After George Osborne’s Autumn statement, Prateek Buch gives the Social Liberal Forum’s response.
The Chancellor’s Autumn statement made this Tory government’s priorities clear: achieving a budget surplus matters far more than avoiding a crisis in social care and further education. Osborne's obsession with rolling back the state is weakening the very foundations of the economy he is claiming he wants to fix.
The Social Liberal Forum welcomes the belated U-turn on tax credits, which Tim Farron and Liberal Democrats peers were right to call for. But, as is nearly always the case with this Chancellor, the devil is in the detail. Despite Osborne’s claim to have ‘listened', families on universal credit will still lose out. As such, millions more will lose out once Universal Credit is rolled out nationwide. This will cause unacceptable damage to the living standards of some of the most vulnerable people in our country.
Lets be honest: £12bn cuts to welfare are still happening in this parliament, just that little bit slower than we initially thought. Osborne may have been politically fortunate thanks to more optimistic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, but families on low incomes won't share that luck by the next election. Nor will student nurses, or people who depend on vital council services that will be slashed.
There was also a different U-turn in the spending review - one on student loan repayments. Indeed Martin Lewis, the personal finance expert, described the decision to effectively impose a near £3000 increase in student loan repayments as a "breach of trust that betrays a generation of students”.
Short-term gains from selling assets won’t help councils meet the ever increasing demand for social care, public health and other crucial services delivered at a local level. This classic Tory approach of holding a one-off closing-down sale rather than investing in the long-term is having devastating consequences, as Mariana Mazzucato eloquently outlines.
Forecasts from the Office for Budgetary Responsibility show growth continues steadily on the back of house prices and the City. But the underlying problems of poor productivity, slow wage growth, a housing crisis and a drift away from the green economy are not being addressed because Osborne is more focussed on arbitrary surplus than fixing economic problems.
This makes it all the more important that Tim Farron - with the support of the Social Liberal Forum and the wider party - continues to set out a positive vision for a reformed, fairer and greener economy driven by investment. We are the only credible alternative to Osbornomics and the short-sighted Tory obsession with spending cuts.