I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate, because the Budget last week revealed the true scale of the Government’s economic failure. As the next election grows closer, the Chancellor faced a test. He needed to boost household incomes and help cut the cost of essentials, but neither of those was forthcoming and his Budget failed to do enough for low-income households.
With an eye fixed firmly on the next general election, the Chancellor is pinning his hopes on a housing boom. His make-or-break blueprint for rebuilding the economy is unlikely to make a difference to the nation’s finances, as the focus has clearly shifted towards manifesto writing, positioning and early electioneering ahead of 2015. More than ever, taxpayers will now underwrite the mortgages of hundreds of thousands of home buyers, and take stakes in newly built houses in a multi-billion pound attempt to stimulate the struggling economy. However, he risks causing another unsustainable boom in the housing market, putting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at risk and offering little hope to hard-pressed working families who are struggling to get on the housing ladder for the first time.
We face the biggest housing crisis in a generation, but the Government’s housing and economic policies will make it worse by stoking house prices rather than helping families find a home. The Government have insisted that homes sold through the right to buy scheme will be replaced with more affordable housing on a one-for-one basis, but the Budget included £4.5 billion of funding for housing, with only £225 million of that to be spent on affordable homes. If we do not tackle the fact that we are still not building enough homes, we will create another housing bubble that will continue to push house prices out of reach of the majority.
Not only is the Chancellor pressing ahead with a tax cut for millionaires, it now seems that his mortgage scheme will help people, no matter how high their income, to buy a subsidised second home worth up to £600,000. Surely people struggling to get a mortgage, and those who want to own their first home, must be the priority for help, rather than the small number who can afford to buy a second home. If the Government concentrated at least some effort on collecting taxes from international corporations that operate in this country, and closing some of the loopholes in the tax system, there would be more money to go around.
With the coalition’s axe in full swing, I am appalled that the Government place so much effort on reforming the benefits system and punishing the sick and most vulnerable in our society, while those at the very top have seen their incomes rise as never before. The financial sector is at the heart of the economy. Huge, multi-million pound payouts to “banksters”, while citizens cannot even afford to feed themselves, undermine any efforts to break with the past and are a timely reminder that the country is being run by the rich for the rich. As the rest of the country faces austerity, just an hour after the Chancellor delivered his Budget speech, Barclays bank paid nine fat cat bosses £40 million in share payments. That makes a complete mockery of claims that banks are cleaning up their act when it comes to their bonus culture.
At exactly the same time as the bedroom tax comes into force, the Government are prepared to give 13,000 millionaires, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, a tax cut of £100,000—£3 billion in total a year—while more than half a million households that are home to a disabled person will lose £700. That is simply not right.