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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:24 pm on 24th March 2014.

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Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:24 pm, 24th March 2014

In his statement on Wednesday, the Chancellor evoked an image of Britain that thousands of my constituents will simply not recognise. This Budget ignored the 2,882 people in Nottingham, including 1,092 children, who needed to use a food bank in the past year. This Budget ignored the nearly 5,000 households in Nottingham affected by the bedroom tax, which has left thousands of my constituents with a debt they have no prospect of paying off. This Budget failed to offer any hope whatever to thousands of families in Nottingham whose living standards have plummeted. The Government are yet again making the poorest in our society bear the burden of their failures, and the Chancellor’s silence on any measures that will help young people and lift the long-term unemployed back into work has been deafening.

Nottingham is a young city, with almost a third of its residents aged 18 to 29. Many of them are students, but too few stay and obtain jobs once they graduate, even though many would like to. Long-term youth unemployment in Nottingham South is 45% higher now than in May 2010, demonstrating that the recovery is leaving too many behind. It is not just an economic cost, but a human one too. This wasted potential matters not just to those young people who are affected but to their parents, grandparents and the wider community, yet it has been glossed over by Ministers. The Government continue to betray a generation of young people who, decades after the Chancellor has left office, will be the ones who continue to pay the price for his misguided policies. The slowest recovery for 100 years is hitting those new to the jobs market more than most, and many of my younger constituents feel that they are not even being given a fair chance right at the start of their working lives.

Cities such as Nottingham simply cannot afford a lost generation of unskilled and under-developed employees. We cannot afford to see residents demoralised and humiliated by unemployment. Something must be done, but the Government continue to dismiss Labour’s jobs guarantee that would use revenue from a tax on bankers’ bonuses to ensure that there is a paid job for every young person who has been out of work for a year.

Instead of setting aside additional funding for our cities, which are struggling to deal with the fall-out from a global recession, the Government have made places such as Nottingham bear the brunt of their cuts. Our city is the 20th most deprived local authority area in England, yet it has been targeted for some of the deepest cuts. It has been estimated that by 2017-18 Nottingham city council will have lost £848 per person as a result of Government funding cuts and welfare reform, compared with a loss of £117 per person in wealthier Windsor and Maidenhead.

Alongside the cuts, people in Nottingham continue to deal with the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. They face soaring gas and electricity bills, real wages that have fallen by 5.6% and, of course, the housing crisis. The Chancellor’s unbalanced economic recovery means little to those struggling to make ends meet in places such as Clifton in my constituency, which has already seen its energy company obligation-funded solid wall insulation programme scrapped after this Government, panicked by Labour’s plans to freeze energy prices, did a deal with the energy companies.

We have already heard during this debate that one of the major causes of the current cost of living crisis is the housing shortage. The Government are doing too little, too late to tackle the chronic shortage of homes being built and are presiding over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s.

In Nottingham, 70% fewer homes are being developed since the coalition came to power, despite new affordable homes being built by our local arm’s length management organisation, Nottingham City Homes. Demand for housing is increasing, but the Government are doing nothing to address supply and the banks continue to withhold finance from smaller construction companies that know the local market and could make a huge difference. The Government seem to be passively reliant on developers to bring forward planning proposals, even in inappropriate locations, when too many brownfield sites lie empty. It is an abdication of responsibility.

The Government’s failure on housing means that an entire generation in Nottingham could be locked out of home ownership entirely, left to cope with the insecurity offered by the private rented sector and facing rents that are expected to soar by an average of 39% by 2020. It is shameful that homelessness has risen every year under this Government. According to local homelessness charity, Framework, around 40% of its service users are between the ages of 16 and 25. Despite the increased demand for homelessness intervention services, councils hit by this Government’s unfair cuts have been forced to cut tenancy support services. Yet again it is younger, vulnerable members of society who bear the burden of this Government’s ideologically driven cuts agenda.

We need real action to tackle the housing crisis. My constituents need a Government who are on their side, but, instead, people in Nottingham feel let down—let down by a Prime Minister who is happy to hand a tax cut to those at the top while doing nothing to ease the cost of living crisis that leaves everyone else worse off than they were in 2010.