READING EAST MP Matt Rodda gave comment in the House of Commons on the Annual Budget Statement delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Referring particularly to the issues of housing, infrastructure and public sector pay, Matt also commented that the Budget failed to deliver on the pause and fix of Universal Credit which is due to affect his constituency from 6 December 2017, leaving claimants without any money over the Christmas and New Year period.
“I'd like to take this opportunity to address in particular the need for affordable housing which is a key issue in my constituency of Reading East and indeed across many other constituencies in the country.
Whilst I welcome the intention of building more homes, I'm afraid the Budget falls well short of the major new programme of house building which is needed in Reading East and in many other parts of the country. In Reading, and the suburb of Woodley, many young people wonder if they will ever be able to afford a home of their own; and significant investment is urgently needed in both council house building - where Reading Borough Council had a plan to build 1,000 council houses which was stopped by the current Government - building affordable homes to buy, and also a fair deal for renters.
I would like to point out that 28% of the properties in Reading are privately rented, as in many other English towns. I should add that the cost of housing also continues to rise, not least in my constituency where prices have at times risen faster even than London; this is mixed for many people with wage stagnation, and it is clear that the Government should be prioritising the construction of affordable housing as a result - yet last year this Government built the fewest number of affordable houses for 24 years.
Having dealt with the issue of housing and noting time, I want to move onto infrastructure. Investing in infrastructure should have been main plank of this Budget in my view. However, the Chancellor missed a real opportunity to turn the economy around through investment. Residents in Reading and Woodley have seen the benefits of infrastructure investment; indeed the new station in Reading and the coming of Crossrail have led to a booming of business and business investment in Reading town centre and other sites nearby. However, the Chancellor should have announced a much bigger programme of investment in infrastructure as the CBI and many unions called for him to do. Missed opportunities to share growth through infrastructure spending include failing to support full electrification of the railways, the lack of a vision for infrastructure investment in the North of England - which I know many colleagues are very eager to mention; also a lack of investment in large energy schemes which would also protect our environment for the future. I would also, as an MP from the Thames Valley, point out the need for medium-sized schemes such as a new bridge across the Thames at Reading which would ease local traffic congestion.
As well as failing to deal with both housing and infrastructure, the Budget also failed to address the crisis in our public services, and the need to lift the pay cap for our many hard-working public servants. I should say that many people in my constituency work in the public sector both in the health service where we have an outstanding local hospital, in teaching at Reading University, many branches of the civil service are based locally; the police and many other public servants – and it is deeply disappointing that so many of our colleagues working hard in the public sector will fail to get the help they need after seven years of falling incomes and deep cuts to vital and much-loved services. I should also say that to make matters worse, the modest pay rises which some will be lucky enough to get may well happen at the expense of other workers' jobs. This is a very serious mistake and one which will have a terrible cost for many services.
For many families real wages are lower than they were in 2010, and of course disposable incomes are falling. In that context, and bearing in mind that economic growth is at its lowest it has been since the Conservatives came to power, I want to also address the issue of Universal Credit which is a very significant and deeply felt concern in my constituency as it is due to roll out from 6 December - and delays in payment will impact residents in the run-up to Christmas in a truly Dickensian and awful way. Taking out a loan to be repaid to the Government, pushing residents into debt – all of these are deep problems for local people. We've also had concerns raised by local foodbanks, as have many other MPs. The cost of this continues, and I would like to urge the Government one more time to reconsider to pause and fix Universal Credit.
Taken together, these issues of housing, the failure on infrastructure, the failure to support our public services and the continued misery of Universal Credit all should have been addressed in the Budget and sadly were missed.
The Budget has been a significant wasted opportunity, and it is sadly yet another failure from a Government which is clinging on by its fingertips.”