‘Little gain for years of pain’ – South Tyneside MPs and union boss not impressed with Budget

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A TRADE union leader in South Tyneside has accepted a rise in the tax threshold will help the workers he represents “to some extent”.

But Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, claims Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement is a “drop in the ocean” compared to the pain local authority workers have suffered over a period of unprecedented cuts in the last five years.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

In his budget Mr Osborne announced that the personal tax free allowance was rising to £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after.

He said he eventually wants to raise that allowance to £12,500.

While acknowledging that any help is welcome, Mr Butler said the damage done by the Government’s austerity measures since 2010 far outweighed any benefits.

Mr Butler said: “Yes, this will help lower-paid workers. It will help all workers. I think this rise in the tax threshold, year on year, has been driven by the Liberal Democrats.

“It’s welcome, but it does not take away from the larger picture.

“For five years of pain, there appears to be very little gain on offer from the budget for ordinary workers.

“Savage spending cuts have forced many local services to close as council and police budgets are squeezed, and hospitals struggle to cope with unprecedented demand at a time of diminishing resources.

South Tyneside’s two Labour MPs claim the budget failed to address the need of working people in the borough.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck labelled the chancellor’s statement “a smoke and mirrors act”.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said it proved the Conservatives “only stand up for a privileged few”.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “The chancellor wants people to believe good times are just around the corner, but when you look at the detail of the Tories’ plans you see even deeper austerity and more pain for the lowest paid.

“The fact is that the average family is £1,600 worse off than they were in 2010, and by fiddling the figures the chancellor makes himself look even more out of touch.

Mr Hepburn added: “The statement from the chancellor is a budget people won’t believe from a government that is clearly not on their side.

“There is no hiding the fact that in the last five years under the Tories working families are worse off and this Government have wielded a wrecking ball into our NHS.

“Inexplicably, there was no mention of investment in our NHS and our public services.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul