In West Leeds and across the country, people are struggling to make ends meet. Our NHS is at breaking point, local councils are on the verge of going bankrupt and household debt is rising. But the Chancellor’s meagre Spring Statement failed to address any of those problems.
The Chancellor had a golden opportunity to introduce some desperately needed changes yesterday. With the NHS on its knees, more funding is urgently needed to keep it from buckling under the pressure – but the Chancellor refused to offer the NHS a single penny more. As a result, the likelihood of another NHS crisis next winter continues to grow.
Councils in places like Leeds are also seeing their ability to provide services for the most vulnerable in our society damaged by Conservative cuts. Councils provide children’s services, adult social care and refuges for those suffering from domestic violence. These aren’t “backroom cuts” or “efficiency savings”: this is the Conservative Party taking vital services from those in extreme need. Labour’s Leeds City Council are fighting against the odds to protect services, but every week it gets harder. Local government faces a funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020 and the Conservative Leader of the Chancellor’s own local council in Surrey, one of the wealthiest in the UK, has warned that it faces “the most difficult financial crisis in our history.” It is clear that our public services are crumbling in Tory hands -; but once again, the Chancellor refused to take the opportunity to invest in the vital services provided by local councils.
The Chancellor also chose not to take any action to combat the growing problem of household debt. It is a sad reality that for many, borrowing is not a choice but a necessity in order to cover the cost of everyday essentials. This is appalling and a clear reflection of how Tory economic policy has affected people’s ability to cover the cost of their basic needs. Insecurity in the jobs market, rising inflation and stagnant productivity have meant that most people have not seen a real-term wage increase since before the crisis. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that earnings will still be below their 2008 level in 2022 and cuts to in-work benefits have also had a devastating impact on many families. After almost eight years of Tory-led government, people are struggling more than ever to get by.
These are just some of the failures the Government chose not to correct in the Chancellor’s statement. Our public services so badly need to be properly funded, but the Tories continue to stretch them to breaking point. The Spring Statement was a missed opportunity to put these problems right. It proves that only a Labour government will deliver the changes the country so desperately needs.