Last week the Chancellor, George Osborne, unveiled his eighth budget. It was a chance to show that, after nearly six hard years, his plan had worked. That all the cuts, the belt tightening, had been worth it.
It was a chance to move on from the hard times and invest in the things people in Barnsley really need – like a thriving economy, a reliable NHS and a better start in life for our children.
But no, instead we learnt that he has missed all his targets. When this Government first came to power in 2010 they promised to balance the books by 2015. Instead, the Budget revealed that this Government is set to borrow £38.4bn more than he planned. As I said in the Budget debate last week, I have had goldfish that lasted longer than some of the Chancellor’s fiscal rules!
Osborne’s budget had unfairness at its very core. Tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by those who can least afford it. Half a million people with disabilities are losing over £1 billion in Personal Independence Payments, while the Chancellor cuts Capital Gains Tax – a tax he himself raised in 2010 saying doing so was necessary to “create a fairer tax system”.
While I welcome the rise in tax thresholds, which puts money in the pockets of middle and low earners, I am concerned that some of this progress will be offset by cuts to Universal Credit.
And it in no way compensates for the severe cuts to local services we have seen here in Barnsley.
While the Chancellor grabbed headlines with his ‘sugar tax’ announcement, local people are still struggling to make ends meet. Community groups are closing, health services are being cut, council jobs are being lost. This is still a tough time for many.
That is the cost of this Chancellor—a Chancellor who puts his own interest before the national interest; a Chancellor who talks about fixing the roof while the sun is shining, but who should be fixing the foundations; and a Chancellor whose economic record is now being exposed as a mirage. Sadly, this wasn’t a budget for us in Barnsley.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24 March 2016.