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The true impact of the Chancellor's budget

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21 July 2015
SLP sign A few weeks ago I asked the Chancellor, George Osborne if he would attend one of my constituency advice surgeries to help him better understand the impact of London's housing crisis on the lives of my constituents. 

He accepted my invitation in full view of the House of Commons but despite me trying to fix a date with his office, I have heard nothing further. No surprise there then, you might say.*

This lack of interest in the lives of ordinary people, and their replacement in the Chancellor's imagination with people who are enjoying the fruits of economic growth and a rising standard of living, was sadly reaffirmed for me during the delivery of this year's budget.

In Westminster, the Chancellor's budget was accompanied by great fanfare and overblown acclaim. But what it should have come with was a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It’s always welcome to see a Conservative Chancellor implementing Labour’s ideas but when he introduced a new ‘living wage’ he really did nothing of the sort. The increase in our National Minimum Wage is welcome but the sleight of hand in calling it a living wage was a political trick too far. The independent Living Wage Foundation don’t accept it as a living wage and voters won’t fall for it either.

The dictionary would have also come in handy when Mr Osborne claimed this was a Budget for hard-working people. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies in contrast claims the budget was regressive, taking “much more” from the poor than the rich.

Sitting in the chamber as the first fully Tory budget for nearly twenty years was delivered I was struck most by two things. It was a budget that benefitted the wrong people and it was cavalier about the reality of millions of people’s lives. 

You can now leave up to £1 million to your children tax free, which is nice if you have a spare million lying around, but few reading this column will believe this is the right tax break at the right time. 

Just to heighten the celebratory mood on Conservative benches, the Chancellor announced 30% cuts to some claimants of Employment and Support allowance (which replaced Incapacity Benefit). In Osborne’s Britain you can give owners of a £1M estate a tax break, cut support to the sick and disabled and claim we are “all in it together”.

A Labour budget would have had to face reality and make cuts too, but it would not have looked like this and it wouldn’t have required a translation into ordinary English in order to understand its true impact.

I look forward to the day when the Chancellor comes to Lewisham so we can explain it to him.

*This article was originally written for the South London Press and was published in its edition dated 21 July 2015. Since publication, contact has been made by the Chancellor’s Advisor in order to set a date for a meeting in Parliament between the Chancellor, Heidi Alexander MP, Sir Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) and local representatives from Housing Associations.

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