osborne

George Osborne is desperate to stop talking about the cost-of-living crisis on his watch – Balls

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s shadow chancellor, responding to George Osborne’s speech on the economy, said:

“George Osborne is desperate to stop talking about the cost-of-living crisis on his watch. But that won’t stop working people from doing so as they are on average £1600 a year worse off under the Tories and prices are still rising faster than wages.

“Nor will the Chancellor admit the reason why he is being forced to make more cuts is because his failure on growth and living standards has led to his failure to balance the books by 2015.

“This failure means Labour will have to make cuts and in 2015/16 there will be no more borrowing for day-to-day spending. But we will get the deficit down in a fair way, not give tax cuts to millionaires. And we know that the way to mitigate the scale of the cuts needed is to earn and grow our way to higher living standards for all.

“The social security bill is rising under George Osborne, but the best way to get it down for the long-term is to get people into work and build more homes. The Tories should back our compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed. And in tough times it cannot be a priority to continue paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners.

“What we need is Labour’s plan to earn our way to higher living standards for all, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and get the deficit down in a fairer way.”

For many people, this is no recovery at all

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George Osborne was in self-congratulatory mood in the House of Commons this morning as he delivered his Autumn Statement. Growth has returned to the economy; borrowing is falling; we are on the road to recovery. Yet the complacent Chancellor failed to recognise the cost-of-living crisis that is engulfing hard-working people in Birmingham and across the country. For many people, whose wages remain low while prices soar, this is no recovery at all.

Osborne remains convinced that his economic strategy is working, and reeled off statistic after statistic that seemed to prove his point. The reality, however, is that despite growth returning, the economy is still under-performing – growth is significantly lower than it was forecast to be in 2010, and the deficit will still be £79 billion in 2015, after we were promised it would be eliminated by then. Three years of stagnation means that Osborne has missed all of his economic targets, and people are suffering as a result; for 98% of the time his government has been in office, prices have risen faster than wages. This is not a recipe for economic success. The plan has been hurting, but it has not been working. While those right at the top continue to  enjoy their tax cuts, everybody else has to contend with bills becoming more unaffordable and stagnating wages, leaving people up to £1,600 a year worse off under the Tory-led government.

Busy patting himself on the back, the Chancellor offered little to those whose living standards are suffering the most. On energy costs, he stopped short of matching Labour’s promise to freeze prices, meaning people in our city will be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter and next; there are more welfare cuts to come, plunging vulnerable people further into difficulty; there remains no commitment to introducing a living wage, or even a substantial increase in the minimum wage. Every time Osborne has the chance to make life easier for ordinary people, he makes things worse. There were some token measures such as the cancellation of the planned rise in fuel duty, but really this was an Autumn Statement that did nothing substantial to help ordinary people. Even if the economy continues to grow, Birmingham residents will rightly have little faith in a plan that does nothing to improve their lives.

Today’s statement did not change anything. The government continues to allow those at the top to get richer while ignoring the declining living standards of the majority of people. The economy may finally be growing again, but George Osborne is still doing nothing to ensure that the recovery reaches everybody. For many people in Birmingham and in Britain, this is no recovery at all.

Your services under threat thanks to the coalition government

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We all take many things for granted and some of those things are often the services provided by our council. So when our bins aren’t emptied because of the bad weather – we notice. When our roads need repairing – we notice.

But there are lots of other services that we pay little attention to, things that just happen. Our streets are cleaned, services are provided for children and young people, we have libraries, community centres, schools and advice services. Pavements are repaired, parks are maintained, trees are pruned…the list is endless.

But all these services are now under threat as a result of the huge cuts to the grant that Birmingham gets from central government.

Media reports quoting Sir Albert Bore with his ‘jaws of doom’ and his prediction that ‘this will be an end to local government as we know it’  did so mockingly. But these words reflected the perilous position we are currently in.

The Labour Administration took over the running of the council just over a year ago following  9 years of disastrous management by the Tory and Lib Dem council leadership. Despite the very good work undertaken by the Labour administration to balance the books against huge funding reductions and the need for efficiency savings, they are still facing an uphill battle. This difficulty compounded further with Birmingham being short changed by £79m from central government. This reduction in funding brings with it huge problems to those with responsibility to oversee services in a city of Birmingham’s size.

Parliament’s Public Affairs Select Committee have recognised this very real and serious situation and have recently undertaken a review of the financial sustainability of local authorities. The results have sent alarm bells ringing.

Margaret Hodge MP — Chair of the Committee says:

“Central government is cutting funding to local authorities by more than a quarter over four years but does not properly understand what the overall impact will be on local services…Local authorities are tending to cope with funding reductions. But in the long term there might well be little room for further efficiency gains and services would have to be cut. There needs to be frank and open dialogue between central and local government and the public on just what services councils will be expected to provide in a prolonged period of declining funding.”

But it is likely that Pickles, Cameron and Osborne will take no heed of these warnings…

We need to stand together and demand that Birmingham gets a fair deal from the ConDem government. Together we are stronger and our voice is louder. Please support the Labour Party in Hall Green and in Birmingham and remember who are the real villains in this.

Birmingham needs a Plan B from Osborne

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To great sighs of relief, at least around the Cabinet table, yesterday we learned that we have just about managed to avoid a triple-dip recession, with growth in the last quarter of a whopping 0.3%. Doesn’t sound that impressive, does it? The truth is that yesterday shouldn’t have been a relief at all. A triple-dip recession shouldn’t even have been a possibility. Yet such has been the failure of George Osborne’s economic plan, it almost seems like a great victory.

The danger is, of course, that George Osborne will see it as exactly that: a victory. We have lost our AAA credit rating with two agencies in the last few months, something which the Chancellor took as a vindication rather than a warning. This bit of relatively good news will no doubt put an extra spring in his step. The reality of the situation is, though, that the economy is still in a bad place – we’re only just back to the same place we were six months ago. The economy is flatlining, and things show no real sign of significantly improving any time soon. Most sectors of the economy are still performing incredibly badly; it’s only the service sector that has shown any real sign of life. Osborne needs new ideas, and he needs them fast.

The consequences of Osborne’s failure are visible right across the country, but they are abundantly clear in our communities in Birmingham. Unemployment remains high, particularly among young people, and welfare cuts and the shameful bedroom tax are being implemented as the cost of living continues to rise. The Guardian has highlighted this week the damage that is being done to Birmingham by the government’s cuts – all of the pain, for no economic gain. What Birmingham and other cities around the country need is a Plan B, with jobs and growth at its heart, to ease the pressure on the people who are suffering under this government. Labour has been saying all along that the government needs to change course, but with each quarter of no growth, no jobs and no hope, the need for a positive economic alternative becomes clearer.

Labour councillors are working hard to get the best deal for our city, but are constrained by the unfair cuts that the government has foisted upon them. It is not just the growth and jobs that are lacking,  but a fair deal for cities like Birmingham.

Our Hall Green councillors and campaigners have been calling for a better deal for Birmingham – it’s time the government took note. The council is being forced to make tough decisions, while leafy, Tory-dominated suburbs take none of the pain. We’re not all in this together and we’re not one nation. Birmingham residents are one the receiving end of the damage caused by the government’s economic failure and its refusal to give Birmingham a fair deal.

So Birmingham, and the country, need a Plan B. We all see that Plan A has failed, but the Chancellor sticks stubbornly to it. We need two things: firstly, we need jobs and growth, to get our economy moving again and to ease the burden on Birmingham households; secondly, we need the government to give Birmingham a fair deal instead of prioritising their own heartlands. We desperately need something to change. To borrow a phrase from David Cameron, we can’t go on like this.

Why campaign for a Fair Deal for Brum?

Birmingham has been short changed by £79m and we believe this is unfair. Why should Birmingham be hit harder than other places? Parts of leafy Berkshire have seen cuts of only £19 per person in comparison to cuts of £149 per person in Birmingham. This is not fair and in this video, campaign organiser for Hall Green BLP explains why. Please share widely.

Are you sure we are all in this together?

We have a coalition Government behaving as if it has a mandate and as if it won a landslide victory. The radical welfare changes that started on Saturday are yet another clear indication of this Tory led government’s cynicism, arrogance and of its total lack of compassion.

Today sees the continuation of their ideological attack with changes being implemented to disability benefits in the north of England ahead of a nationwide roll out of the new measures as part of the government’s plan to cut the welfare bill.

The move to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will end what Iain Duncan Smith called the ‘ridiculous’ system that gives people lifetime awards as the disability living allowance is replaced by the new personal independence payment (PLA).

The new system which includes face-to-face assessments and regular reviews (managed by ATOS) and will see changes to assessment claims that might mean 600,000 people miss out on support with some new assessment rules on mobility being sneak in through the back door.

Over half a million people have now signed a petition asking George Osborne to live on £53 per week, something he has brushed off as a publicity stunt. Yet surely this shows the real depth of feeling, from ordinary men and women, already struggling and this Government should pay heed to the level of opposition being displayed to their vicious welfare cuts.

We can all feel the effects of this governments attack on ordinary men and women. Many in work are not only seeing their hours reduced but their ‘in work’ benefits reduced also and those who are out of work are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. If we are not personally touched by these changes, then our families, friends, neighbours most certainly are.

One thing we can be certain of is that we are not all in this together.