The Autumn Statement last week was the final proof needed for the people of Peterborough that George Osborne’s key promise to balance the books in a single parliament now lies in tatters.
The facts speak for themselves - he has had to borrow a staggering £219 billion more than he planned. The tax revenues we need to get the deficit down just aren’t coming in.
His claim that ‘we’re all in it together’ also rings hollow with the people I speak to on the doorstep as they know he has given millionaires a £150,000 tax cut and yet everyday working families have seen their earnings reduced on average by £1,600 a year. Wages aren’t rising enough, especially in Peterborough and too many people are stuck in low-paid jobs and part-time work and are struggling to make ends meet as year after year inflation outstrips wages.
How this Government can claim that the economy is fixed and its plan is working is plainly absurd and now they are asking for 5 more years to finish the job – finish the job of what I ask? When they came into office in 2010 the deficit was falling as the economy was picking up. Four years of austerity with almost no growth in the economy has meant he has missed his target to balance the books. The medicine is just not working.
What we needed at the Autumn Statement this week was the better, fairer plan that Labour has set out.
Labour’s plan will raise the minimum wage and expand free childcare for working parents from 15 to 25 hours. We will scrap the bedroom tax and cut business rates for small firms. This plan will help many of our local residents.
There will need to be difficult decisions on spending, like cutting the winter fuel allowance from the richest five per cent of pensioners and Labour won’t make any promises without saying where the money is coming from. But we will balance the books in a fairer way, starting by reversing the Tories’ £3 billion-a-year tax cut for the top one per cent of earners.
Changing stamp duty to help people on middle and low incomes is welcome, but we also need to get more homes built which will help to solve the housing crisis and kick-start the economy by getting people into meaningful work and paying into the system. To help raise extra funds for our NHS we should ask those in high-value properties worth over £2 million to pay a bit more each year through a mansion tax.
Labour will save and transform the NHS. Our plan is fully funded and will give the NHS £2.5 billion a year over and above the plans left by this Government - delivering 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs, while guaranteeing that everyone can see a GP within 48 hours.
Only a Labour government can be trusted to bring the deficit down in a fairer more just way and make sure that those with the broadest shoulders take the greatest strain. While we are all still struggling with everyday costs we are also only 2 weeks away from Christmas. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my column throughout the year and to wish you all a Merry Christmas and every happiness in the New Year.