Ohly lets ?jobs budget? pass

The government could breath a sigh of relief on Monday night, as the Left Party finally agreed to support finance minister Pär Nuder’s spring budget, which places tackling unemployment at its heart. Yet the Moderates have attacked the measures, saying that they will simply hide the true number of jobless.

The agreement with the Left Party came after leader Lars Ohly agreed to compromise on some of his key demands. Ohly had wanted specific promises of extra money for local authorities. In the end he was forced to settle for a general commitment from the Social Democrats to make an unspecified amount of money available in the autumn.

“We would have liked to see a concrete amount now, but the opposition from the Social Democrats and the Greens was complete, which surprised us,” said Ohly.

Ohly went on to make it clear that he remains unhappy about the state of local authority finances. He said that he was particularly concerned about low wage levels for some council workers and the big differences between pay for men and women.

“On paper, it looks like local authorities are in a positive [financial] situation – but this picture is misleading,” said Ohly. He said that councils’ budgets were only healthy thanks to recent cutbacks, and that more money would be needed to raise wages and improve services.

The centre-right opposition also attacked the government’s failure to make firm commitments to local government spending.

“All the promises of more money to local authorities were nothing more than empty words,” said Mikael Oldenberg, the Moderate Party’s spokesman on the economy.

Most of the other features of the budget had been trailed by the government in the past few weeks and months. Tackling unemployment is a key theme, with measures including tax breaks for companies giving jobs to the long-term unemployed, which the government says will cost 1 billion kronor in 2005.

The Moderate Party slammed the new schemes, saying they were simply a way of hiding the true level of unemployment.

“The left-wing cartel is confirming its position as the benefits party in Swedish politics,” said Oldenberg, who also asked what had happened to the Social Democrats’ promised tax rises.

“They owe us an answer,” he said.