A New Statesman 'Book of the Year' 2014


A Leap Economics 'Book of the Year' 2014


Featured by Armando Iannucci in The Evening Standard


Readers & WRITERS' Book of the Year 2014 - The Guardian


"This book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the great human cost of austerity. Read it, get angry and get active."

Josie Long, writer, activist and comedian,

"Mary O'Hara's book strips away the rhetoric to reveal the truth. The United Kingdom is not the land of fairness, it's a fearful place, where the heaviest burdens fall on the weakest."

Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform


"Travelling around the country interviewing people allowed Mary O’Hara to harness first-hand accounts of the fallout of cuts in the UK. Austerity Bites brings together many poignant stories of people affected by the first impact of the coalition government's choice to impose social austerity on Britain."

Danny Dorling, University of Oxford


“Mary O'Hara’s mission is to give voice to those experiencing hardship or injustice who are rarely heard. She travelled the UK for a year to bear witness to the effects of Austerity in Britain and we should all pay attention to the result.”

Janine Gibson, Editor in Chief, Guardian US


"In an age of 24 hour news, we seem to have less actual news not more. While gossip is spread thickly across the hours, stories of huge changes in our society, that see millions affected, are lucky to dawdle in the margins. The tales of austerity Britain have been shamefully underrepresented, those of us fortunate enough to be unaffected so far may believe everything is as normal. Fortunately, Mary O’ Hara does not allow us such illusory comfort with a book of in-depth research, disconcerting statistics and copious interviews that reveal a new reality of a society seemingly moving away from civilisation. An uncomfortable but necessary read"

Robin Ince, Comedian and Writer


Austerity Bites - REVIEW on launch day 29th May 2014


Reviewer: Simon Duffy - Centre for Welfare Reform

I was honoured to read a draft of this book and I am so pleased to see it out in print. Mary O’Hara has done an essential job: she has documented the injustice and the craziness of the UK Government’s deceitful ‘Austerity’ programme. To anyone who wants to understand the breadth and depth of the cuts and the non-reforms which the UK Government is imposing on us, then this is the best possible primer.

The book does three essential things. First it tells human stories - stripping away the vicious rhetoric of skiving, scrounging and defrauding, in which British politics and the media is now mired. What is revealed are human voices, people struggling to survive, mostly refusing to give in, but often driven to tears, despair or worse.

Second it provides useful facts, figures and good summaries of the inane and poorly thought-through policies that are now being imposed (although not without their own multiple failures and delays). This is a vital task, because one of the reasons that the Government has been so successful in creating such radical change is that so many policies are changing at once. Each policy is protected by its own initially plausible rationale and supported by teams of civil servants and political advisors. Few can keep up with the growing madness of it all.

For instance, it takes real effort to get to the reality behind the 'Work' Programme, which wastes money, doesn’t help people find work yet which the Government claims is funded using ‘Payments by Results'. So many commentators are taken in by this nonsense and don’t seem to spend the necessary time examining what is really going on. Mary O’Hara helps us get inside a whole range of these crazy schemes. The fact that the book is beautifully referenced (thankfully with footnotes - not in-text citations) is particularly welcome.

Third the book gives structure to the madness. There are so many different kinds of injustice that it's hard to know where to begin. But the chapter structure offers a well judged and coherent framework for describing the mess:

  1. Hunger - how one of the richest nations on the planet is failing to meet its people’s most basic needs
  2. Poverty - how the failures of banks and borrowers are being paid for by those who can't afford to borrow
  3. Debt - how mortgages are subsidised while the poor are forced into the hands of loan sharks
  4. Worklessness - how those without work have stigma, shame and sanctions added to their poverty 
  5. Insecurity - how those who get work are paid less, for fewer hours, less security and still need benefits 
  6. Disability - how those who should be protected first have been targeted most heavily for cuts
  7. Harm - how the price of all this injustice is paid for in illness, fear, depression and unnecessary deaths

So, if this is our primer, what then is next?

Personally I agree with Kate Belgrave, a journalist working with the False Economy project who says:

There will still be a political vacuum until Ed Miliband wakes up from his coma.

For, the big unanswered question is: Why is it that the biggest attack on the welfare state since its creation, an attack entirely without justification, an attack far more extreme than the wildest fantasies of Mrs Thatcher, is succeeding? Political resistance, in all its forms, is essential.

I have to admit that I certainly did not expect such savagery or stupidity from a UK Government, and while I have spent a great deal of time trying explore why this has happened and what can be done - I remain rather bemused. I often feel that I am losing sight of my own country. Britain seems to be sinking and another, more dreadful place, is arising to take its place.

Now, it may be that I should be more sanguine. Perhaps this is just party politics as usual. I know some believe that if Labour were returned to power then everything will return to normal. Quite rightly they point out that the Labour Party was in power when the banks collapsed and so it is will be blamed; and so Labour must keep its head down, ‘look responsible’ and hope that it might be trusted again in the future.

But I fear we may need to think very differently if we are ever to get back on a better path.

Harry's Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith and Austerity Bites by Mary O'Hara - The Guardian Books Review by Melissa Benn.

Big Society? More like Battered Society. Melissa Benn on two books that expose the 'war on the weakest' in Cameron's Britain. By Melissa Benn

Smith's take on the destruction of the welfare state by neoliberal economics is reminiscent of Ken Loach’s 2013 filmThe Spirit of ’45.

Right now, some inventive literary festival programmer is probably trying to set up a staged discussion between Harry Leslie Smith and Mary O'Hara. If not, they should – it would be fascinating. Smith, a mere 91 years of age, is boiling with anger at what he sees as the UK's return to the indignities of his Great Depression childhood. O'Hara, an experienced reporter, brings a cool head to her story of the impact of the cuts over the last four years.

    Yet for all the difference in age, experience and literary voice, these writers, both of whom began their lives in poverty, speak of remarkably similar things. And both books add to a mounting body of work on the growing economic divide in modern Britain: "an emergency", according to Smith, "as dire as the economic crisis of 1933".

    Only a few pages in, I decided that the best way to read his unusually structured book was to approach it as a kind of epic poem, one that moves in circular fashion from passionate denunciation to intense autobiographical reflection. Smith's early childhood – he grew up in Yorkshire in the 1930s – was one of almost Dickensian deprivation: his older sister Marion died aged 10 of tuberculosis in Barnsley's old workhouse, and his unemployed miner father of alcoholism and loneliness. Wartime service in the RAF at least brought Smith regular meals and a reliable wage, and he met his German wife, Friede, in the ravages of postwar Berlin. The couple moved to Canada where moderate economic prosperity and ordinary family contentment rescued him from the bitterness of his early years.

    In a manner suggestive of Ken Loach's magisterial 2013 film The Spirit of '45, Smith sees the postwar era, in particular the creation of the welfare state, as Britain's finest moment, a compact between industry and labour, the middle and working classes, destroyed a half-century or more later by neoliberal economics and unrestrained finance capital. (Unlike Loach, he also puts a bit of the blame on what he sees as the over-mighty trade unionism of the 70s.) All hope of greater equality or genuine democracy is now being swept away, here and in the US, by greedy corporations, the heedless tax-evading rich and near-corrupt governments, who "act like acolytes from a cult who worship profits over common sense". This has returned the UK to the landscape of his childhood, in which "food poverty, like a tidal flood, has begun to encroach upon both city and suburban dwellers".

    In one particularly depressing scene, he describes being picked up at the airport, on a return visit to Yorkshire, by a distant cousin who takes him on a tour of Halifax, where Smith spent his later childhood. As they drive the roads in drizzling rain, jet-lagged Smith is made gloomy by the dire economic plight of the town and his cousin's Ukip-style rantings about immigrants.

    Smith's book may be more overtly political and emotional, but O'Hara's lucid account of a year-long trip around austerity Britain left me reeling and somehow more ashamed. A reasonably well-informed citizen will have most of the jigsaw pieces to hand: the mean-spirited "bedroom tax"; the increased number of food banks; the dramatic reduction in local government budgets and public sector jobs; the punitive sanctions on job seekers in a labour market short even of insecure, poorly paid work; a battery of new tests for disabled people; and the erosion of legal aid.

    O'Hara clarifies this jumble of privations in several significant ways. She never loses sight of human beings, too easily buried beneath the rubble of official acronyms and policy speak. There is a chapter devoted to the emotional fallout of austerity: the loss of identity, self-hatred, multiple suicide attempts and sheer hopelessness of those marooned without income or work – or any future prospect of either.

    Petty applications of new benefit rules mean claimants risk losing already meagre sums for four weeks, 13 weeks or, "if it happens a third time", for as long as three years. One job seeker tells O'Hara: "You're five minutes late for your appointment, you show the adviser your watch, which is running late, but you still get sanctioned for a month." Another says: "It's Christmas Day and you don't fill in your job search evidence form to show that you've looked for all the new jobs that are advertised on Christmas Day. You are sanctioned. Merry Christmas." The devastation wreaked on the disabled, thousands of whom face up to six separate welfare cuts by 2015, has been, says the usually understated O'Hara, "jaw-dropping".

    By the end, she makes a convincing case that the coalition has in effect prosecuted a callous four-year "war on the weakest" in our society. You can't help but share in her icy judgments of Cameron, Osborne, Gove and co, and particularly the hapless work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who didn't even turn up for the parliamentary debate on the bedroom tax in November 2013. Tory high jinks during that same debate, with one MP pretending to nod off and another making jokes about the name of the tax, suggested too many MPs have become out of touch with common decency, let alone with vast parts of the country.

    O'Hara also helpfully dissects the ways in which a Benefits Street-style political narrative has made welfare so much more publicly unpopular. Alarmist references to the size of the benefits bill fail to make clear that the figure also includes pensions and subsidies for the working poor; the extent of welfare fraud is vastly overstated; the much publicised, and apparently reasonable, "cap" of £26,000 punishes large families and saves relatively little money in overall terms; government press releases make continual use of emotive phrases such as "dependence", "entrenched" and "addiction".

    Without robust enough challenge from either the compliant Liberal Democrats or the official opposition, the state has been slashed. Meanwhile, the official narrative has subtly shifted from deficit-cutting necessity and "We're all in it together", to a leaner, meaner state – oh, and let's kick out the Romanian hordes.

    What's keeping people afloat are the remnants of the state and the real Big, but now Battered, Society: what's left of voluntary and community action, and the numerous activist campaigns that have sprung up in recent years. Even so, such is the level of distrust and anger among large parts of the population, O'Hara warns, that a rerun of the 2011 riots is entirely possible.

    Both books, but particularly O'Hara's, should be required reading for every MP, peer, councillor, civil servant and commentator. The fury and sense of powerlessness that so many people feel at government policy beam out of every page.

    • To order Harry's Last Stand for £9.74 (RRP £12.99) and Austerity Bites for £15.99 (RRP £19.99) with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardianbookshop.co.uk



    Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK, by Mary O’Hara - Times Higher Education.

    24 JULY 2014

    Kitty Stewart on the reality of suffering caused by the coalition’s reductions of the welfare state

    Mary O’Hara describes herself as a “graduate of the welfare state”. Her father lost his job as a bricklayer when she was 10, because of health difficulties in the family, and never worked again. But O’Hara benefited from a council house, libraries, free school meals, “outstanding teachers and visionary schools”. She became the first person in her family to go to university, the first in her school to get to Oxbridge. “What is so rarely understood,” she writes, “is that the welfare state is not about dependency; it is about opportunity. Done well, it is a life raft when times are tough and a springboard to better things.”

    But when the coalition took office in May 2010, it took an axe to the life raft. Against a backdrop of global recession and rising unemployment, the government determined that cutting the welfare bill was crucial to reducing the deficit. Reforms to housing benefit, cuts to disability benefits and child tax credits, harsher sanction regimes for Jobseeker’s Allowance and less generous uprating of benefits over time have hit some of the most vulnerable people in society, often several times over. At the same time, reductions in the local government settlement have placed a tight squeeze on local services.

    In autumn 2012, O’Hara set out on a year-long journey to track the impact of these austerity measures on the ground. As the first round of cuts set in, she visited community centres, food banks, job centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux, and spoke to parents, charity workers, disability benefit claimants, homeless teenagers and employment advisers, among others. This book is the result, placing the voices of the people she met in the context of policy changes and wider commentary and analysis.

    It is increasingly clear from household survey data and statistical projections that the burden of deficit reduction is being carried disproportionately by the bottom half of the income distribution. Stark figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicate that the income drop between 2011-12 and 2015-16 will be greater the lower one’s income was to begin with, while only the top 30 per cent will experience growth. O’Hara’s valuable contribution is to capture what these projections mean in reality for families struggling to make ends meet. The sense of desperation is palpable, as is the helplessness of job centre advisers under pressure to increase sanctions, and the anger and despair of community and public-sector workers. Both the immediate injustice and the waste of human potential leap from the pages of this book.

    Perhaps the strangest thing about the current government is that many within it would maintain that they are passionate defenders of the welfare state as springboard. The Liberal Democrats, in particular, talk big on social mobility: getting children such as O’Hara to university despite bad luck in the family is just their idea of a success story. Alongside vicious cuts to welfare, they have developed the pupil premium, intended to ensure that additional school funding is spent on poorer children, and they are currently extending free school meals to all 5- to 7-year-olds. Do they really believe that these policies can be effective while families are coping with the immense financial anxiety and distress that O’Hara’s research documents? Let’s hope some of them pick up this book and think it through.


    Austerity Bites: A journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK - COUNTERFIRE

    Mary O’Hara’s Austerity Bites brings us first-hand accounts of the damage done by austerity measures to people across Britain. It is an invaluable resource for activists, argues Ellen Graubart

    Mary O’Hara, Austerity Bites: A journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK, foreword by Mark Thomas, (Policy Press 2014), xiv, 320pp.

    Mary O’Hara spent a year between 2012 and 2013 travelling around austerity UK, interviewing people at the sharp end of the ConDem’s austerity agenda, examining the lived experiences of those most affected, and documenting countless cases of poverty and deprivation caused by the government’s unprecedented programme of savage cuts to public expenditure. That journey inspired her to write about the policies and the people that created the austerity agenda and how the devastating consequences of this regressive strategy has changed the country, profoundly changing and destabilising the welfare state.

    She shines a stark light on the effects of the Conservative led coalition’s austerity measures ‘needlessly and shamelessly unleashed on the country’, on the most vulnerable in society, scarring individuals, families and communities - probably for generations to come (p.1). She gives a voice to the voiceless, the invisible people living beneath the veneer of a relatively prosperous society. She has written a desperately needed book, going into great detail to explain the reality of the devastatingly destructive effects on society of the policies the government has forced on the UK public, and the hidden agenda behind them.

     In the words of Mark Thomas:

    ‘This book contains things the Conservative-led Coalition hates. It has facts. The author actually made the unforgivable faux pas of listening to the unheard voices, the poor, the huddled masses, those who in a better world seek shelter beneath the wing of a caring state. This book gives voice to those at the bottom of the heap, those who struggle just to exist. This book is ammunition. Use it’ (p.xiii).

    O’Hara examines the reasoning behind the Con-Dem government’s austerity policies and the strategies it has employed to implement them; she reveals the fallacy of their claims that drastic cuts to public spending and sweeping reform to the welfare state were necessary and ‘fair’. By blaming the previous Labour government for profligacy (which the cowardly Labour party has accepted with hardly a whimper), and using ‘deficit panic’ as an excuse to dismantle social programs, the coalition government embarked on a campaign to convince the British public that wholesale dismantling of the welfare state was essential if the UK was to tackle the huge budget deficit; that the cuts were inevitable and necessary, and that victims of austerity were actually ‘scroungers’ and responsible for their fate and the country’s problems. This story, paraded in the language of ‘fairness’, has been repeated time and again by the government and press over several years, and many among the propagandised British public have accepted all of it. So began the process of undermining six decades of the welfare state, with its core social-security protections such as Child Benefit and support for people with disabilities.

    The Effects of the Austerity Cuts

    The austerity campaign has crippled the vulnerable while leaving the relatively well-off unscathed. It has given rise to a proliferation of emergency food centres - food banks - and driven people to depend on high-interest borrowing from loan sharks just to survive from week to week. Cuts to public services have thrown thousands out of work, causing enormous strain on those services and making it impossible for them to serve an ever increasing demand from the public.

    For the first time in the UK there are more people in working families living in poverty, suffering decreased wages and plummeting living standards, than there are in workless or retired families. Thousands of people, whether the unemployed, the poorly paid employed, and the disabled particularly, find themselves trapped in a downward spiral of poverty and depression, mental illness and often suicide, being blamed for a financial catastrophe they did not cause. Delays in the payment of benefits, the largest single reason for the descent into destitution of increasing numbers of people, has resulted in the entrapment of thousands in a government manufactured catch-22 situation, through their complex overhaul of benefits and job-seeking systems.

    The rise of food banks has been one of the most visible signs of the effects of the austerity drive, as hundreds of thousands of people all over UK began to resort to them for survival, in one of the richest nations in the world. O'Hara quotes shocking figures from bodies such as the Trussell Trust, Research for Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam on the rapid and huge rise of demand for emergency food, calling the trend a ‘national disgrace’.

    David Cameron lauded food-bank volunteers as a sign of his ‘Big Society’ initiative, while critics have called it a return of the ‘Dickensian’ model of welfare. Out of touch Tory ministers, rubbing salt in the wounds of the poor, claimed that people were using food banks not out of need but greed. Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud claimed there was no link between floods of people turning to food banks and the government's welfare changes, saying that ‘if free food was available, then of course people would seek it out’ (pp.29-30). The Trussell Trust has refuted this, accusing the minister of ignoring evidence and being out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.

    Because the poorest in society were cutting down on fresh foods and facing the choice of ‘heat or eat’ - parents were going without food in order to feed their children - a group of leading health experts wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal warning of an impending public health crisis. They argued that the situation was so bad that it had ‘all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action’ (p.27). London’s Institute of Child Health and Medical Research Council called for urgent monitoring of the effects of austerity policies on the health and nutritional status of vulnerable groups, resulting in malnutrition in children which would have life-long effects.

    From the first Comprehensive Spending [Review] in October 2010 and from announcements in the Local Government Settlement in December of same year it was apparent that the extent of ‘savings’ local authorities would be expected to make were, according to the Local Government Association, ‘the worst in living memory’. The Unite Joint General Secretary called it a massacre. From 2010 to 2014 central funding to local government has been reduced by £6 billion: 19.6%, almost a fifth (p.219). Frontline services have been drastically cut. One of most prominent frontline services affecting mothers and carers was the decimation of Sure Start (introduced by Labour government in 1998), despite what David Cameron said on the day before the election in 2010: ‘Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the Prime Minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters’ (p.225).

    Women have been the most badly hit by the austerity measures. More women than men are employed in public-sector jobs, the numbers of which have been drastically cut. The wages, pensions and services they rely on have been ruthlessly cut, and the benefits they rely on have been attacked. As state services such as rape crisis centres and refuges, groups advising women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and those caring for immigrants or trafficked women have been withdrawn, women have had to fill in the gaps. 

    As the demand for services rose the availability shrank, and the process continues. High rises in rent, policies such as the Bedroom Tax, changes to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit have forced families to live in sub-standard housing and have thrown thousands out of their homes to live in the streets. Voluntary and charity groups simply cannot cope with the increasing demands from growing number of desperate people living in the UK of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. 

    The Fightback

    The clergy has severely criticised the government's austerity policies and has spoken out strongly against the immorality of poverty inducing policies. Residents have organised many demonstrations against hospital closures, even lawyers have come out onto the streets to demonstrate against government cuts to legal aid. There have been demonstrations by students protesting in their thousands against cuts to education and grants. All these have played a vital role in inspiring activists and the unions to begin organising against the cuts. As the austerity drive began to bite, anti-austerity groups began to take shape. Here are some examples:

    • The disability campaign DPAC
    • We are Spartacus
    • The WOW Petition
    • Numerous bloggers, such as Jack Monroe
    • The Occupy movement
    • False Economy a public-facing grass roots facility for people to publish, post events and ideas
    • The Peoples' Assembly Against Austerity, which emerged in June 2013 to bring together various fragmented groups, including unionists, progressive MPs and activists to ‘weld together a national movement or coalition’.

     As Owen Jones (a founding member of The Peoples’ Assembly) has told us:

    ‘There isn’t a public consensus for the things [the government] is doing. People don’t want the NHS to be privatised; they don’t want taxes for the rich to be cut. The question is: how do you mobilise it? It’s people organising from below – that’s the only way things can change. It’s a hope issue. The anger is there but anger is not enough.’

    The people suffering from the cuts may not always be the people on the demonstrations -  because they are simply too busy trying to cope with their daily lives - but the warning from many is if things don’t change soon there will be serious consequences, serious episodes of social unrest like the English riots of 2011 could happen again. One person in Birmingham told Mary O’Hara, ‘All it will take is one hot summer’ (p.256).

    The one overriding message that O’Hara received from her journeys around Austerity UK was that ‘people were only prepared to take so much’. There is anger and resentment across the board. As Debbie from Croxteth put it:

    “It may take people to hit rock bottom but we’ll fight [David Cameron] … We can’t constantly let him do that to us. We are good people … None of us is lazy. If he thinks he is getting away with it he’s not. End of” (p.257).




    Mary O’Hara, a longtime social justice reporter for the Guardian in London, is preparing for the stateside release of her book, Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK, which was released across the pond this past spring. The timing of the book’s U.S. release couldn’t be better.

    Her book traces the effects, which are just starting to be felt, of David Cameron’s hard-fought conservative party austerity measures, which were rolled out as the Tory response to the financial crisis of 2008. Four years later, from the looks of things, the UK economy isn’t getting any better; moreover, the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor, appears to be headed for what O’Hara calls a “new Gilded Age.” (Sound familiar?) And many of these measures now appear to be semi-permanent since the Cameron-led coalition government took power (without a majority) in 2010, with Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats, serving as Cameron’s coalition government whipping boy.

    O’Hara says she “grew up poor,” so the subject matter of her first book is not merely bleeding-heart-liberal-soapbox stuff; she is the embodiment of how a welfare system in the UK can lift people out of poverty. She comes from a proud working-class family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, earning a scholarship to Cambridge, and, later, a Fulbright scholarship. Political moods and wonk-ish social policy are her lifeblood. This is her beat, and she owns it with facts and figures, not blustering talk.

    Austerity Bites, not surprisingly then, is a work of scholarship and extensive reporting. O’Hara conveys the lives of everyday people throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—through their own words—who have been adversely affected by the tough austerity measures. She spent years on the ground in various parts of the UK talking to working people, taking their temperature on the recent cuts to social and welfare programs in the UK, and championing their every day lives (and opinions) over the din of politicians and pundit-class puffery.









    5.0 out of 5 stars Fires a timely broadside at Ian Duncan Smith and his ..., 12 July 2014

    Wendy Butler - See all my reviews

    This review is from: Austerity bites (Kindle Edition)

    Fires a timely broadside at Ian Duncan Smith and his cruel and nonsensical, so-called 'welfare reforms'. This book tells the real stories of real people who are suffering poverty and humiliation - while millionaires evade taxes and laugh all the way to the banks!


    5.0 out of 5 stars A hard-hitting (and biting, maybe?) must-read., 2 July 2014


    Alexander Rhodri - See all my reviews

    This review is from: Austerity bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK (Hardcover)

    A tremendous, eye-opening book, "Austerity Bites" paints a troubling picture of a society wronged in the name of "progress" and social accountability. Mary O'Hara weaves reporting and policy narratives with an incredible array of poignant interviews, conducted during a year's worth of in-depth reportage, and explains the true consequences of a callous governmental buzzword. It's not always easy reading, but only because the issues presented hit hard. "Austerity Bites" astutely challenges much of the British media's narrative on austerity's value and the greater welfare state, and perhaps some of your own perceptions too. If you're not angry — and championing action on a grand scale, even — by the book's end, it's only because you're planning to re-read immediately, so sensational is the realism laid-bare.


    5.0 out of 5 stars Telling untold stories, 25 Jun 2014


    Saba Salman - See all my reviews

    This review is from: Austerity bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK (Hardcover)

    Reading this book means you join the award-winning journalist O’Hara in her “journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK”. Based on a 12-month trip around the country meeting diverse people affected by cuts as reforms were introduced in 2012 and 2013, O’Hara gives a platform to untold stories of hardship.

    O’Hara's book suggests, “austerity” has become an acceptable rhetoric, one that glosses over the harsh impact of welfare reform. The creeping normalisation of food poverty and food banks, as explored in this book, is shameful.

    Unsettling, but vital, reading, this book lays bare the real, true story of austerity.


    5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely essential reading in hard times., 2 Jun 2014


    S. Croft - See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)   

    This review is from: Austerity bites (Kindle Edition)

    Mary O’Hara’s Austerity Bites is an important book because unlike the policy it scrutinises so well it is evidence based. Moreover, that evidence isn’t merely the calculations of supposed ‘experts’ but rather the real world experience of people on the receiving end of harsh and unworkable policy implemented in the name of ‘austerity’. Best of all, Mary doesn’t write as an academic checking out the nether worlds of ‘others’, but rather as someone with shared understanding and appreciation from her own experience of disadvantage. This is a book that can help make change. Please play your part in making that possible.


    5.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call to us all, 11 Jun 2014


    J.N.TiZARD - See all my reviews

    Verified Purchase(What is this?)

    This review is from: Austerity bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK (Hardcover)

    'Austerity Bites' should be mandatory reading for those responsible for the current public expenditure cuts, deregulation of employment rights and the so called 'welfare reforms'. They need to understand the harsh reality of the human damage and misery that so many of their 'austerity' measures are creating

    And it should be read by those who are and by those who should be opposing these policies; and by those who should be advocating progressive alternative approaches.

    The UK is one of the wealthiest economies in the world though increasingly it has one of the most divided and unequal societies. This is wrong. And we are paying and will continue to pay the price for this.

    There is an alternative to the programmes of 'austerity' but that requires a different political philosophy and readiness to address underlying economic and social structural issues - many of which predate the current Government but which current policies are simply amplifying and, in some cases, are reversing previous improvements.

    Governments have to adopt a different balance between spending, taxation, borrowing and growth. The book is a little light on the policies that will be needed to change the UK for the better. This was perhaps not its prime purpose.

    Mary O'Hara through a series of interviews as well as by drawing on research and reports brings the impact of the 'austerity' programmes to life and, in so doing, provides a grim reality check.

    Too much policy is evidence light. Mary O'Hara has certainly produced some compelling evidence for radical change in a very readable manner. This is not a book to read for pleasure though!

    I hope that 'Austerity Bites' will be widely read and the lessons drawn.


    5.0 out of 5 stars Best possible primer for what austerity is doing to the UK, 5 Jun 2014


    Dr. J. Duffy "Simon John Duffy" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)   

    This review is from: Austerity bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK (Hardcover)

    Mary O’Hara has done an essential job: she has documented the injustice and the craziness of the UK Government’s deceitful ‘Austerity’ programme. To anyone who wants to understand the breadth and depth of the cuts and the non-reforms which the UK Government is imposing on us, then this is the best possible primer.


    5.0 out of 5 stars READ IT [NOT A BEDTIME STORY} THIS IS FOR REAL, 23 Jun 2014


    Mr. L. Thomson - See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)   

    This review is from: Austerity bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK (Hardcover)

    this book is a page turner it exposes the class war conducted by the haves on the have nots,,what a damning critique on the hard nosed rulers of our green and pleasant land [ ha ha] this is one of the best books iv read in many a year buy it get angry as CHE GUEVARA stated [OTRA MOUNDIE IS POSSIBLE] yes this book exposes the myth of scrounger the freeloader the chancer are getting a wee bit for nothing the real scroungers and freeloaders are the bankers the dodgy stockbrokers the $$$$££££ snake oil salesmen but worst of all our OWN POLITICIANS buy the book BUT PASS IT ON EDUCATE AGITATE ORGANISE VIVAN LOS TRABAJADORES