC is just another piecemeal solution for what is a greater, systemic problem. If cuts are necessary due to financial problems, the Government must first acknowledge that this is the case, give a clear and accurate depiction of the state our public finances, and then open up a discussion with opposition parties and social stakeholders. There are numerous systemic issues that must be tackled before implementing cuts of the like we have seen in recent times, and a willingness -at least on the part of TG- for cross party collaboration to tackle these urgent systemic reforms.

“There are costly inefficiencies in our housing system, in a system of taxation that does not require high earners contribute fairly to the common pot, and in a civil service that has been more often than not used as an electoral tool. In order to tackle these difficult reforms in a way that can garner the support and understanding of the Gibraltarian people, Government should commit to full transparency of public finances going forward. Together Gibraltar would also like to see Government setting an example in the reduction of unnecessary spending by cutting the roster of government consultants, as well as the salaries and travel expenses of ministers.

“The party will call out all austerity cuts that impact on fundamental services such as healthcare, and will continue to publicise the real-life consequences of these measures. It will also continue to offer alternatives and its willingness to participate in a cross-party effort to tackle Gibraltar’s systemic problems.

“In the following days, the party will publish a series of anonymous testimonies of constituents explaining their ordeals with a diminished GHA.”