Yoshee Hummel is not impressed with George Osbourne's Autumn Statement and judging by last year’s it’s safe to say that rather than it being the prize, it’s more ‘here’s what you could have won’.
Granted these are the points in the ‘Executive Summary’ of the document but just as far as statements go there is significant evidence that they may have fallen short of providing for the whole of the UK this past year rather than favouring a specific group... Nowhere does it mention safeguarding the public sector i.e. cuts, a very important point as it severely affects the general public...merely ‘continued progress on reducing the deficit and debt’ instead...hmm.
So let’s recap and explore...
On with the show!
Autumn Statement 2013 sets out the next steps in the government’s long-term economic plan:
- Delivering sound public finances by setting out a fiscally-neutral Autumn Statement and further detail on how the government will ensure continued progress on reducing the deficit and debt beyond this Parliament
- ‘The government will ensure continued progress on reducing the deficit and debt’.
- According to Politics.co.uk “the coalition will leave more debt than all Labour governments since 1900”.
- Unison reports that Council funding is being cut by £11.3 billion but the rich have had their taxes cut by £9 billion.”
- Corporation taxes have been cut with The FT stating that it costs the UK over £5bn a year in revenue.
- Supporting businesses to grow and create jobs through a major package of support with the cost of business rates and an updated National Infrastructure Plan
A report commissioned by the Information Economy Council and published by investor and entrepreneur Sherry Coutu CBE in late 2014 actually calls for the British government to focus on “scale-ups” rather than supporting start-ups and “celebrating entrepreneurs”. Scale-ups are companies with more than 10 staff and it’s estimated that boosting “this sector by just 1% over the next 3 years could create 238,000 new jobs and add £38bn of value to the British economy.” As of July 2013 the FT stated that “There are 4.8m SMEs (small to medium enterprises) in the UK, employing 60 per cent of the workforce and representing 50 per cent of GDP. It is these companies, not the FTSE 100 giants that create the most new jobs. With better access to finance they could create another 2m jobs across the UK”. Data released by the Bank of England in August 2014 declared that lending for SMEs has actually fallen by £723m in the first quarter of 2014. Only in October 2014 have RBS and NatWest pledged to launch SME lending fund worth £1bn. Like with every aspect of society all levels need to be catered for; SMEs as well as big business and corporations.
- Equipping all young people to compete in the global economy by abolishing employer National Insurance contributions for most under-21 year olds, removing the cap on university places, reforming apprenticeships, and improving basic skills training
This is hilarious. Firstly, scrapping NI contributions for ‘most’ rather than all sounds like a copout. Secondly this is useless for those under 21 year olds who are at university. Employees don’t pay NI for under £5,885 and even if you do have a part time job you are unlikely to exceed the threshold. Thirdly removing the cap on Uni places is a contentious topic as there’s the worry that quality will decrease as well as overcrowding in any learning capacity isn’t advised. The government though have actually improved on promoting and implementing other forms of higher education with government figures seeing a 63.5% rise in apprenticeships in the year after the election. However the over 25-year-olds are accounting for 40% of all schemes with the majority already in employment. But on this point they have at least set the ball in motion but there’s still a long way to go as for every position there are 12 applications.
Last but by no means least, is the totally unjustifiable rise in tuition fees. Whatever ‘good’ they have done in the aforementioned nothing can compensate for this diabolical decision. Data published by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) show that 130 out of 172 universities and colleges, 76 per cent, will charge £9,000 for at least one course in 2015-16. It’s astounding to think that they feel it is sensible to land students in such a large sum of debt when education’s purpose is to safe guard ones future and in their words ‘compete in the global economy’. And let’s also not forget that the times are a- changing...rapidly. Jobs of today could very easily be extinct in 10 years. Now more than ever education should be cheap/subsidized or even free for all in order to kick start your career or retrain if needs be.
- Helping hard-working people to keep more of the money they earn by reducing the impact of government policies on energy bills and freezing fuel duty for the rest of the Parliament
I can think of a few things that would help ‘hard-working people’ (something about this phrase is so patronising; a facade of sympathy and understanding) and focusing on ‘energy bills and freezing fuel duty’ isn’t a priority compared to others.
- Living wage. Minimum wage is mandatory but when that leaves employers the option to provide the absolute minimum rather than a wage that you can actually live off you are only marginally better off. A fair wage should not be debateable it should be an essential.
- Again, it’s exasperating that basics are deliberated over. A home comprising of a decent amount of space, heating, made affordable for even the lowest income occupants, safe and not in disrepair is a must. Regulate the housing market people, regulate.
- Bedroom tax? The amount of rent you can claim housing benefit for is reduced by:
- 14% if you have one 'spare' bedroom
- 25% if you have two or more 'spare' bedrooms
Squeezing from those who can’t afford it; Nice, *go team*.
- Increasing the incentives to work and providing a benefit system that is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it
The fact that it starts with ‘incentives to work’ is offensive. Let’s reiterate what the situation with the benefit system and job market is at the moment. As of Sept 2013 the figures from the UK Government as stated by Citizens Advice Scotland that benefit fraud stands at 2% of the estimated total annual fraud in the UK putting it at the 2nd lowest place. Yes unemployment is down but as expressed by Ed Sweeney in The Newstatesman “The UK is a low-wage, low-skills, long-hours economy, with far too many insecure, poor-quality jobs. For the majority of people, fair pay, flexible working patterns and genuine work-life balance remain an illusion.” Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that those who claim benefits are scroungers and that we should celebrate this new wave of feeble and unfair jobs.
It seems banker culture has seeped through to the General Public but without the resources. Bankers’ bonuses incentivise bankers to work hard apparently. Six years after the crash that was caused by the financial industry we still haven’t seen a cap on bonuses, with George Osborne actually launching a campaign to fight against the proposed capping. When did a salary merely pay for gracing your employer with your presence and a bonus is there to encourage ‘hard work’?
- Clamping down further on tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning, ensuring that those with the most in society make a fair contribution to reducing the deficit
What’s that? Its taken four years for European leaders to commit publicly to introduce the first stage of Robin Hood tax by 2016; a tiny tax on the financial sector that could be able to generate £20 billion annually in the UK alone?Oh and global firms such as Starbucks, Google and Amazon still at large avoiding taxes on their British sales? We think of places like Switzerland as tax havens however it turns out the UK is one because under the domicile rules multinationals are able to shelter their assets from UK tax. And they’ve devoted their time and effort to extracting money from those who claim housing benefit through the bedroom tax; according to Shelter ‘ If you have two or more 'spare' bedrooms and your rent is £100 per week, only £75 counts when your housing benefit is assessed. You have to pay at least £25 yourself.’
‘Ensuring that those with the most in society make a fair contribution’...sure...
- Taking action to reduce levels of tax debt and to reduce fraud, error and debt in thebenefit and tax credit systems
*yawn* As above
Let’s remember The Beveridge Report written in 1942 during WWII which was the initial document in the founding of the welfare state that pinpointed the 5 Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. Now let’s look at our society and how we’re getting on in regards to these points...
By the end of the war the UK had an immense debt of £21 billion - £24.7bn depending on sources but even within this climate the welfare system was set up as a necessity in building Britain. As numerous commentators’ have said, austerity and the situation we find ourselves in is a political problem not an economic one.
Please tune in again folks on Wednesday 3rd December for what I can only imagine to be another excellent stand up comedy routine by the one and only George Osborne. Just be prepared that the joke is on you.
Bring on Autumn statement 2014.