With each passing day, the level of rot at the heart of this Government grows ever deeper.
We have yet another senior minister facing an inquiry into bullying claims, and MPs ditching basic parliamentary duties in favour of reality TV – and now the country is facing serious economic decay, too.
Years of damage from this Tory Government has left people desperately struggling up and down the country – and it’s not just my own constituency mailbag telling me this.
‘Heating or eating’, a phrase we have become accustomed to hearing, simply doesn’t capture the scale of the cost of living scandal.
People are living in cold and damp homes due to our having some of the leakiest and worst-insulated housing in Europe.
Millions are skipping meals or going a whole day without eating, with hunger levels doubling since January.
This is the state of poverty-stricken Tory Britain today.
It’s a far cry from the ‘sunlit uplands’ of our future outside the EU that Boris Johnson once extolled.
So what shape has Brexit left our economy in?
It’s delivered a fall in trade eventually predicted to be 15%, stalling business investment, a 4% reduction in productivity, lower wages, trade deals with watered down environmental standards, a 6% increase in food prices, the highest inflation in the G7, and a grave shortage of health and social care workers – and we’re less than two years into our ‘deal’.
The worst is most certainly yet to come.
The spending decisions made in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement must reflect the economy we want to create, and the society we want to live in
When people are in desperate need, many turn to our public services for support. Yet years of austerity have devastated local authorities – this week two Tory councils have warned they face bankruptcy if they’re not funded properly.
Three quarters of county councils are likely to slash bus subsidies, two thirds plan to turn off streetlights despite fears for women’s safety, half will reduce library opening hours (or shut them altogether), and nearly four fifths intend to scale back funding for vitally important local climate action.
This is alongside an NHS at breaking point – with our health professionals saying they need at least £6-7billion more funding if we are to avoid cutbacks to cancer care, GPs and mental health support, even as the Health Secretary Steve Barclay was quoted as saying our health service doesn’t need extra cash.
That admission demonstrates exactly what this Government’s intentions are – ideologically-driven austerity.
The Chancellor will argue in his statement on Thursday that we need to tackle a ‘fiscal black hole’ in the country’s finances. I don’t think this framing is just dangerous – it’s economically nonsensical.
Household finances across the country may be in crisis, but our public finances are not. By next year the UK deficit will be the second lowest in the G7 as a percentage of GDP, and we in fact have less debt and lower taxes than many countries.
It’s vital that we don’t learn the wrong lessons from the debacle of the Truss Government – there’s a huge difference between borrowing to fund tax cuts for the mega-rich, and borrowing to invest in our country.
And what should that investment look like?
First off, the Chancellor must provide £10billion in emergency funding by the end of this Parliament to insulate millions of homes across the country – the quickest, cheapest and most effective way to slash people’s energy bills, warm their homes, and reduce their carbon emissions too.
He should be investing in clean, green and long-term renewable energy, which is now nine times cheaper than climate-wrecking gas; free childcare to ease the cost-of-living burden for struggling families; a National Minimum Wage of £15 an hour; and decent pay increases for public sector workers, from nurses to rail workers, that take into account rising inflation.
These things don’t have to come with an extortionate price tag.
Ditching just five large road schemes currently planned by the government would more than cover the funding for a £10bn insulation programme.
A proper, loophole-free windfall tax on climate-wrecking oil and gas companies could bring in as much as £6.6billion a year.
Ending destructive fossil fuel subsidies could also provide billions, as could a wealth tax on the mega-wealthy top 1% in the UK.
The spending decisions made in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement must reflect the economy we want to create, and the society we want to live in.
It’s one which lifts people out of poverty; one which ensures public services are thriving; one which values people’s physical and mental health; and one which protects the planet from an ever-looming climate emergency.
It’s time to ditch the Tory economy of ideologically-driven austerity – and replace it with a wellbeing economy for the benefit of people.
And the planet.
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