Opinion: Robbing Peter(borough) to pay Paul

Last week’s Autumn Statement was the Conservatives’ latest attempt at a reset although provided little relief to either families or businesses in Peterborough, writes Labour Group leader Dennis Jones.
Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)
Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)

The reality is the Conservatives are so desperate to cling onto power that they will say anything to get re-elected. After 13 years in government, they are running out of road.

The chaos of the last few years; think COVID inquiry, infighting and a revolving door of Prime Ministers, have not helped deal with the cost-of-living crisis or tackle NHS backlogs.

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Despite the cuts to National Insurance, welcomed by Labour, we still face the highest tax burden since World War Two along with the biggest fall in living standards for a generation.

As a councillor, I see that play out locally every week through my casework and through such things as record demand for help from local foodbanks. The foodbank I volunteered for before my surgery now must buy at least 30% of what it gives out due to a fall in donations from hard pressed families and individuals. The blank shelves in the warehouse genuinely shocked me when I was there last week.

Peterborough is a proud working city, but our patience has been tested to the limit since 2019. Labour backed cuts in National Insurance because tax on working people is too high.

Despite the changes announced last week, families are still worse off. Since October 2021, food prices have risen by a third, gas prices by 60 per cent and electricity 40 per cent. Conservatives go on about the council’s finances, yet funding to Peterborough from central government has reduced from £55M to £12M in the last nine years. Locally, their own financial mismanagement forced government intervention as a series of vanity projects and poor decisions has taken the city to the edge of bankruptcy.

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They not only shut the much- loved hydrotherapy pool, despite community support, a recent Freedom of Information request shows they also ordered it to be demolished at breakneck speed to stop anyone trying to overturn their decision. This may be the festive season, but that looks more like Scrooge than Santa to me.

Our Conservative MP will hold one record by the next election; this will be the only Parliament on record, on his watch, where living standards have fallen. Household incomes will still be 3.5 per cent lower next year in real terms than before Covid.

Taxes are still the highest for decades, mainly because of the five-year freeze on personal allowances. The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) said that, of every £100 from the chancellor, £46 will help the better off and only £2 will help those on the lowest income.

I wish I’d got £2 for every time I’d written that Peterborough deserves better. That we need more ambition for our city to improve jobs and opportunities for the next generation.

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Together with our Parliamentary Candidate, Andrew Pakes, Labour councillors are working with businesses to reverse the decline in apprenticeships in the city. Only this week, we have been campaigning for the council and Combined Authority to end the delays and get on with the new bus depot for the city along with long-awaited regeneration of Lincoln Road. 2024 will be a year of change. For all our sakes that change cannot come soon enough.