UK PAYING THE PRICE FOR DAVID CAMERON'S FLOOD DEFENCE FAILURE
This week Labour held the Government to account over their weak response to the recent floods that have devastated communities across the country.
The emergency services and military have done a sterling job in their response to the floods ensuring swift and safe rescues for those affected. However, the Government has failed to adequately prepare our country for the effects of climate change and the impacts that flooding has on our communities.
The cost of dealing with the aftermath of the floods will undoubtedly run in to the billions. This is far greater than the cost of prevention and only highlights the Government’s failure to prepare our country for future threats from climate change. The 2012 Climate Change Risk Assessment stated flooding as the most prominent threat. The Government has failed to acknowledge that extreme weather events are unfortunately becoming a part of British weather and we need to adapt our policy accordingly.
Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly questioned the Prime Minister over funding for flood defence schemes at PMQs and called David Cameron out for cancelling a scheme in Leeds and turning down applications to improve protection in York and Cumbria. David Cameron failed to adequately answer any of the questions put to him.
Under his watch the Coalition Government ignored warnings that spending on flood defences would have to increase by £10-30 million each year to maintain existing flood protection by 2030. Instead, the Environment Agency lost 20% of its staff and even after the emergency funding, maintenance spending fell. It is not enough for the Government to say the budget is “protected” after they have neglected it for so many years.
It is time for the UK to have a complete rethink about our flood defence system including better management of river catchments, from land use in our upstream areas, to estuaries and lowland areas. If the Government doesn’t act now, it will only be a matter of time before vulnerable communities face further turmoil.
TORIES MUST U-TURN ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT CUT
2015 saw Labour force the Tories into a u-turn on cuts to tax credits for low and middle income workers. These cuts were due to cost millions of working families thousands of pounds each year.
In 2016 the same challenge faces us. Because although George Osborne reversed his planned tax credit cuts he refused to reverse cuts to Universal Credit - the support benefit for working families that, from this April, will replace tax credits for more and more families.
The Tory Government has decided to slash the amount of money that people can earn before Universal Credit starts to get taken away from them. The cuts will initially affect the families who have piloted UC. But by 2020, when UC fully replaces tax credits the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies says 2.6 million working families will be £1,600 a year worse off due to the cuts.
It means that the Tories will take the same amount of money from the same sorts of families as they planned through their tax credit cuts. They now just plan to take a little longer to do it and are hoping no one notices.
But Labour has noticed and we are exposing the policy for what it is - a Tory Tax on working families. As we did last year the Labour Party is calling for the only fair solution - another u-turn. Nothing short of a full reversal will be a fair outcome for the millions of working families who are set to be worse off.
FIVE YEARS OF TORY FAILURE ON HOUSING
The Tories’ housing record is one of five years of failure. To make matters worse they have introduced a Housing Bill which does nothing to correct the causes of that failure and in many areas will make the housing crisis much worse.
This Bill will lead to a huge loss of affordable homes to rent and buy, which will intensify the spiral of ever higher housing costs. Home-ownership has fallen every year since 2010, and this Bill is a big let-down for aspiring home-owners. It leaves home-ownership out of reach for most families and young people on ordinary incomes.
This week’s Cameron’s big solution to the housing shortage turned out to be a rehash of an old announcement to build new “starter homes” at minimum 20% discount price. However even with this scheme starter homes are still too expensive for many people to afford.
Just this week Local Government Association research revealed that a record 475,000 homes in England have been given planning permission but have yet to be built. In response Shadow Minister John Healey issued strong criticism “Tory Ministers’ believe that you solve the housing crisis by simply stripping away planning rules that build affordable homes and make sure local people are consulted is nonsense.”
The Government’s Housing Bill repeats these same mistakes and chokes off much-needed affordable homes with it. The Tories need to own up to the fact that their housing plans are failing and letting down aspiring home owners across the country.
Labour supports measures to make home ownership more affordable. Indeed, under the last Labour Government, home ownership rose but under the Tories has fallen to the lowest in a generation. We will continue challenging the Government until they make the necessary investment that we have been calling for.