Last Wednesday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped up to the despatch box in the House of Commons and delivered his ‘Spring Statement’. In essence a mini-budget, the Spring Statement was billed as being the means by which the Government would address the cost-of-living crisis.
The statistics are stark. Inflation hit a 30-year high of 6.2% in February and is expected to continue rising. The energy price cap is due to be lifted in April, from £1,277 to £1,971. The Office for Budget Responsibilities (OBR) has forecasted that in 2022-2023 households will suffer their “biggest fall in living standards in any single financial year” since records began.
Behind every one of these statistics are ordinary working people struggling to make ends meet, families not being able to get food on the table, and individuals staring in disbelief at astronomic energy bills. I know that many people across Tameside would have been anxiously watching the Chancellor’s statement, waiting for some sort of action or support from the Government.
Instead, what they got was a paper-thin plan, that will result in families paying £3,000 more in tax. This – coupled with the biggest real terms cut to state pension in 50 years and the slashing of Universal Credit – will only exacerbate the extreme financial pressures that families are currently facing.
There were several measures that the Chancellor could have taken that would have eased the burden on families. He could have scrapped his tax rise on jobs, or introduced a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to cut household goods. He could have brought forward a plan that would have supported British businesses whilst creating high-quality jobs. He chose to do none of these things.
We cannot continue the path that the Chancellor has set us on. It is bad for families, bad for the economy and ultimately bad for the country. Here in Tameside, Council leaders are doing everything they can to support local people. However, without meaningful action from central Government, we will continue to face an uphill battle.
The Conservatives have now had 12 years in power, and in that time living standards have plummeted whilst cost-of-living has soared. We need a Government that understands the scale of the crisis that families across the country face and takes meaningful action to support those it represents.
Unfortunately, I left the Chamber on Wednesday feeling distinctly like we had the wrong people for the job.