This week’s Spring Statement offered the Government an opportunity to set out the state of the public finances and the wider economy.
However, I am deeply concerned about the Chancellor’s complacency, the current Government has presided over the slowest recovery since the 1920s but to make matters worse its policy of austerity has not tackled the deficit, it has simply passed it on to public services and plunged them into crisis – from the NHS, to schools and to councils.
Our public services can’t wait until the Autumn for life-saving funding, the Spring Statement was a missed opportunity to reverse tax cuts for the very wealthy and large corporations and to start properly funding our public services.
Last year growth in the UK was the lowest in the G7 group of wealthy countries and the slowest since 2012, and one watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has revised down its forecast for growth in both 2021 and 2022 since the Autumn Budget.
Real wages are lower now than they were in 2010 and the OBR has said that “earnings growth over the next five years is expected to remain subdued” . The UK is the only major nation in which wages fell despite the economy growing. In addition, over three million people are in insecure work.
This Government have missed every deficit target it has set itself. Public sector borrowing is still higher than forecast a year ago, and debt is over £700bn higher than when the Conservatives came to power. George Osborne’s target for a 2020 surplus is a distant memory.
Government investment has been cut and business investment stagnated at the end of last year, and has been revised down for the next two years. Businesses are holding off on investment decisions due to the uncertainty caused by the Government’s shambolic Brexit negotiations. Theresa May’s cabinet is spending more time arguing among themselves than negotiating with our European partners.
The impact of cuts on public services is deeply worrying. NHS Trusts will end this financial year £1 billion in deficit. Doctors and nurses are struggling and being asked to do more -; while 100,000 NHS posts go unfilled. Recorded crime is rising -; yet the Government has cut the number of police officers by 21,500.
This Government is also responsible for the first real terms cut in schools funding in 20 years, they have trebled student fees to £9,000 and abolished maintenance grants.
There has been eight years of failure on housing, from rising homeless to falling home-ownership, this is a Government with no plan to fix the housing crisis.