EVERY autumn the Chancellor sets out his spending plans for the country.
It’s one of the biggest days in the Parliamentary calendar, and along with the budget, sets out the spending plans that will affect families up and down the country, including here in Wigan.
A new analysis of George Osborne’s plans has shown that the government intends to make bigger spending cuts in the next four years than in the last five years, bigger cuts than any other advanced economy and bigger cuts than any period in post-war history. The Chancellor’s plans would take spending levels down to a level last seen in the 1930s according to the Office for Budget Responsibility – a time before there was an NHS.
Because some services will have their budgets ring-fenced, these plans would mean unprecedented cuts to non-protected areas of public spending such as social care and policing.
The Government’s spending plans for social care for the next Parliament would be the equivalent to over a third of the older people in social care losing their entitlement to it. It could leave Greater Manchester, which is about to assume control of health and social care budgets, with a crisis on its hands.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said these cuts are ‘colossal’ and questioned whether they could be delivered without ‘a fundamental reimagining of the role of the state’. This will send shivers down the spine of many people who have written to me in recent years, concerned about cuts to policing, the NHS, social care and council services.
We need a fairer plan to balance the books. Boosting the minimum wage so families have money to spend in our local shops and businesses, guaranteeing young people a job to get them off benefits and into work and reversing the government’s £3 billion a year tax cut for the top one per cent of earners. These are all better, fairer choices than causing devastation to the public services we rely on.
Last Sunday marked International Women’s Day and a chance to reflect on the situation of women in Wigan and across the world.
While huge progress has been made since the first International Women’s Day in 1909 there is a real danger we are turning the clock back on a century of progress, with devastating effects for young girls growing up in Wigan today.
It’s a shocking fact that nearly half a century after the Equal Pay Act was passed women earn just 81p for every pound earned by men. The Labour Party has been campaigning to force big companies to publish the pay gap between male and female workers to shine a light on the worst offenders and put real pressure on employers to deliver on equal pay.
And while women’s wages have fallen, living costs have risen. Childcare costs have soared in recent years with the price of a nursery place up 30 per cent since 2010. We need Government to step in and extend free childcare to 25 hours a week, to help families make ends meet.
Women have also borne the brunt of 85% of the cuts made by this Coalition Government according to research by the House of Commons Library. The Government’s own figures estimate that two-thirds of those hit by the bedroom tax are women, including some whose homes have been made safe against perpetrators of domestic violence.
At the same time this Government has taken away the ability of women to challenge injustice and violence. As employment tribunal fees have been hiked up, claims for sex discrimination have fallen sharply under this Government. Meanwhile rape convictions are down.
We need action to address this: a rise in the minimum wage to ensure that 3.9 million low paid women get a pay rise, decisive action to ban exploitative zero-hour contracts, an end to the bedroom tax and cuts to employment tribunal fees.
Much has been achieved over the last 116 years but let’s not allow that hard won progress to be reversed. Women in Wigan deserve better than this.