Here’s my latest column for the Ham & High on why George Osborne’s recent budget wasn’t what our community needed.
Marks & Spencer’s decision to close its Wood Green store is a blow to the local high street. It’s been here for over seventy years, yet the retail giant is closing its doors at the end of September because they say it isn’t making money. It’s an unwelcome reminder that George Osborne’s ‘economic plan’ isn’t filtering through to the places that need it. His budget last month did nothing to change that.
Where were the measures to support local economies and improve productivity? We need plans to create much needed jobs through house building and investing in infrastructure as well as support for the entrepreneurs of our high streets, the small cafes and business owners that make our communities what they are. Where was the will to address unfair tax rules like the ‘Mayfair’ loophole that allows some city fund managers to legally pay almost no tax? It’s something I spoke out on during the Finance Bill debate in the House of Commons.
Sadly, there was nothing in there to make Marks & Spencer think they should reconsider their decision to leave Wood Green behind. Instead, what we got from the Tory Chancellor was another attack on those who have least.
Even the welcome hike to the minimum wage was cancelled out for three million low paid working people by the cuts to tax credits. Here in Hornsey & Wood Green, 11,200 children are growing up in families who receive tax credits. They can make the difference between being able to pay the bills and put food on the table. The Tory Government’s changes will see a family with two kids and one earner on average income lose over £2,000. At the same time as this Government increases the number of children living in poverty, they are taking away the concept of child poverty from the statute book.
This wasn’t a budget for our community, and it wasn’t a budget for our young people, who will now be saddled with even more debt as university maintenance grants have been scrapped. In one case I know of, a student will leave with £56,000 of personal debt. What sort of start is that for a young professional and what hope of saving a deposit for a first home? Those under 25 won’t even be able to benefit from the rise in the minimum wage. The average age of first time buyers is going up every year in London and many of our children are trapped in low quality, high cost housing or forced to move to the other end of the country with no hope of remaining here to bring up their families and be near us in our old age.
With wages falling behind rises in housing and living costs, and those under 25 not benefitting from the rise in the minimum wage, it is becoming ever harder for young people who don’t have access to funding from their families.
Sadly, this was a budget that doesn’t address the real issues and will make life harder for many of those who have the least. No wonder M&S bosses aren’t confident that people will have money in their pockets anytime soon.