I’m writing this column a week before the Chancellor will deliver the Budget.
I see every week in my surgeries and around my constituency the devastating impacts that this government’s policies are having on many people. So, in advance of budget day, I’ve set out the policies I would like to see the Chancellor commit to which would really make a difference.
Fair taxes: Tax avoidance and evasion means that there is less money to spend on the public services like our NHS and social care, which we rely on. The Paradise Papers show that tax avoidance is happening on a huge scale, and the government must act to tackle this unacceptable behaviour. We also need steps to address the unfair increase in business rates that has hit thousands of small businesses in my constituency, while many internet retailers have seen their bills drop.
A step change in housing and infrastructure: Since the Lib Dem-Tory coalition government took power the number of new social homes funded by government grant has dropped by a staggering 97%. The government must lift the cap on council borrowing to fund housing, commit to grant funding for new social housing, abolish the Lib-Dem Tory viability assessments, set clear timescales for landowners to deliver on approved planning and applications, and call time on land banking.
We also need investment in infrastructure to support growing communities and create skilled jobs – I’d like to see the Chancellor commit to investment in renewable energy, internet broadband and home insulation, and locally, to fund the reopening of Camberwell Station.
Real fair funding for our schools, NHS and councils: The Lib Dem-Tory Coalition’s cuts hit our schools, NHS services and local councils harder than almost anywhere in the country. Despite pledges to the contrary every school in my constituency has suffered devastating cuts, our hospitals and GPs are underfunded and our local councils have seen devastating cuts to their government grants of more than 50%. All of these vital services must be funded properly and fairly by the government in this year’s budget.
A pay rise for our nurses, teachers and police:? I’m proud of the hard work of the thousands of nurses, teachers, police and other public servants in our hospitals, schools and councils. They have seen their pay cut in real terms every year since the Lib-Dem Tory coalition was elected. They deserve a pay rise and this must be fully funded by the government so that a pay rise for some doesn’t result in more cuts or redundancies for others.