The Tory Budget today has failed every test and fails Milton Keynes. After six years as Chancellor, George Osborne’s deep austerity cuts have failed to build an economy that is fair, failed public services, and failed to even deliver on his own promises to cut Government debt.
Worst of all he has failed to deliver almost anything that helps Milton Keynes. He has failed with any real measures to tackle the housing crisis, failed to promote long term growth and failed to offer any hope to anyone but those who already have the most.
After years of cuts, after all the promises, where is the benefit?
I will simply put one question to the people of Milton Keynes, “After years of cuts, after all the promises, where is the benefit?”
Do people feel better off?
Are their families and friends better off?
Do they feel that they will be better off and in a better job this time next year?
People in MK have been told repeatedly by the Tories that all the cuts are needed. That by making cuts to public spending, by reducing spending on vital services and by imposing deep austerity, we will all benefit from a strong economy. It simply hasn’t worked. After six years, and with at least 4 more years of austerity to come, the economy is still in poor shape, well paid jobs are being replaced by low skilled work and despite the pain the promise of a better standard of living simply has never been achieved. After six years they cannot blame anyone else for their failures.
Borrowing, debt and the deficit are going up, not down
In 2010 George Osborne told us that now he would have a budget surplus. In only November last year he told us that borrowing will come down, yet today in his budget he told us that he will borrow over £40billion more than he was already planning. That’s a massive £116billion between now and 2019. Despite years of austerity, he hasn’t even come close to balancing the books. He has failed to get public spending under control.
Austerity is the wrong choice
Austerity is a political choice. Austerity is the wrong choice. It is entirely right that we need to spend within our means. But you don’t achieve that by destroying well paid jobs and with cuts to public services. Now more than ever it is clear that deep cuts to public services are being driven not by economic need, but out of political choice.
Over his six years as Chancellor the support for public spending cuts from businesses, from economists, from pension funds and from the City of London has disappeared. Increasingly the calls for investment in infrastructure have grown and the reality of the damage done to the economy by spending cuts on public services has become apparent. Yet the Chancellor isn’t listening to them. And he certainly isn’t listening to the millions of vulnerable people, disabled people, families, working poor and young people who are suffering as he remorselessly attacks the welfare state, without any benefit to public finances. He has failed to make the right choice on austerity.
Nothing to tackle the issues facing people in Milton Keynes
The worst thing about this budget is that it fails to offer any measures to tackle the issues facing people in Milton Keynes and the Council today.
We have a growing and deepening homelessness crisis in Milton Keynes. The number of people sleeping rough nationally has gone up by 30% in the past year alone. While there was some money to help those most in need, nothing was done to tackle the causes of these issues. Milton Keynes also belongs to the two thirds of places in the UK that are now unaffordable to people under 25 to rent or buy. There is a silent crisis of owning people and families unable to rent or buy. People in work can’t afford a place to live. Yet the Chancellor did nothing to help kick-start building more truly affordable homes and the Tory assault on Council housing continues.
Funding to build new schools is being cut and the money that goes to existing schools is going to be cut by 8%. It makes it even harder to deliver a good local school place for every child in Milton Keynes and provide the extra places we need. Forcing schools to become Academies, even if they are doing well, and taking away any powers from Milton Keynes Council to tackle failing schools will do nothing to improve standards.
I am pleased that after the launch of the Fast Growing Cities group, the Chancellor has promised to look at more funding for East-West Rail and improving the Oxford-MK-Cambridge Innovation Arc, but even this must be viewed against a backdrop of broken promises and ever longer periods until the schemes will be delivered.
Even more cuts to come, more cuts likely to services in MK
Today George Osborne said he was going to make even more cuts of £3.5bn, but he didn’t say where they’d come from. That is on top of all the cuts he’s already announced. People will rightly ask themselves, “Where is the benefit to me and my family?” as they see their local services cut, their standard of living fall and the economy weaken. Far from being in a stronger position for an economic downturn, the Chancellor simply hasn’t delivered prosperity for the many. He has failed every test he’s set himself but more importantly he’s failed Milton Keynes. As further cuts loom, this was a budget that underlined 6 years of Tory failure and how, at a local level, you can’t gamble on the Tories doing more of the same in MK.