Emma Lewell-Buck: Hammond’s rudderless Spring Statement from a rudderless Government

Last Wednesday, sandwiched between Brexit votes and the continued failure of the Prime Minister to get an agreed Brexit deal, the Chancellor’s lacklustre Spring Statement took place.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 21 March, 2019, 08:08
Chancellor Philip Hammond. Picture by PA

It offered no certainty or clarity for our post-Brexit economy. A rudderless statement from a rudderless Government.

In it he spoke about the “difficult decisions that we have taken in the past nine years” as though he had been personally affected by the crippling years of unnecessary austerity.

In his elitist bubble, Hammond has somehow ignored the deafening pleas of the many people in this country for more funding for education, our NHS, communities and the public sector.

He ignored the pleas for an end to punitive welfare and benefit changes, and for action on low-paid insecure work to improve the lives of those who have been significantly disadvantaged as a result of years of detrimental Tory policies.

The reality is that average wages are now less than they were ten years ago.

In-work poverty is rising faster than employment, and the divide between the North and South continues to grow, so that now in our region my constituents earn around £200 less a week than in London on average, but Hammond doesn’t care about that.

Instead of anything substantial, the statement was rife with pithy policies which do more to expose the apathy of this Government than to actually fix the mess it has made.

One example is the £100million emergency fund for knife crime. To put this in perspective, the actual annual cut to police funding from central Government is £3.3billion, so the financial commitment is an insulting 3% of this.

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This is essentially the same as stealing £100 from someone and then having the cheek to offer them £3!

We don’t need an emergency fund for police to tackle knife crime, we need to build the police back up to levels before the Tories cut them by 21,000 officers.

Another is the £3billion affordable housing fund, which he later clarified will be a ‘loan guarantee’ not hard, up-front cash.

This was a partial renouncement of money guaranteed in 2017, but still not allocated.

The reality is that the number of new social-rented homes has fallen by 80% since 2010, and we are now building 30,000 fewer social-rented homes each year than when Labour left office.

Of course, the Spring Statement also had misleading statements about the national deficit to make it sound like the economy is doing better than it is.

The deficit is now more than under any Labour Government in history, with the most vulnerable continuing to bear the brunt of these cuts.

What we desperately need now is a general election and a chance for Labour to create a strong economy for the many, not the few.