Last week I undertook a frantic round of debates and media appearances in relation to The Budget. The only true test of The Chancellor’s red box was whether he would deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to end austerity, and I’m afraid he did not. He did not cancel the cuts planned for departmental budgets for the rest of this spending period – these cuts are what have reduced Tameside Council’s spending power by nearly half – we can’t take any more. He did not scrap plans to rollout universal credit. If austerity is ending, working families should not be losing thousands of pounds a year.
Rhetoric about the end of austerity just won’t wash until people can feel it in their household budgets and see it in their local community. In 2010 the Government claimed they’d eradicate the deficit by 2015 – they still haven’t. Yet the pain felt by individuals & communities from austerity has been extensive. A badly designed new 50 pence piece won’t cut it either! We need real investment, real growth and a real end to austerity in our schools, councils and hospitals. I was also proud to have stood to applaud Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigners at the Budget. I’ve always shown solidarity with women constituents denied their pensions so close to retirement. 3.9 million women deserve better.
After the Budget, we got straight into a busy fortnight for the Shadow Treasury brief. I spoke at a roundtable for The House magazine on cryptoassets and digital currencies like Bitcoin. You can read more about what we talked about here. I said that while the opportunities for the technology underneath cryptoassets are exciting, the most important thing is to protect retail customers.
Last week, I spoke at a committee to make sure that UK law will allow building societies to continue serving customers without interruption once we leave the EU – one of dozens of pieces of legislation I’ll be working on before we exit in March.
Finally, we gathered as a team on Tuesday to take the Chancellor of the Exchequer to task at Treasury Questions. I asked the Chancellor what plans are being made to protect the important tax revenue provided by the financial services sector in the UK which funds vital public services. Philip Hammond had no answer other than to attack Labour – a sign yet again of how badly the Government are failing us in these negotiations. You can see my questions to the Treasury here