Last week Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Budget statement. A mere forty eight hours later the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith had resigned. The government then bowed to pressure and u-turned on £4 billion of cuts to disabled people. Never has a Budget unravelled so fast.
Osborne’s Budget represented six wasted years of Tory failure. Forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility show that he will miss two of his three targets for the economy. He is being forced to borrow far more than he planned. Economic growth, wages, business investment, and productivity have all been revised down. There is no long term economic plan.
The Budget was also deeply unfair. Half a million people with disabilities, over 4800 in Sunderland alone, would lose more than £4 billion in cuts to Personal Independence Payments. At the same time, the wealthiest are being handed a big tax cut.
Many local residents have already contacted me to share their concerns about what further disability cuts would mean for them and their loved ones. I’m glad that the PIP cuts won’t go ahead at this point, but it won’t undo the damage of the bedroom tax or the cuts to Employment and Support Allowance for disabled people.
We were also in the bizarre situation where MPs in Parliament were asked to vote for a Budget with a £4 billion black hole. Hardly credible or sustainable.
When this Government first came to power in 2010 they promised that we were all in this together. But even Iain Duncan Smith in his resignation letter said that cuts to disability benefits at the same as tax cuts for the rich could not be justified.
What we needed was a Budget focused on increasing prosperity and opportunity across Britain, but especially in communities such as ours. Instead all we heard was hollow rhetoric about a so-called long term economic plan, the reality of which involves impoverishing working people to give Tory voters tax cuts. That’s not in the national interest and it hasn’t proved to be in George Osborne’s either.
Originally published in the Sunderland Echo on 24th March 2016. You can read the full articlehere.