The Spring Statement this week had nothing to say to the people of Wales, or the workers across the country who have borne the brunt of Conservative austerity measures over the last 9 years.
The Chancellor’s statement in the Commons dodged the hard facts: that this Government has presided over the slowest recovery since the 1920s, and has created an economy of low pay, long hours, insecure work, with low investment, low productivity and low growth. According to the TUC, at least 3.8 million people across the UK are in insecure work – with 14.3% of these workers based in Wales. Meanwhile average wages are less than they were ten years ago, household debt has soared, and in-work poverty has risen faster than employment. There was nothing in the Chancellor’s statement to address the concerns of working people.
Meanwhile the announcement of an additional £100 million for police overtime barely scratched the surface of nine years of cuts to our police forces. We have seen an 18% fall in spending on police between 2009/10 and 2017/18, and a sharp 15% decline in police numbers since 2010. These indefensible cuts come in the face of rising crime levels across the UK, including here in Gwent where crime levels have risen by 41% in the last year, and knife crime has skyrocketed by a staggering 236% since 2013. Our police deserve more than warm words from Whitehall; they deserve to be resourced properly and given the tools to do the job. There was no indication in yesterday’s Spring Statement that the Chancellor is willing to rise to the challenge.
The Chancellor also failed to commit to increasing spending on Universal Credit and make the changes to the benefit that we need to see. By 2021-22 spending on social security will be £36 billion a year lower than in 2010 due to cuts, and groups such as lone parents and disabled people have been particularly hard hit. Universal Credit, is acting as a vehicle for cuts, and causing real hardship. Labour will continue to call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be stopped and the system to be fixed.
The Chancellor has spoken about the end of austerity, but there was little evidence of a meaningful change in approach in yesterday’s statement. The Government has still not accepted or worked to rectify the damage caused by the policies pursued over the last 9 years. As the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell rightly highlighted yesterday, austerity was always a political choice – with money found for tax cuts for big corporations while vital public services like the police saw their funding cut.
If nothing else, the Spring Statement demonstrated that it’s time for a change. We need a Labour Government with a common-sense plan to rebuild and invest to grow our economy for the many not the few.