By Bridget Phillipson MP
Last week Chancellor George Osborne produced the final Autumn Statement of this Parliament. It was a chance to see if ministers had met the targets they had set themselves.
It was clear that in fact the Chancellor has failed every economic test and broken every promise he made on the economy. His key promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year – now lies in tatters.
This government has inflicted disproportionate cuts to vital public services in the north east over the last four and a half years. We were told that this was necessary to bring down Britain’s deficit and to reduce borrowing. Last week revealed the extent of the Chancellor’s failure.
George Osborne has now borrowed a staggering £219 billion more than he planned and the economy is set to slow down next year after forecasts for wages have been revised down again. Instead of cutting borrowing, the country has been lumbered with a devastating cost-of-living crisis. Unemployment may be down nationally, but many people in our area still can't find work and too many of the new jobs created are part-time and based on zero-hours contracts that give no job security and little protection. Wages remain static and too many people are stuck in low-paid jobs. This puts big pressure on families because prices and bills are still going up and it's a struggle to make ends meet. But the squeeze on living standards isn't only hitting family budgets, it has also led to a shortfall in tax revenues that the Chancellor needed to get the deficit down.
The Chancellor plans further cuts – if the Conservatives win a majority next year spending will shrink to 1930s levels. The institute for Fiscal Studies has said that his spending cuts will force a fundamental reimagining of the state. The Chancellor is effectively trying to undermine the welfare state - the safety net and services that we all depend upon.
We needed a fairer plan to balance the books. Working people are £1,600 a year worse off while the top one per cent of earners have seen a £3billion-a-year tax cut. Labour would reverse that tax cut, raise the minimum wage, expand free childcare for working parents and introduce a mansion tax to fund an extra 20,000 nurses and 8,000 GPs. We need economic recovery for the many, not just the few.