March 19, 2013 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



A few weeks ago, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said: "We said that if things look bad at the beginning of 2013 – which they do – then there should be a reassessment of fiscal policy. We still believe that. You have a budget coming in March and we think that would be a good time to take stock and make some adjustments."

But in this week’s budget, the chancellor, George Osborne, has chosen to ignore the advice and plough on regardless. More austerity, more pain for hard working families, for disabled people and for those desperately trying to find work where there are only zero hour or part time low paid jobs on offer. There is no vision for the long term either; no suggestion of how the economy might grow so that public borrowing could finally be reduced and no answer to the question of why he said that the credit rating was the most important factor on which he should be judged and then ignored the downgrade by the credit agencies which shredded the tiny amount of credibility he had left.

And while right wing Tories want deeper cuts in spending, on April 1, thousands of millionaires will get just what their friends on the government side have promised them , £100,000 a year each year for anyone earning a £1million a year, all paid for by the bedroom tax and cuts to support for the lowest paid and for those looking for work. 

While the wealthiest in our society enjoy the benefits of the handout from the chancellor, millions of people are wondering how they will pay the bills, put food on the table and heat their homes. No wonder 250,000 people are using foodbanks and that’s before the cuts from the bedroom tax or the other attacks on the poorest take effect. 

At least 30% of those in social housing will be affected by the bedroom tax and it simply is not good enough to offer discretionary payments. The cash simply will not go far enough to support those who will face real hardship when this measure is introduced.

The chancellor tells us there are a million new private sector jobs but 200,000 are just re-badged public sector higher education workers and many of the rest are part time.

This government needs to intervene and now. 

They need to make sure that infrastructure projects are built; that the school building programme which the Tories and Lib Dems scrapped is reinstated; and that lending to small businesses happens. 

Osborne and Cameron need to make sure that the economy is growing first and foremost. They need to move away from cutting the living standards of the poor to pay for an obscene rise in the living standards of some of the wealthiest. 

In our unequal society, this chancellor is offering good news for the few paid for by the many. Until he reverses that approach the public will hold him directly responsible for the abject failure of his policies and the misery he is inflicting on millions of people across this country.