By the time this column is in print, Chancellor George Osborne will have delivered his Budget on Wednesday afternoon and set out the government's spending plans. I sit writing this late on Monday evening in the House of Commons library as we wait for more votes. Ever the optimist, I live in hope that the Chancellor will think again and change course on Wednesday. But I expect more of the same failed, policies that have led to a stagnant economy and no growth.
We need a bold and radical Budget that will kickstart our economy and help the thousands of people across Wearside who are struggling with the rising cost of living. After three years, Osborne’s record is one of failure. Failure to create growth, failure on living standards and failure on the first economic test he set - keeping Britain's triple-A credit rating. Osborne himself had previously said that to lose this rating would be ‘humiliating’, but it has happened on his watch.
I want to see a more balanced plan to create jobs and boost growth, whilst bringing down the deficit. Instead, the government's plan means families and pensioners are feeling the pain, but it isn’t even working and Osborne has been forced to borrow more.
It’s vital that the government brings forward investment in infrastructure – in schools, transport and house building. This would support the construction industry, get builders back to work and create much needed new homes and schools. Instead, I’ve been battling with ministers in the Department for Education and the Treasury about the delayed funding for the rebuild of schools in the north east. Schools such as Hetton where staff do a fantastic job and young people succeed and achieve excellent results, but in conditions that are far from ideal. The government scrapped Labour’s successful Building Schools for the Future programme shortly after taking office and then took over two years to announce a replacement scheme, but without securing the funding. This is symptomatic of government incompetence and where political pride trumps the national interest.
Osborne should also cancel the tax cut being handed to the wealthiest in our society - millionaires will be £100,000 better off every year. It cannot be right that on the same day the millionaires' tax cut comes into force, families will be hit with cuts to child benefit, maternity pay, tax credits and the imposition of the bedroom tax. It’s not about tough choices – these are the wrong choices. Osborne is prioritising the wrong people, not standing up for the millions of those on low and middle incomes who deserve a government on their side.
This article was original published by the Sunderland Echo on 20th March 2013