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The Chancellor said on Monday that this was
“an economy working for everyone.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 648, c. 654.]
But the facts tell a different story. Families up and down the country—families who have been at the sharp end of cuts to our public services—know the cold, hard truth of the past eight years of Conservative rule. The richest 10% are set to gain 14 times more in cash terms next year than the poorest 10% of our households. Growth is set to be below 2% in every forecast year—that is almost unheard of—and the figures for the UK are now 60% below the G20 average. UK manufacturing has fallen to its lowest level since 2016 and is well below the pre-Brexit forecast.
What about children and young people? Some wards in my constituency now have 40% of children growing up in poverty. This year, 3.1 million children with working parents will be below the official breadline, and much of the 1 million increase since 2010 is due to the Government’s benefits policy changes. The cuts’ impact on children was brought home to me when over 100 teachers from Hounslow visited Parliament a few weeks ago. When they were asked what issues were having an impact on attainment in their schools, two thirds said mental health, over half said food poverty, and many referred to difficulties at home. That shows the stark reality of families under strain, and children are now feeling that strain due to not having a decent place to live, the resources with which to study, food to eat, or time with parents who work shifts day and night to make ends meet.
The value of child benefit has fallen by 17% since 2009 while the value of the state pension has risen by 54%. Some estimates suggest that up to 1,000 Sure Start centres may have been shut since 2010, with bigger cuts in disadvantaged areas. The hit goes further than schools and is affecting young adults. Last year, around 2.2 million learners aged 19 or over participated in some form of Government-funded further education, which is a decrease of 29% since 2011. Children and young people are now being hit hardest by the Government’s choices. The test of an economic policy is about both who wins and who loses and, as the Government win plaudits from the wealthiest, it is our job to speak for the those who cannot speak for themselves and to call for a fairer future for the next generation.