Last week, Philip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was an opportunity for the Government to change course after six wasted years of mismanaging the economy yet the Chancellor chose to stick to the same old course despite a significant worsening in the public finances.
Economic growth has been revised down in both 2017 and 2018 and borrowing and debt are up; if the Tories don’t get a grip on our finances by the end of this Parliament national debt will be heading towards £2tn.
The Conservatives so-called ‘long term economic plan’ lies in tatters but instead of the promised “reset” the Chancellor has offered more of the same failed austerity. The so-called “Living Wage” will not rise to £9 as promised and the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis, which reveals that real wages will remain below their 2008 levels until at least 2020, demonstrates clearly that the Tories have created a lost decade.
Theresa May’s warm words have been proven to be empty rhetoric when public services are in crisis and her Government has failed to provide the funding needed. There was not a penny for the National Health Service or social care, in fact the supporting document to the Statement does not mention the NHS once. On transport and infrastructure we were fed re- announcements of programmes that the Government have failed to deliver on in previous years and despite education facing the first real terms cuts since the 1970s, the only money promised was for over £200 million for grammar schools.
The Chancellor insulted the British public with his announcement regarding Universal Credit, trying to dress this up as a measure to help people who have suffered at the hands of policies of his own Government’s making. Instead of reversing in full the cuts to in-work benefit Universal Credit and the £30 a week cut to Employment Support Allowance, his announced changes will give the 2.5 million people who have lost £2,100 as little as £150 back.
On housing, whilst I welcome the move to ban letting agent’s fees which is something the Labour Party has long backed, Conservative MPs, including the Prime Minister, have repeatedly voted against the reality that this is too little too late for hard-pressed people who rent their homes when Government housing policies are making the problems of high costs and poor conditions for people much worse.
Overall, this Statement failed to address the significant risks and uncertainty facing businesses and the economy after the EU Referendum, failed to offer any comfort to those who have struggled for the past six years, failed to offer any hope for our young people and failed to offer any assurances for our public services.
This is a Government that cannot be trusted on the economy and cannot be trusted to act in the interests of the British people.
Only a Labour Government will rebuild and transform our economy so no-one and no community is left behind.