THE Budget was hugely disappointing for Wigan and the North West.
Wigan, along with the rest of the country faces a jobs, growth and living standards crisis, yet last week’s proposals do little more than tinker at the edges.
The decision to make huge public sector cuts so quickly has been catastrophic for Wigan, where private businesses rely on public sector contracts and local spending power.
As unemployment has risen, we have seen high street shops like HMV and Jessops close, with the loss of jobs and damage to the town centre.
The UK’s plans are in tatters.
Borrowing is set to be £245bn more than planned; the Government’s promise to balance the books by 2015 will not be met; and the national debt will not fall for years.
Unemployment among women is at a 25 year high and youth unemployment stands at over one million.
Other countries are recovering from the global economic crisis much more quickly.
What Wigan needed to hear last week was a complete change of approach but instead what we got was more of the same.
The Chancellor has prioritised a tax cut for millionaires worth £2,000 a week.
Instead, he should put money into the pockets of people on low and middle incomes who spend every pound they have in local shops and businesses, rather than saving their money - often in offshore accounts where they are exempt from paying tax in the UK.
We need more investment in housebuilding, schools and hospitals which would create jobs and apprenticeships in construction.
Last week we were promised a little of this, but nowhere near enough. Worse still, the Government has promised 576 new projects like this already but only one in five of them has started.
We were promised help with childcare, but not for another two years, and worse still, it appears some families on lower incomes will actually lose under the plans.
This is a big problem as costs of childcare have consistently outstripped wages, and so far women have borne the brunt of a whopping 75 per cent of this Government’s cuts.
And there was a bit of help for small businesses but no cut to VAT which would help boost spending in the local economy, and nothing to get the banks lending again which is so essential for Wigan’s many struggling small businesses.
A welcome commitment to scrap the beer duty escalator, taking one pence off a pint of beer, is nowhere near enough for our community pubs and local breweries, or our local economy.
A cut in VAT would do much more to help them now.
It has led some to describe this Budget as “small beer.”
Wigan deserves better.