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Guildford Liberal Democrats

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Zöe Franklin: Autumn statement reveals gaping hole in nation's finances

November 28, 2016 6:32 AM

The lead up to the autumn statement and spring budget are times of anticipation. Lots of calls are made on the government to put out a budget that it is fair, helps those most in need, supports the NHS, the list goes on. This autumn budget statement had more riding on it than most - it is was the first since the nation narrowly voted in favour of leaving the EU and also the first since the PM, Theresa May, stood outside Downing Street and announced she wanted to build 'a country that works for everyone'.

There was a lot of talk in the press about how the expectation was that this budget would be good for 'jams', those 'just about managing'. I spent part of the weekend getting my head round some of the headlines and as far as I can see this budget was anything but good news for us as a nation, and particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Looking specifically at the Autumn Statement's impact on struggling low income families, while the government has increased the National Living Wage and increased the amount you can earn before tax it is continuing with its four-year freeze on working-age benefit, plus is continuing with its two-child cap on new claimants of Universal Credit and tax credits. According to the Resolution Foundation a single parent with one child under 4 who's working full time at the minimum wage will be £3800 worse off a year by 2020.

More widely, according to the Office of Budget Responsiblity we can expect a rise in unemployment, a fall in living standards, not to mention their estimate that Brexit will create a £220 billion black hole in our economy. On top of all that we are seeing a £8.2 billion drop in tax receipts over the next two years alone. That amount of money could fund 330,000 nurses.

The Chancellor and his Conservative Government are not competent to deal with the challenges ahead. They are going to hit people in the pocket through their hapless handling of Brexit, and Labour can offer no opposition, having backed them on Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats have consistently campaigned for more funding the NHS as we are on the edge of another winter crisis and our health service is at breaking point yet the government has turned a deaf ear to these calls. Sadly now patients will pay the price. There is also nothing for public sector workers, our doctors, teachers and armed forces, who deserve a proper pay rise.