Ged Meheren digests the budget

Ken Clarke was reputed to have slept through the budget announcement.  There were at least three key areas which should have woken him up.  The first (relaxation of planning controls)  was in the speech, the second (reduction in winter fuel benefits) and third (reduction in living standards) were disguised.

In George Osborne’s budget announcement last Wednesday nothing much was said about the effects of the forthcoming cuts in public services, and the way they are going to further depress the economy and affect people all over the country.  This is to be expected from this callous unthinking government, but the three changes above should have been hightlighted more.  Maybe Mr Osborne thought everyone was having a kip like Ken Clarke.

Relaxation of Planning Regulations:  according to Government spin, the relaxation proposed by our jovial Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles will “assist in the development of  sustainable projects”. Do we believe them?   Mr Pickles says that this proposed new policy will “regenerate redundant sites”., however Neil Sinden of the Campaign to Protect Rural England says that “the planning measures present a potentially devastating threat to the countryside and are unlikely to boost long-term economic growth“.   Is it possible that Tory Councillors on the Planning Committee were aware of these proposed changes, and were content to hold over the final decision on the Coate Water development until the new legislation had been announced? Just a thought.

Cutting winter fuel payments:  Mr Cameron, in the run up to the election made the pledge that winter fuel allowances would not be cut if he got to Number 10. It now transpires that pensioners over the age of 80 could lose as much as £100 next winter since the Government say they cannot afford the top-up payments introduced under Labour.

Reducing our standard of living: recent analysis of the Chancellor’s figures shows that typical families with children, who are already struggling, will see their real incomes fall by between 4% and 7% in real terms over the next year.  Take a family with a three-year-old child, where the father earns £45,000 a year and the mother stays at home to look after the child.  Economists at the Resolution Foundation have found that their disposable income will shrink by 4.6% in one year.  This is partly due to inflation outstripping earnings growth by 2.2% this year and partly because changes to tax credits and child benefit will bring an overall drop in the household’s real income of £1,590.  Take another example.  A couple with joint earnings of £39,000 (he earns £28,000 and she £11,000) who work 42 hours between them and have a baby cared for by a registered childminder while they are at work, will lose even more “ some 6.9% of disposable income in 2011-12 compared with 2010-11.

How could Ken Clarke have slept through this attack on those who want to protect the countryside, and on pensioners, and on ordinary families with children?  Are he, Cameron and Osborne sleepwalking into another recession?

Ged Meheren
Labour Candidate, Dorcan Ward.