Last Wednesday was the Budget, an important time in the political calendar when the Chancellor revealed key decisions and figures on Government spending, borrowing and taxes for the next year.
What we learnt is that growth will be lower than previously forecast for this year and next, and borrowing is set to be £245 billion higher than planned. The Government’s promise to balance the books by 2015 will not be met.
In the debate that followed I called on the Chancellor to change course and get a plan for jobs and growth that will deliver for Feltham and Heston families and businesses today. Unemployment has risen in Feltham and Heston by nearly 10% in the last six months, and the number of young people out of work is at its highest level since March 2012. I argued that George Osborne’s Budget announcements on Wednesday will do little to turn this around and create more jobs for local people.
What families and businesses need in Feltham and Heston is a change of direction and bold action to kickstart our flatlining economy and give real help to families today. In the last quarter net lending to businesses fell by £4.5 billion, and in the past two years it has fallen by £28.1 billion. The reality behind these figures is that thousands of local entrepreneurs – our wealth creators – are unable to access the finance they need to grow and to take on local workers.
Labour has led calls for a British Investment Bank to back Britain’s businesses and help them get finance. Recently Labour has gone further with plans for a regional banking system, which would give our local area the power and resources we need to get growth going across the country.
I am also deeply concerned that this Budget has missed an opportunity to help our local mums. Earlier this month hundreds of families in Hounslow signed a petition calling on the Government to ‘help mums not millionaires.’ The Chancellor has ignored these calls, and in two weeks will go ahead with a £180 tax on new mums – ‘Mummy Tax’ – on the same day as millionaires will get a £100,000 tax cut.
The Government’s record with housing is no better than it is with business, and once more all the Budget offered was more of the same. House-building is crucial to economic recovery, as well as in helping local families on the housing ladder. However the number of affordable homes being built in London has fallen off the cliff.
Figures published by the Greater London authority show that 425 affordable homes were started in the first six months of the current financial year, compared with 4,659 in the previous year and more than 18,000 in 2010-11. Even more concerning is the fact that in Hounslow just 9 affordable houses were complete during this period. This offers little hope to hard working families struggling to get on the housing ladder, and little hope to the 13,000 families on the waiting list for a home in Feltham and Heston.
In the run-up to the Budget on Wednesday the Government proposed change, but all we saw was more of the same. I hope that we will see greater growth, more secure jobs and growing wages, but I fear this is going to take longer than expected and longer than families and business deserve.