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Louder than words
The Government’s plans for the year ahead, outlined in this month’s Queen’s Speech, offer little for York residents.
Fortunately, York’s economy is performing better than other cities in the north of England, but the halt to the schools and hospitals building programmes has hit local building companies.
The Federation of Master Builders is calling for VAT to be cut to five per cent for improvements, like energy efficiency, to existing buildings.
The Queen’s Speech should have set out plans to get the economy moving during a double-dip recession.
It is ludicrous for David Cameron and Nick Clegg to be increasing taxes for pensioners and reducing working tax credits for families, at the same time as cutting taxes for millionaires.
A Labour Queen’s Speech would have introduced:
• A Fair Deal on Tax: Labour's Finance Bill would reverse tax cuts for people earning over £150,000 a year. That money would be used to help pensioners on fixed incomes hit by the “granny tax” and to reverse the cuts in tax credits which have hit families.
• A Fair Deal on Energy: Labour's Energy Bill would break up the dominance of the Big Six power companies and require them to offer four million elderly people the lowest rate available.
• A Fair Deal on Transport: Labour's Transport Bill would stop train operators raising fares by more than one per cent above inflation, stop them exploiting commuters and give local authorities more control over bus companies.
• A Fair Deal for Consumers: Labour's Consumer Bill would give new powers to the Financial Conduct Authority and Competition and Markets Authority to stop rip-off surcharges by banks, low-cost airlines and pension firms.
• A Fair Deal on Jobs: Labour's Jobs Bill would use some of the money raised from a tax on bank bonuses to provide real jobs to more than 100,000 young people aged 18-24.
At Question Time last week I reminded the Prime Minister of the promise he made in the York Press during the general election that, if elected, he would not increase VAT.
He brushed the pledge aside. That was before the election, before the harsh reality of government had sunk in.
By the election, Labour had pulled Britain out of recession, but now we are back in a double-dip recession made in Downing Street, as a direct result of the Government's austerity policies. Other European countries are not in recession – despite the Euro crisis. This, sadly, is a home-grown British problem.
Worst of all, the austerity drive has sharply increased the national debt. It was £780 billion when Labour left office but it topped £1,000 billion for the first time ever at the end of last year.
Britain needs less austerity and more investment for growth.
On a brighter note, I congratulate York City Football Club on its two outstandingly successful victories at Wembley this month in winning the FA Trophy and promotion to the Football League. They are brilliant ambassadors for York.