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SPRING STATEMENT: ANOTHER MISSED OPORTUNITY – a ‘non-event’- should have been used to end austerity

Today’s Spring Statement, issued at 12.30pm by Chancellor Philip Hammond, has been attacked by Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren, speaking an hour after the Statement was made, described it as ‘A non-event’. “Today the Tories had an opportunity to use modestly improved economic figures to signal the beginning of the end of austerity and all the suffering it has caused to so many people.

“Philip Hammond began his Statement with lots of self-praise: economic growth up from the forecasted 1.4% to 1.5%, borrowing down from an estimated £49.9 billion to £45.2 billion. However, despite these economic improvements, no extra money was announced for cash-strapped local government, let alone the NHS or welfare claimants, despite increasing numbers of families being pushed into poverty and homelessness and ever-lengthening waiting lists in A & E departments. We all know public services are close to breaking point. Since 2008, the money given by the Government to local councils to provide public services has been cut by 49% - the Chancellor could, and should, have addressed this today.

“Instead, Chancellor Philip Hammond simply repeated policies already outlined, mostly in the Autumn budget three months ago, along with a series of platitudes. He began by stating that the Government had made solid progress towards building an economy that works for everyone – how can that be even vaguely true when the adult pay gap between those born into wealthier families and those from less well-off parents is widening, according to recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies? How can it explain why his own Government is, later today, hoping to persuade MPs to vote for restricting free school meals to families with net earnings of £7,400 pa, meaning a million children living in poverty will go hungry, mostly in working families?

“He did promise a spending review in 2019, but how can anyone expect that to lead to increased public spending when the opposite has been happening for the last 8 years? And why wait another year before even contemplating it? Later on he said there may be more money for the NHS – but only if health trade unions agree a below inflation pay deal rumoured to include losing a day’s holiday!

“It was on housing that Philip Hammond did give us something to think about. His announcement included a deal for the West Midlands to have 215,00 new homes by 2031, with a £100 million grant from the Land Remediation Fund. A quick look at the West Midlands Combined Authority Strategy Plan for 2017 -8, written in 2016, shows a commitment had already been made to build 1.9 million new homes in the West Midlands by 2031, with a £200 million grant from the Land Remediation Fund! Someone is telling porkies!

“Philip Hammond concluded by saying that prosperity and opportunity were within the reach of everyone. He should join us outside Rugby Job Centre talking to claimants who have been waiting 10 weeks to get their first Universal Credit payment, and he should talk to those forced to work in the ‘gig economy, often on zero-hour contracts and other insecure contracts. Many people have to choose between paying the rent, eating or heating their homes – any prospect of prosperity is a million miles away. Today’s Spring Statement has done nothing at all to help those suffering from austerity, and it contained no promises of better times ahead for working class families,” Pete McLaren concluded


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