Response to the Autumn Statement

24 November 2016

Philip Hammond, Theresa May’s new Chancellor, announced his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. As with any new Chancellor, there was a great deal of interest into whether he’d change tact from George Osborne’s bullish desire to slash public spending. While some of Hammond’s news is welcome - this is a continuation of the Tory ‘Osbornomics’ that has driven a wedge between the top 1% of earners and the bottom 99%. In Plymouth, only the Green Party is united in supporting an economy that works for everyone.

Hammond’s overdue move to bring England and Wales in line with Scotland by banning letting agents’ fees to renters is welcome. This doesn’t excuse the fact that the cost of living has spiralled out of control under Tory rule as the government builds fewer homes since before the Second World War. People living in Plymouth are suffering: paying a lot of money to rent houses and flats that don’t meet basic living requirements - the thought of owning property being a distant pipe dream. Labour’s solutions, such as fixing rents, merely skirt around the problem - we don’t have enough houses, and costs will remain high until we do.

There was also an increase in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) to 12% from 10%. IPT is a regressive tax, linked not to incomes but to the cost of insurance premiums. Much of the revenue taken by the government from IPT will be taken from the motorists with the highest insurance premiums - usually young or unemployed. People under the age of 25 aren’t entitled to the National ‘Living Wage’ and many unemployed people need their car to look for work. The rise of IPT unfairly increases the load they must bear. The AA have predicted that it will lead to more uninsured drivers rather than fewer cars on the road: for people earning the apprentice minimum wage of £3.40 an hour, can they afford the increase?

There was also an acknowledgement in the Autumn Statement that there is a £59bn black hole in the Treasury’s books. That’s the cost of a messy leaving do for Cameron and Osborne and their failure to prevent Brexit launching a catapult through an already-feeble economy. The Green Party campaigned vigorously to stay in the EU despite its flaws. We now recognise the importance of full, tariff-free access to the European Single Market, so we can continue to trade fairly with the rest of Europe, keeping money flowing around the local economy and showing we are an outward-facing country, ready to do our bit in the world. The Green Party rejects the Little Englander mentality on show on the government benches of the Commons.

While trade with the EU will create wealth in this country, this only matters if it is distributed fairly. Over the last 30 years, the new wealth has been concentrated in the hands of the top 1%. This can’t be allowed to continue - only the Green Party has the concrete tax plans to share new wealth around, as well as the willingness to regulate and build housing so no one has to pay rip-off rent for a barely liveable flat. The people of Plymouth will not benefit from a Tory Chancellor who will only serve to increase inequality and stop money coming into this country with his posturing towards a ‘Hard Brexit’.

 

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