Updates from Westminster - 17/03/16

LABOUR SLAMS OSBORNE’S BUDGET   

This Budget was a test for George Osborne. Could he meet his targets, could he deliver a fair Budget, could he invest to build an economy for the future?  On all three counts he has failed.

Yesterday’s Budget from the Chancellor is a culmination of six years of Tory failure. It confirms that George Osborne is failing on his own terms - forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility  show that George Osborne is on course to break two of his three fiscal rules. GDP growth, wages, business investment and productivity growth have all been revised down.

When this Government first came to power in 2010 they promised to balance the books by 2015. Instead, today’s Budget reveals that this Government is set to borrow £38.4bn more than he planned.

Osborne’s Budget had unfairness at its very core. Tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by those who can least afford it. Half a million people with disabilities are losing over £1 billion in Personal Independence Payments, while the Chancellor cuts Capital Gains Tax – a tax he himself raised in 2010 saying doing so was necessary to “create a fairer tax system”. While we welcome the rise in tax thresholds, which puts money in the pockets of middle and low earners, we are concerned that some of this progress will be offset by cuts to Universal Credit. 

Ultimately Osborne has failed to balance the books, failed to invest in the economy and failed to improve the lives of working families across the country. Labour is standing up for a fairer economy that equips us for the future. The next Labour government will put fairness at the heart of government, balance the books and pay down the debt while protecting public services. Labour would invest in a high skill, high wage economy that will provide a real future for the next generation.

THE CHANCELLOR’S EDUCATION PLANS ARE UNRAVELLING

George Osborne’s announcement that all schools in England must become academies by 2020 will not solve our education crisis. An education crisis that is happening under the Conservative’s watch. The Tory record on education is one of a teacher shortage crisis, a school places system which is broken, a widening attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, and exams and assessments in schools in chaos.

Analysis of the Chancellor’s budget already shows his plans are unravelling. The Budget allocated £140 million to academisation. There are currently 15,632 schools in England which are not yet academies. The costs for conversion to academy status is £44,837.  Therefore there is a £560 million black hole in Chancellor’s plan for schools.

They have run out of ideas for education and so are pressing forward with a narrow focus on academies. But academisation alone will not address the Tory education crisis. There is no evidence to suggest that academisation in and of itself leads to school improvement. Without sufficient funding and teacher supply, robust accountability and oversight they will not be able to deal with the crisis in education.

Failure exists in both school types, just as excellence does. It’s about time the government came forward with a comprehensive plan for school improvement for all children, in all schools up and down the country, and a serious strategy for raising standards for the next generation. Labour wants to see robust accountability and oversight of all schools regardless of type. A Labour Government would prioritise excellence in every school and every classroom – that means a focus way beyond arguments of school structures.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP

On the evening of the Budget the government suffered a crushing defeat in the Lords over the Trade Union Bill. Labour Lords led the charge and voted by 320 to 172, a majority of 148, to defeat the government. This is the second time that our Lords have defeated the government on the Trade Union Bill. The plans will now return to the House of Commons for further debate.

Alongside the Budget this week, the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions, Business, Innovation and Skills, International Development, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were held to account during departmental question times.

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