Jeremy Hunt has announced a new budget today. Once again it is a budget devoid of real ideas, a budget that will not provide the support needed for the people of Nottingham. It will not stop the cost of living crisis and barely even shields the most vulnerable from the damages the crisis is causing. In truth it will not do anything to pull Britain out of the prolonged decline we have found ourselves in after 13 years of costly and divisive Tory government.
The UK pays some of the highest energy bills in Europe and the OBR confirmed that the UK will be the weakest economy in the G7 this year, the only country that will see negative growth. Our economy has stagnated, it is still smaller than it was on the eve of the pandemic in 2019. It’s not just growth that has stagnated, wages have stagnated for nearly a decade, especially in the public sector, while costs are continually increasing.
The average French family is now a tenth richer than their British counterparts, whilst the average German family is a fifth richer. Public services have been beset by strikes as the key workers who kept us going through Covid fight for their wages to get somewhere in reach of meeting the cost of living. Real weekly wages are expected to remain below 2008 levels until 2026 – no wonder so many strike. The government is either completely unable to play its role helping settlements be reached, or it is being wilfully obstructive.
We welcome the news that Jeremy Hunt was backed into continuing the guarantee on energy bills, but this is not enough. Energy companies are making obscene profits and the average person still pays more than those in Europe – and they still pay more than they can afford.
We also welcome the Chancellor accepting that, as Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson has made clear in Labour’s announcements late last year, that childcare is critical infrastructure that both families and economies need. The question that remains hanging though is whether there is anything planned to deliver this, or as one of the sector voices raised this morning, it is just a slogan with an eye on an election. The fact that the 30 hours will not come in until at least September 2025 is unacceptable though – families will struggle until then and many expel will be forced out of the workplace. If it is needed then it is needed now in the midst of the cost of living crisis.
What is not welcome is another Tory policy aimed at the wealthiest in society. A £1 billion tax cut for the richest 1% of earners via changes to pension allowances.A high earner with a £2 million pension pot will get a tax cut of £275k when they take their tax free lump sum. And even if it is as successful as the chancellor hopes in keeping high earners in the workplace, the measure will cost the taxpayer £70k for every person returned to the labour market. Even worse it appears as though it will become another loophole for the wealthiest to avoid inheritance tax.
Across Nottingham and the country people are having to make the decision to heat or eat. This should not be happening in a country like the United Kingdom – it is an indictment of the failures of the Tory government.
Cllr Adele Williams, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance reacts:
‘While the Tory government seems to do as little as it can to help people in this city and beyond, Nottingham Labour has prioritised council resources to address the cost of living crisis. Our internal welfare rights team in partnership with the network of council supported advice services in communities offers help and advice to maximise income and manage debt. We are also working in our partnerships to promote buying locally and supporting good local employment so that the Nottingham pound recirculates around our city, filling cupboards here rather than offshore coffers. Our CN28 plans for carbon neutrality also come with benefits to the back pockets of Nottingham, whether in reduced heating bills from insulation or our affordable and accessible integrated transport system that means you don’t need a car to get around and get on in our city.
Contrast that with a government that has presided over a historic decline in the standard of living, with the fall in disposable income for the next two years being the worst since records began in the 1950s.
Our NHS, pride of our nation, is in tragic, unforgivable decline. Tories have never backed it, and have never understood the links between declining wealth and ill health. You can’t have a high growth economy with 7 million of us waiting for treatment.
The Tories think we deserve no better and they don’t understand that a low wage exploitative economy won’t produce growth.
There was nothing in the budget to boost growth, nothing to address the massive shortages of staff that are afflicting our public services – including childcare – and nothing to close the gap in household budgets, only a commitment to freeze bills as huge as they they already are.
The Conservatives have no policy ideas, no moral compass and no mandate for their third Prime Minister. They should step aside. Labour is ready to build Britain back up from this.
This includes a £230m investment in council housing to improve existing properties, build hundreds of new council houses and make hard-to-heat homes more sustainable and energy-efficient. Although this includes funding to build more houses, it is also funding to improve insulation in existing properties and provide solar panels, helping to improve energy efficiency and cut families heating bills.
Our Welfare rights team also provide debt and financial advice to city residents, helping them balance their household budgets, and filling in the education gap to help residents help themselves in a way the government have sadly failed.
Nottingham Labour also supports partners in the city, supporting food banks and providing free fun and food events in the city for our low-income residents. We are working with our partners to promote local good employment, and buying locally so the Nottingham pound fills cupboards in Nottingham not offshore coffers.’