After the better part of a decade being told by Conservative politicians that the priority for the UK’s economy was ending the deficit, in last week’s Autumn Statement they abandoned that goal, leaving the country without an economic strategy and the Tory Government without any purpose.
Following six wasted years of pain, future economic growth is being revised down, borrowing is up and real wages will be stuck at 2008 levels for at least another five years. What was the point of it all? Is this the stronger economy they promised would be the reward for years of cuts?
For those who warned it’s impossible to cut your way back to growth, there’s no joy to be found in the Tories finally embracing reality, not when ordinary people are left to struggle, not when the Government still lacks any plan for making things right.
In over six thousand words the Chancellor had nothing to say on social care, the costs of which are set to bankrupt councils and leave elderly citizens fending for themselves when are they no longer physically able. Nor could Philip Hammond find a single penny more to fund an NHS on the brink. There was money for grammar schools, but not for Crawley’s local schools.
For all the talk of infrastructure, the amounts put forward in the Autumn Statement are but a fraction of what is needed to deliver a real industrial strategy for the country, a national infrastructure fit for the Twenty-First Century. Even the 40,000 new affordable homes announced in the speech is pathetic when you consider that Crawley, one of over 400 local authorities in the UK, is building 1,250 new affordable units.
So what next for Britain? Are we to be left continuing to stumble along by a Government with no plan for the economy, no plan for Brexit, no plan for our public services? Isn’t it time for a Government which will end the deficit through growth instead of cuts, which will rebalance the economy in favour of ordinary people and invest in the services we need/? I think it is.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Labour Leader, Crawley Borough Council