The headline from yesterday’s Autumn Statement, Chairman Mao aside, is George Osborne’s apparent U-turn on cuts to tax credits, but that was just about the only piece of good news there was. What the Chancellor was hoping this would distract from is the devastating and swinging cuts that are about to be inflicted upon already decimated local authorities.
Tameside Council has already seen its budget effectively halved since 2010, having to make cuts of £104 million already, with another £90 million to come, and the cuts will keep on coming. It’s not just Tameside where these cuts are being felt, as you may have seen from my question to the Prime Minister last week, but shamefully more often than not it is less well-off areas who are seeing the biggest cuts.
New measures such as social care funding being moved from national to local taxation is especially worrying for an area such as Tameside, which has very large local health needs. The Chancellor has attempted to justify this by allowing councils to raise extra money for social care through council tax, but this simply will not be enough. What makes this even worse is that George Osborne was warned by councils in the North of England that this would not even constitute a sticking plaster over what is needed to adequately fund social care, but he went ahead and did it anyway.
We should of course welcome the fact that even George Osborne, who is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people in areas such as ours, has finally realised just how unpopular his cuts to tax credits were. It was vital that Labour colleagues and I campaigned against the Government and got the victory on this. Lots of constituents contacted me about this, some sharing very personal stories about how much they would suffer if the cuts went ahead, so I am especially pleased that these cuts will not be going ahead yet.
Don’t be fooled however that this indicates any desire from the chancellor to see the error of his ways and scrap his wish to scrap tax credits. As the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg points out here, these cuts are simply postponed until 2020, which makes it even more necessary that we beat the Tories in five years’ time. The country, and in particular areas such as ours, cannot afford 15 years of Tory rule. I will continue to work hard to fight against the devastating cuts handed down by George Osborne and the Tories, making sure that local people are not left behind by this Government.