LACKING ACTION AND LACKING AMBITION – CATHERINE RESPONDS TO BUDGET.

Catherine McKinnell MP has responded to the Chancellor’s budget, highlighting that it is a missed opportunity to address the cost-of-living crisis and lacks ambition on tackling the climate crisis.

Catherine’s comments on the successful Outer West Leisure Levelling Up Fund bid can be found here.

 Commenting on the wider Budget, Catherine stated:

“People are already feeling the squeeze on family finances with energy prices rising, the cost of petrol at record levels, Council Tax increasing, food bills soaring and spiralling childcare costs.

“That is before working people are hit with the National Insurance increase in April, a freeze on the Personal Allowance and many already seeing Universal Credit cut. Working families are seeing prices go up, taxes reaching their highest level in over seventy years and little help in return from the Government. The Resolution Foundation found that due to changes brought in under Boris Johnson, families are paying a whopping £3,000 more a year in tax.

“This Budget was a missed opportunity to help struggling families. The Government’s out of touch response will see families facing a tough winter with rising costs, inflation and empty supermarket shelves.

“The increase in the National Minimum Wage is welcome, but with costs rising, taxes increasing and the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, many families will still be worse off. Six million families are impacted by the removal of the £20 per week uplift, yet less than a third of those will benefit from the Government’s changes to taper rate.

“Whilst the Government claim to have ended the public sector pay freeze, they have not guaranteed real terms pay rises or that the funding for pay increases will be passed on to public bodies – with public services already stretched to breaking point, weakened by years of successive Conservative Government cuts, even before the pandemic.

“The Government also failed to show ambition to truly reform public services. We are yet to see the plan for reform of social care and support for the social care workforce, their education catch-up funding falls £10billion short of what their own independent advisor recommended and, whilst the Levelling Up Fund has provided a sticking plaster, it is not a long term strategy for truly investing in our communities.

What should have been announced:

 “The Chancellor should have taken immediate action to help families right now by abolishing VAT on energy bills for 6 months, funded by higher-than-expected VAT receipts, a £10 per hour National Minimum Wage, and maintain the Universal Cut uplift.

“We have seen a lost decade for our public services as a result of Conservative underfunding and the Budget failed to provide a strategy to fund and deliver public services. Since 2010 Newcastle City Council has lost £305million. We need to see investment in Councils, but yet again we have seen the Government forcing Council Tax increases. The Government should have provided the funding required for school catch up, as recommended by their own advisor, and there was no long term plan for recruitment and retention of staff in our NHS, with 40,000 nursing posts unfilled and 1,100 fewer GPs than in 2016.

“On childcare, it was a missed opportunity to commit to the independent review of funding that so many campaigners have called for, to ensure that the sector works for families, providers and the economy. We have some of the highest childcare costs in the developed world, hitting disadvantaged families and increasing gender inequality, yet we don’t approach the sector as the vital piece of infrastructure that it is.

“And there was a serious lack of ambition ahead of COP to show the global leadership needed. The Government failed to match Labour’s ambitious £28bn of investment every year until 2030 to tackle the climate crisis. This would protect the planet and create secure jobs in the UK. It is the economically responsible thing to do, will save us money over the long term, tackle climate change and create jobs.”