Next week, we will see whether the Tories can match their rhetoric about building a country that works for everyone, as the Chancellor presents his Autumn Budget to Parliament.
Given their woeful track record over the last seven years - consistently missing their own economic targets, failing to invest in our vital public services, and presiding over a recovery based on insecure jobs and stagnating wages - I for one will not be surprised to see more of the same.
This approach simply won’t do at a time when urgent action is required to kickstart our economy, and to relieve the unprecedented strain on schools, hospitals and police forces throughout the country.
I’ve argued before that Tory polices will lead to a lost economic decade in our country. Growth remains stubbornly low, while the last decade has seen wages rise at their slowest rate since the early 1800s. While the number of people out of work has decreased nationally, our region has failed to benefit in the same way, as the north east has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
I fear the government’s failure to put our economy on a sound footing will only add to the pressure.
Take the NHS – one year on from a severe winter crisis, the warning signals are flashing once again. Recent figures show waiting times for both A&E and operations are spiralling out of control. The Chief Executive of the NHS has expressed his concern that the government is massively underfunding our health service.
The outlook for schools is hardly better. The vast majority face real-terms budget cuts despite the government’s new National Funding Formula. This will do nothing to improve our children’s life chances, at a time when class sizes are ballooning and teachers are already overstretched and under-resourced.
It’s clear the Tories have lost the economic argument, and the Chancellor must use this Budget to chart a different course. We need investment in infrastructure and education, in order to drive up productivity, and to create more high-skilled, well-paid jobs.
The chaos caused by the bungling incompetence of government ministers in recent weeks clearly show they have taken their eyes off the ball. Next week’s Budget will reveal whether the Tories are in any way serious about unleashing the economic potential that exists in regions such as ours.
To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here