Autumn Statement: Do the Tories Actually Have a Plan?

Labour Leader Brian Smedley ‘not convinced the Tories have a plan…’

Today, slayer of the NHS and now Tory Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, stood up in Parliament and outlined his ‘Autumn Statement’… for the autumn of his collapsing Conservative Government. Labour in Somerset was paying keen attention. Well, trying to. Bridgwater Town Labour leader Brian Smedley said “It was difficult to catch the full debate about the autumn statement today over the chants of ‘Tories Out!’ ‘Tory scum’ and ‘General Election Now!’. But I think we got the gist of it. More of the same from a Government that no matter what they say, people know they have nothing left for ordinary working people. The other thing that’s pretty apparent when they say ‘we have a plan’ is the mass chorus back at this time of year going ‘Oh no you haven’t!’ The last thing the Tories have is a ‘plan’. Anarchy of the market and survival of the fittest underlines everything they do. We really just need to feed in a few background facts…unemployment is up to 1.46 million and that’s 160,000 in just the last few months, and 61,000 of these are aged 16 to 24. What sort of planning for the future is that!? At the same time prices have risen by 16%, food bills specifically by 28% and energy costs by 49%. And where are we all in this? With average earnings rising by just 14%. The UK is in the worse position for families fighting through ‘in work poverty’ in generations. People are calling for a general election NOW because another 12 months of this will be just treading peoples faces in the dirt.”

Jacqui Solomon ‘policy will see most vulnerable in society persecuted’

Benefits Targeted

Cllr Jacqui Solomon (Labour, Eastover) is the Youth spokesperson on Bridgwater Town Council. She said “‘Under the back-to-work plan, the sick note system will be changed, to assume that people can work. The work capability assessment will be changed. And more support will be offered of people going into work. The government will ask for something in return, he says. If after 18 months of help, there will be mandatory work experience. And if people do not participate, the government will close the case and stop their benefits.’ This policy is very harsh and will see the most vulnerable in society persecuted,  once again having to prove their disability often to poorly trained private companies who will be able to deny them much needed benefits. “

General Election Now

Labour’s county  leader Leigh Redman ‘We need an election now’

Somerset County Labour Leader Cllr Leigh Redman said “After thirteen years of economic failure under the Conservatives, working people are worse off. Prices are still rising in the shops, energy bills are up and mortgage payments are higher after the Conservatives crashed the economy. The 25 Tory tax rises since 2019 are the clearest sign of economic failure, with Somerset households paying £4,000 more in tax each year than they did in 2010. The Conservatives have become the party of high tax because they are the party of low growth. Nothing the Chancellor said in his Autumn Statement could change their appalling record. This is like watching the conservatives rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nothing for Adult or Children social care, nothing about NHS. This chancellor did nothing for Somerset! We need a general election now!”

Alex Martin ‘personal tax thresholds remain frozen’

In for a Shock

Bridgwater Labour Party Policy Officer Alex Martin commented “Anyone excited by the prospect of today’s 2% reduction to national insurance contributions might be in for a shock when they realise that all the main personal tax thresholds remain frozen. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Broken Tory Government

Cllr Mick Lerry, Labour Mayor of Bridgwater, said: “The Chancellors’ words on economic growth are rather hollow after 13 years in power and with government and public debt at its highest level. With rent and mortgages up by 25%, prices in the shops up by 30% and energy up by 82% and inflation still too high the people of Bridgwater are suffering 13 years of failure. The main reason for productivity being to low, is due to the low level of wages. The lack of business investment is due to the fact that the economic policy and the industrial strategy of the Government is unclear.”

Mick Lerry ‘cost of borrowing is still too high’

Mick continued “The general level of taxes under this government are at their highest level ever. The cuts in National Insurance for January 2024 will help to reduce the burden, but not enough to pay for the massive increase in the cost of living. Any financial increases announced in the Autumn Statement will not put enough money in working peoples’ pockets, to cover the cost of living.  Small businesses will also have to absorb financial increases, rather than being able to pass them on to customers. The freeze in Business Tax will not overcome the review that is needed for businesses, who find that they are taxed differently, which can disadvantage some, to that of other businesses who pay a more favourable tax to their competitors. The cost of borrowing for investment or to buy your own home is still too high. The national living wage is still not high enough and average wages are still lower than many countries in Europe. Pensioners will only be receiving what they entitled to in triple lock increase. In recent by-elections the voters have punished the broken Tory government and voters in Bridgwater will have an opportunity to do this in the Fairfax-East by-election”.

Last Hurrah!

Cllr Irena Hubble ‘budget designed to please ..’certain quarters’..

Labour councillor Irena Hubble (Bridgwater Fairfax West) said “ This statement is a last hurrah for Jeremy Hunt. On the face of it looks like some of us can afford a few more cups of coffee but…..is that it ?  This budget was designed to please certain quarters with an eye for those who bother to vote in elections and so pensioners do well. To please the right wing of his own party he takes a swing at the disabled and the long term unemployed. And woe betide you if you are disabled or long term unemployed. In fact that term is about to  be deleted altogether.  And what happens to councils…. They are being wrung dry, as we can see from the perilous state of our county council. No more  money is forthcoming for their  coffers . What’s the point of individual gain when the collective becomes the biggest loser. Another loser is the green agenda as we are lagging behind the USA and Europe in our paltry investment in industries which could both help the economy and turn the environmental tide in our favour.”

Cllr Tim Mander ‘catalogue of Tory failures’

Failure

Bridgwater Town Councillor Tim Mander (Westover, Labour) said ” The autumn statement represents a catalogue of failures. Failure to address the massive, NHS waiting list debacle,  Failure to address the crisis in mental health care, Failure to address soaring rents in the private rented sector, Failure to tackle the shortage of affordable housing, Failure to invest in the green economy.  The country is crying out for a change” 

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