With literally no plans to balance the books, the Tories are failing us

Liam Byrne, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responds to today's Autumn Statement.

A pessimist, said Oscar Wilde, is someone who when faced with a choice of two evils, chooses both. And today we learned Philip Hammond is a pessimist. In today's budget he chose not only stratospheric public debt - but cash-starved public services. It's the worst of all worlds. 

Let's start with the shocking state of public finances. When Alistair Darling and I left the Treasury in 2010 we left a plan to halve the deficit in four years. But the Tories slammed the economy into the slow lane and together with Brexit, public debt is now set to doubled by the next election - to an incredible £2 trillion. Borrowing is set to rise by nearly £1/4 trillion higher than forecast just 8 months ago. And the government has so much faith in us trading our way to glory that net trade is set to be a drag on growth in the three years after Brexit. 

But nor is this failure all about Brexit. A huge hole has been punched in the forecasts by a meltdown of £23 billion in tax and national insurance by 2020/21 due to weaker growth and slower earnings. 

We are left with literally no plan to balance the books. The chancellor basically said 'we'll balance the books when we get round to it'. With the greatest respect, this is not a fiscal rule. This failure is Tory failure. 

The consequences for public services are catastrophic. No new money was announced for the NHS or social care. In Birmingham, one of Britain's poorest places, we've £150 million short next year - and by 2020/21 the funding gap in social care may hit £250 million. Yet we got no new help today. 

My final thought is about the test the Chancellor set for productivity. I've pointed out for some time that what the rest of our competitors finish making on a Thursday night takes us until the end of Friday to get done. But the key problem is our skills base is much worse than our competitors. So it was a complete mystery to see no new money for technical education - and no plan to fix what everyone in Whitehall knows is the shambles of a plan to introduce an apprentice levy.

It's now clear we're sailing into some very stormy waters. Today our chancellor failed to fix the boat. Maybe his pessimism is well placed. 


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  • Sadly since 2010 and the massive pain of Austerity inflicted upon services at the cost and the human cost effecting the most vulnerable people in the Country’s life in particularly in the name of ‘Balancing the books’ every target set was never reached and the debt tripled.

    I have yet to see credible investment & policy from the current government instead we are witnessing Breakfast means Breakfast, which has already effected exports of small business and loss of key staff who no longer wish to work in the UK of uncertainty under the current climate of rhetorical debate.

    ‘’But nor is this failure all about Brexit. A huge hole has been punched in the forecasts by a meltdown of £23 billion in tax and national insurance by 2020/21 due to weaker growth and slower earnings.’’

    Exactly I have said this myself and sadly it is about to get a lot worse watching the current developments and policy!.

    With that being said even more then Brexit people are worried about the NHS which is currently unsafe in some areas & the housing crisis especially with the cost of living and inequality going up rapidly, people are worried about crime and the loss of officers on the street.

    We need to remind people that under the previous Labour government waiting lists were down and the NHS was well invested in our loved ones were cared for and safe with investment in policing and officers on the street in communities, under this current government it has been suggested that people who have paid into the system that the Tories dramatically cut in funding and their children should look after their parents as they cost too much.

    I do hope these key issues are focused on particularly in policy which will be key to bringing Labour back into power something this Country needs more then ever now.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/31/take-care-of-your-elderly-mothers-and-fathers-says-tory-minister