Last month Phillip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Statement; an opportunity to signal a change of direction and to repair some of the damage caused by six years of Conservative failure.
Now, the people where I live in Salford are of good heart, they will always pull together when times are tough and that’s what many thought they were doing when they were subjected to a vicious and economically illiterate austerity agenda.
“Lets fix the roof whilst the sun is shining!” we were told but little did we realise that this ‘nasty medicine’ we were being forced to take was in fact making us worse off and stifling our economy’s ability to flourish in the future.
We have seen 6 wasted years where the deficit has spiralled, debt has spiralled and productivity, which drives our economy, is at rock bottom.
6 years where taxes were cut for the wealthiest ad the most vulnerable saw their incomes savagely cut.
6 years of pernicious cuts and schemes aimed at dismantling and marketising our public services so that now they are teetering on the edge of a cliff.
So was it worth it?
In short, no.
The economic plan the Tories ‘supposedly’ followed has failed on a spectacular level.
We are now looking at a £122 billion cumulative deficit by 2021, and this from a Government who told us if we slashed public spending, slashed support for the most vulnerable whilst also and slashing taxes for the most wealthy, we would have eliminated the deficit by 2015….
Even more concerning is the damage this failed plan has caused in the longer term, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies stating that real wages will be lower by 2021 than in 2008. This lost decade is unprecedented in modern British history.
But the Chancellor knew this was coming.
Leaked Treasury documents recently made clear that the failure of the Conservative policy was known in Whitehall for some time, with the government’s old targets on debt and the deficit targets missed, even before Brexit had become an issue.
In the media following the Autumn Statement the Tories spin machine went into overdrive in the attempt to make us believe that the whole financial downturn was as a direct result of Brexit.
In reality however, the figures provided by the Office for Budget Responsibility were staggeringly clear:
Of the 122bn cumulative deficit due by 2021, the Tories’ mishandling of Brexit is forecast £58.7bn, the rest of the deficit is as a result of the Tories’ mishandling of the domestic economy.
Yet despite this gloomy news, the Chancellor steadfastly refused to change tack….
He abandoned his predecessor’s plans to deliver a surplus (of course he did, there wasn’t the slightest chance he or his predecessor would achieve this on the basis of their economic plan) but there was nothing in the Autumn Statement to help those “just about managing” people he was supposed to watch out for.
There was no new money for our National Health Service, despite the worst deficits in the NHS history and the longest waiting lists for decades.
There was no money to end the crisis in social care, despite there now being over 1m vulnerable elderly people left without care.
There was no u-turn on harsh ESA and Universal Credit cuts. A single parent, in work, is still set to lose over £2000 and the Employment Support Allowance cuts mean £30 a week will be taken from 500,000 disabled people.
And all they could offer to an education system facing the first real-terms cuts since the 1970s was £60m for the Prime Minister’s throwback vanity project of grammar schools.
Chancellor Philip Hammond attempted to announce some new government investment, as Labour have demanded. But the amounts offered are feeble, even with re-announcements like the £1.1bn earmarked for roads.
We are the second lowest country in the G7 in terms of investment so we are far from competing with other industrial countries across the world. Even the OECD has stated that any country serious about being a global economic player must invest at last 3% of Gross Domestic Product each year. The Chancellors investment proposals come in at a paltry 1.9%.
Nor has there been any sight of a real industrial strategy – essential to support the industries of the future.
This is a government without a plan or a sense of direction, either for the domestic economy or for a decent Brexit.
Labour’s economic vision will not prioritise the few over the many. We will reverse these tax giveaways, channelling the billions of pounds lost into our public services. We will deliver real substantial investment in infrastructure and research with a programme to mobilise £500 billion through direct Government expenditure and a National Investment Bank. We will tackle low paid work and the disgraceful level of in work poverty it creates by introducing a Real Living Wage, expected to be £10 an hour in 2020. And we will deliver an industrial strategy to create high-skilled, well-paid secure jobs right across Britain.
Labour will rebuild and transform our economy so no-one and no community is left behind.