AUSTERITY has shifted wealth from the poor into the pockets of the rich, activists say following David Cameron’s claim that cutting public services was “the right thing to do”.

George Osborne and David Cameron, the former chancellor and former prime minister, last week celebrated the announcement by the Office for National Statistics that the current budget deficit – the money borrowed by the government to fund day-to-day spending – hit a surplus in 2017.

The surplus, which excludes capital investment by the government, came in at £3.8bn for 2017.

Mr Osborne, the architect of austerity and now editor of the London Evening Standard, said adherence to the programme of cuts had been “a remarkable national effort”.

“We got there in the end,” he added.

Mr Cameron, who headed the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats from 2010, supported his former chancellor, tweeting: “It was the right thing to do.”

But activists in Swindon have hit back, claiming the cuts were not necessary and went too far.

Pete Smith, of the Swindon People’s Assembly, said: “For us, the whole point of austerity was to transfer money from the poor to the rich. We have been left with record levels of people in working poverty and public services completely crumbling.

“When they say it has been successful, in a way, it has – but on their terms. For the majority of the population it has been a disaster.”

Pete said that there was a crisis in the NHS, in housing and in social care that have all been the result of drastic government cuts. He also cited the prevalence of food banks and the rise in homelessness as evidence that austerity has not worked.

Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn, who fought the South Swindon seat for the Green Party in last year’s general election, also issued a damning assessment of Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne’s programme of cuts.

She said: “Austerity was a choice. Those in power had the choice of investing in the country, in our housing, education and infrastructure.

“Instead, Cameron, Osborne and their Conservative heirs have chosen to remove, one after the other, as many as possible of the links from the post-war net that held us together as a community, that enabled us to share and learn from each other.”She added: “Very many people have lost even more: they’ve lost their lives as a direct result of inhumane benefits sanctions applied without compassion, accuracy or any kind of justice whatever.”

But North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson sought to defend the Conservatives’ record on the economy, pointing out that the UK currently enjoys record levels of employment.

He attacked the previous Labour government for “bringing us to the brink of bankruptcy having spent all the money in the good times”.

“Through our long-term economic plan we have balanced the books while delivering record employment, rising wages, strong growth and record funding for our vital public services,” he said.