July 21, 2015

Bill Esterson

I have been elected on to the Treasury Select Committee by other Labour MPs. 

The committee has 11 MPs; six Conservative, four Labour and one SNP, so we are in a minority. 
The committee heard evidence from the Bank of England, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the Office for Budget Responsibility and as I write this we are due to meet the Chancellor, George Osborne to ask about his budget. 
Questions will be asked by the Labour members about the cuts to working tax credits and how these cuts will make it harder for people in work or trying to find work. 
The economists who gave evidence to the committee all said that  cutting tax credits will make it harder for people to stay in work and harder for people to find work. 
The Chancellor certainly has questions to answer about the effect his policies are having on people in work as well as about those trying to find work. 

The Chancellor also announced measures to improve productivity. 
This matters because we are not working as efficiently in this country as people do in the United States, in France or in Germany. 
As a result, our economy has grown more slowly and wages have fallen behind. 
The government said one way to speed up productivity, growth and therefore improve living standards was to let developers build on brownfield sites without planning permission. 
This sounds great and I want to see more brownfield development. 
In fact Labour fought the election committed to a brownfield first approach. 
The trouble is that developers already have permission to build 200,000 homes on derelict, brownfield sites. 
They just would rather build on greenfield sites, especially in the countryside as they can make more money. 
The government announcement is just window dressing I am afraid and will do little to increase the level of brownfield development as there is no fund for the decontamination of the derelict sites involved.
House building could and should be part of the boost to productivity and growth. 
Sadly the Chancellor only seems interested in good headlines not in achieving lasting economic success.