Last month, the council passed its budget. Under Labour the borough is focusing on generating income through smarter investments and innovation, rather than hacking away at services.
The Budget put money aside for affordable housing, reversed Tory reductions in grass cutting and invested in the town. All this while balancing the Budget and freezing council tax. It’s a budget which directly benefits Crawley residents.
Last week, George Osborne delivered the Conservatives’ final budget before the General Election. After five years of decisions which have seen real incomes in Crawley fall by £2,900, we all hoped for promises which would have improved our everyday lives. Perhaps commitments which would help rescue an NHS in crisis, stop the loss of a Crawley fire engine or prevent Sussex Police losing 1,000 officers?
Instead, the Government’s OBR confirmed that behind dodgy Tory statistics, their Budget means ‘a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than anything seen over the past five years’ and ‘a sharp acceleration in the pace of implied real cuts to day-to-day spending on public services.’ The NHS, Fire Brigade and Police Force, all vital services, all at risk.
Even their ‘big announcement’, that the first £1,000 of interest on savings will be tax free is a fudge. With an interest rate of 1.5%—if you can get it, you’d need almost £70,000 in savings to take full advantage of the tax break, that’s two and a half times the UK’s average full-time salary. Having given millionaires one tax cut while claiming there’s no money for services, it seems they’ve always money to help the well-off.
There’s another way. We could reverse the millionaires’ tax cut and create a lower 10p tax band to benefit people on ordinary and low incomes. We can make housing more affordable, raise the Minimum Wage and provide free childcare for working parents. We can tackle tax avoidance to pay for 20,000 nurses and 8,000 GPs to save the NHS, while cutting business rates for small businesses.
All Labour policy, all achievable. Next year, let’s have a Budget for the rest of us.
Cllr Chris Oxlade
Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Crawley