Catherine West MP's first thoughts on today's Autumn Statement

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"For six years, under a Tory Government, those who did nothing to cause the global economic crash have paid the price of the pain that followed.

Five million disabled people are living in poverty. Hard working families have seen their jobs become more insecure and their pay packets frozen, young people have seen their dreams of home ownership shattered and cuts to social care have left one million people without the support they need to get by.

When Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street in July, she said her Government would be different. It would help the ‘just about managing’ and crack down instead on the companies who don’t treat their workers fairly.

I saw very little in today’s Autumn Statement to suggest that the Government has a grip of the task ahead to secure an economy which works for everyone.

The Tories have already rolled back this week on their promise to put workers on boards. Today they offered crumbs to those hard working families set to lose out through cuts to Universal Credit. A two per cent change in the taper rate will still leave 2.5 million families around £2,000 a year worse off – money they can ill afford to lose.

Wages will continue to be squeezed. Those barely managing on the minimum wage will receive £7.50 an hour from April 2017. That’s 10p an hour less than the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted it would be just eight months ago.

Significantly, that’s in part because today’s statement also revealed the stark price our economy is already paying for the damaging decision to leave the EU. Borrowing £122 billion higher than expected, slower growth, higher inflation leading to higher prices. The OBR says Brexit will cost us £58.7 billion over the next five years – a slogan I don’t remember seeing on the side of any bus. They diplomatically referred to it as “a subdued outlook”, but with these predictions the economy won’t get back to pre-referendum levels until 2021. As the Chancellor himself has said “people didn’t vote to make themselves poorer or less secure”. The impact leaving the EU would have on people’s jobs and living standards is one of the many reasons I have already made clear I will vote against Brexit in Parliament.

There were some positives. Victories for what was a Labour manifesto pledge to ban letting agents’ fees and scrapping the punitive ‘pay to stay’ that would have hiked social rents and forced people out of their homes. This is a great result for thousands of people in Hornsey & Wood Green and I welcome the u-turn.

But it’s not enough.

We need more support for those in work on low and middle incomes, who will struggle even more as prices rise. The Chancellor could start by introducing a real living wage and reversing those cuts to low and middle earners like Universal Credit and ESA.

We need secure and properly funded public services. The Chancellor failed to even mention social care today, yet it’s in crisis and our NHS is at breaking point with a £2.5 billion deficit. Local authorities have been stripped to the bone and vulnerable people are paying the price. This cannot be allowed to continue.

We need significant capital investment in council house building and the infrastructure that will help get our economy moving and tackle the desperate housing crisis that is worsening year on year. There was some, belated, recognition that Labour has been right all along in pushing for investment - the announcement of a deal with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for 90,000 new affordable homes is a welcome start. But the Tories have presided over the lowest level of home-building since the 1920s so the devil will be in the detail. Their fiscal plans still don’t allow the level of investment we really need.

It may not have been George Osborne and David Cameron on the front bench today, but I fear what we saw was the same old Tories."

Catherine West MP

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Catherine West MP

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