Ahead of today’s Budget there are a number of measures the Chancellor should be taking to support people here in Southwark and across the whole country. The effects of the downgrade Brexit deal and Ministers’ poor handling of the pandemic have caused the cost of living to spiral for most people. Our taxes are the highest they’ve been since the war, yet we are getting so little in return.
Working people in Southwark should be supported through this winter crisis by restoring the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit. Another measure Labour is calling for which would help all households is axing VAT on energy bills for the next 6 months – which the Tories used to hail as a benefit of leaving the EU but have failed to deliver.
Whilst the Conservatives plan to raise taxes for working people and small businesses which are still recovering from lockdowns, Labour would cut business rates next year and levy tax on the digital companies who’ve done so well out of the pandemic but too often harm our high streets, dodge tax and undercut employment rights.
Schools in Southwark have seen a massive cut of £1.2 million this year due to Ministers fiddling the figures for funding support for disadvantaged pupils. Ministers disowned their own advice on Covid catch up funding, delivering 10% of what their expert advisor suggested but I remain (perhaps overly) optimistic that extra funding for education is announced today.
It would be great to see a housebuilding programme announced on a national scale matching the ambition of Southwark Labour where we have the biggest programme in the country. Building homes of all tenures is crucial, especially if using the revenue from private sales to build the social housing the UK desperately needs. Leaseholders caught up in the building safety crisis also desperately need support, fast. Oyster Court (whose residents are being hit with bills of £85,000) is just one of over 80 buildings locally which have defects requiring action whilst Ministers sit on their hands. Over half of the Building Safety Fund has already been allocated to just 600 buildings across the country – and this only covers cladding and only on buildings over 18 metres and the loan system announced months ago has still not been published in full. The Chancellor needs to grasp the enormous scale of this scandal and act today.
I also want to see more investment in London. You can’t level up the country whilst ignoring the capital city! For every £1 spent on London Underground investment, 55% reaches workforces outside London. Funding from the Government for the Bakerloo Line Extension would be an obvious benefit to the whole country, including Yorkshire where new carriages would be built.
I hope a Budget appears that meets the needs of Southwark and our country and matches the public demand for change following the twin crises of Brexit and Covid.