The Chancellor presented the Autumn Statement in Parliament yesterday. It is a smoke and mirrors Spending Review which still leaves working people worse off and fails to address the big challenges facing the country.
George Osborne has been forced to bow to Labour pressure on his unfair tax credits but his u-turn still leaves working people worse off. He is taking £1 billion from working families next year and over £3 billion by the end of the Parliament as the new universal credit system comes in. Osborne is also limiting child tax credit entitlements to a family’s first two children from 2017 as planned previously. Average earnings are down next year and every year until 2020 and real disposable income has been revised down this year.
The Chancellor has missed every target he ever set himself. In 2010 George Osborne said he would balance the books in 5 years but he’s not even halfway and borrowing is set to be £73.5bn this year. The OBR states that the chances of meeting his new lowered fiscal targets stand at just 55%.
Lack of investment today is putting the future of the UK economy at risk. George Osborne’s cuts to spending on skills, infrastructure and science would see the UK fall further behind other major economies in adapting to the economy of the twenty-first century.
Labour would balance the current budget and build a strategic state that invests in partnership with businesses, entrepreneurs and workers to support innovation, create wealth and drive growth.
Following the Autumn Statement, I challenged the Chancellor about recent research showing that up to 590 disabled people may have committed suicide following work capability assessments between 2010-13.
In my question I welcomed the increased funding to mental health, particularly in light of cuts made by the government in the previous Parliament. But I was determined to challenge the Chancellor, and make him face up to, the recent independent research by Liverpool and Oxford Universities showing the impact of the Government’s Work Capability Assessment on increasing suicides and other adverse mental health effects.
I wanted to hear some more of the detail and find out how much of the money would be spent on alleviating the effects of the Government’s own policies on the increase in mental health issues. His response was, quite frankly, predictably evasive referring to the money going to a wide range of mental health services, but did not answer the question about their Work Capability Assessments’ negative impacts on mental health.
The Chancellor’s evasiveness on this issue just underlines how this Government just ignores the mountain of evidence being presented to them from universities, charities and organisations representing disabled and other vulnerable people.