In his opening statement, George Osborne claimed that this was ‘a budget that puts security first’. But for millions of families, real security – fair pay, decent homes, a future for their children – has never seemed further out of reach. This budget does little to address their needs.
The Tory’s attack on tax credits means that thousands of families across Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove will be hundreds of pounds worse off each and every year. In fact a single parent with two kids, who works 16 hours a week on the minimum wage will be £460 a year worse off, whilst a couple with two kids, who have one parent earning the national average will be down a whopping £2,000 a year. Given that only last month it was announced that over 32% of children living in our community live in poverty, these changes are only going to make things worse.
Working families aren’t the only ones who have been attacked by this budget, if you are aged 18-25 then the Government is withdrawing all support for you. No access to benefits, no access to social housing, no increase in the national minimum wage, no more maintenance grants for low-income students attending university and on-going cuts to Further Education budgets which will make re-skilling even harder.
Our vital public services haven’t escaped the knife either, pay rises for public sector workers will be limited to 1% a year for the next 4 years – this is a real terms cut - truly indicative of what the Tories think of our essential services and those that provide them.
Key to Osborne’s ‘plan’ was his announcement of a so-called National Living Wage. I welcome the increase, for some, in the national minimum wage – we need a real increase and a genuine living wage but this ‘premium’ is spin, it’s not a National Living Wage but rather an increase in the minimum wage for people over 25.
Whilst the Tories have shown their heartlessness in attacking working families and communities across Stoke-on-Trent North & Kidsgrove, they have been true to their roots and done a deal for their mates, with an Inheritance tax cut which will cost the taxpayer £940 million by 2020.
However for all of the Chancellor’s hyperbole, this budget was an insular attack on working people and it failed to answer or even recognise some of the big issues facing our country, from a genuine growth strategy to the potential for a global economic crash given developments in Greece and China. The Government has used this opportunity to push a divisive and ideologically driven agenda rather than acknowledge the challenges our economy and our communities now face and they should be ashamed of themselves.
This is not to say that there is nothing to be welcomed in this budget. Funds to support victims of domestic violence, commitments to support for our armed forces, and commemorations for victims of terror both at home and abroad.
However these policies do little to mask the real spirit of this budget. At its heart, it is a sinister and ideological attack on aspiration, the working poor and our public services. Behind the spin the reality for families, in Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove, is a difficult picture which will make day-to-day life even harder.
Make no mistake, despite the ‘One Nation’ bluster, for the Nasty Party this budget is business as usual.