Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Opinion

Opinion

The Tory economic competence myth

The Tory Economic competence myth

Labour can’t be trusted on the economy. The Tories are “Strong & stable” as Teresa May keeps bleating on about. Labour spend all of our money. All the polls show that on economic competence the Tories come out ahead of Labour, and on doorsteps I have heard this a few times in the last couple of weeks. A member of my tutor group even said it to me this week. How on earth have they got away with this image? It is completely and utterly lacking in truth. Let’s have a look at the key economic measure that I teach my 16 year old year 12 students Government’s aim for.

 

Economic growth: If the economy is growing, jobs are created and people are better off (in theory). The UK’s trend rate of growth (our long term average) is around 2-2.5%. Under the coalition and Tories, only once has growth been above 1%. That leaves us with a negative output gap (i.e. we could & SHOULD be doing better). When Labour left power the economy was growing until Osborne and co cut any stimulus (the US & Germany, now thriving, did not do this).

 
Inflation: Thanks to Boris, Gove, Fox and the other right wing zealots getting their way, Cameron agreed to an EU referendum in which his preferred outcome didn’t happen. We all know that. But since then our exchange rate has collapsed. This is good for exporters & bad for importers. Problem is, in the UK we don’t export as much as we perhaps should and we import a lot. Especially consumer goods and food. If imported food is more expensive, we can’t just stop buying it, so we spend more money on it. This leaves less money for everything else. Inflation has been steadily rising ever since the vote, it is now 2.7%, well above the Bank of England’s 2% target. This is due to costs rising and certainly not due to rising wages…..

 
Real Wages: Real wage is your actual wage minus inflation. What you actually have to spend. Nurses pay has been “capped” at a 1% rise, as has teachers’ pay (incidentally, MP’s voted through an 11% pay raise for themselves 2 years ago but all in this together eh!?) So this is a pay cut. If prices are up more than my wages, I can afford less. My landlord doesn’t accept lower payment nor does my electricity supplier. “Between 2007 and 2015, the UK was the only big advanced economy in which wages contracted while the economy expanded.” This is from that well known lefty source the Financial Times. Wages in the UK have been falling for ten years. We are the only western country aside from Greece where this is happening. In work poverty is now widespread and linked to the below.

 
Unemployment: This is the Tories big trumpeted claim, the “jobs miracle”! Record numbers in employment (this is an obvious claim, we have more people so of course we have more jobs!) But the % unemployment rate is also at a record low. Firstly, as usual the Tories have changed the measure, it now excludes more people from the official figures. But most importantly are the types of jobs that have been created. Nearly a million of these jobs are zero hour. Low paid, insecure and importantly, where the employer rarely trains or up skills the worker. This means they can get rid of them whenever they want, and have added no value to their employability. Then there are the self-employed. This induces images of a trading go getter doing deals and making lots of money. The reality is very different. The average wage of the self-employed is £240 a week, 15% lower than in the mid 90’s. These self-employment jobs now account for 15% of the UK workforce. If unemployment was really as low as the figures show, wages would be rising as there would be a lack of labour. But it’s not and they are not.

 
Trade: The UK has had a trade deficit (importing more from abroad than we export to them) for many decades. Cameron and Osborne wanted a rebalance but it never came. This is hugely impacted by the exchange rate which as mentioned earlier, has meant a rising cost of imports (and the UK consumer imports a lot). So if more money is leaving the country than coming in how is this balanced. It’s balanced by something called the capital account (mainly UK assets). The fall in our exchange rate means it is easier for people abroad to buy things in the UK. And do you know what they want? Houses. Many high end price houses have been purchased by people abroad who will very rarely even frequent it. But it is not just these. Many houses at a “reasonable” price are snapped up by buy to let landlords abroad and then rented back to us. A house is taken off the market for a UK resident wishing to get on the property ladder and the rent being paid goes abroad so that the UKL never sees it again. This is the “trickle down” nonsense you might hear about.

Debt and Taxes: But Labour always put up our taxes! And they increase our debt! It is just untrue. The UK national debt (the total amount the Government has ever borrowed) has risen by more in the last 7 years than ALL LABOUR GOVERNMENTS EVER COMBINED!! Re-read that sentence. It is a huge lie Labour are frivolous with taxpayer’s money. If you look back through history, Labour have also ran smaller budget deficits year on year on average, and paid off more of the national debt in the past. On tax, “the amount of tax paid in the UK is poised to reach the highest level in 30 years and will rise even further because of mounting debt and pressure on public services” according to the Institute of fiscal studies. It is about how they tax too. They are very proud of the income tax allowance changes, “lifting 10million people out of income tax altogether”. Thanks very much, oh but you have raised VAT to 20% taking it back and making the poorest pay most as usual. It’s the equivalent of not punching me in the face so you can kick me in the shin. In their manifesto they have now said they won’t rule out income tax or National insurance increases. But they can cut the top rate of income tax, corporation tax on companies and raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m. It is the greatest transfer of wealth and income from poor to rich ever.

 
Then there are the public service, per head (which is what we care about) we all know that school funding, NHS funding and funding for any other public service has fallen. We are now told we will work until we are 67 where we will now get a lower pension and benefit trimmed back. The bombshell of the Tory dementia tax is another astonishing attack on the poor and ill. If you are unlucky enough to be ill in later life, we will take away your last wish of leaving your kids something and make you pay for it.

 
The Tories tax you more, give you less in crumbling public services and increase debt. It is an astoundingly bad legacy.

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Rob Wilson won’t stand up for Reading but Labour will

Reading East MP Rob Wilson thinks “it’s not his job to stand up for Reading Borough Council”. The man who continually puts his parties interests above those of Reading residents will presumably continue to do so. It is Mr Wilson and his party who vote through cuts to Reading Council that will see its funding fall from £53m a year to £2m, a £185 cut per head of the population compared to just £116 in Mr Wilson’s favoured Wokingham.

Mr Wilson denies these budget cuts are even happening, and claims that school budget pressures “aren’t about budget cuts”. Were Caversham Primary lying when they asked parents for £190 each to plug their funding gap? He says 90% of that schools budget is taken up by wages. But the average salary of a teacher is under half of what Mr Wilson earns, and teachers don’t get to claim lavish expenses like he does. Teachers have also faced a year on year pay cut since 2010, not getting to vote through an 11% pay hike as Mr Wilson did for himself.

Schools are struggling because budgets have been “frozen” but pupil numbers have increased, national insurance contributions and pensions contributions have risen, costs have risen and school improvement budgets have been slashed. It’s time to stop running Mr Wilson, these are you and your parties cuts. Time to stand up for Reading and not your party. Continue reading

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Further broken Tory promises

The Chancellor delivered his first full budget today and the grim Chancellor continued the incompetent work of his predecessor. Austerity will be extended to well into the next Parliament. There will be no surplus in this Parliament. National debt keeps soaring (more has been added to national debt in the last 7 years than ALL Labour Chancellors ever put together). No extra funding for the NHS. No new funding for schools. Not the school your son or daughter goes to now anyway, only more money for the PM’s pet project of Grammars to further entrench Tory inequality. Some of the numbers covered up in the full report are grim. Household income to FALL by £900 a year by 2020. This is to be the worst decade for pay growth in 210 years, that is when Napoleon was a worry for the UK. And the headline grabber, more Tory tax rises. Whilst company tax has continued to tumble, VAT that we all pay is still high and now the Tory strivers tax is to be implemented. National insurance contributions rises for self employed workers punishes innovators. It’s a tax on brick layers, cab drivers, consultants and a whole range of workers whose incomes may be irregular and insecure.

This is a Tory Government that breaks its manifesto promises and RAISES tax, it ADDS to debt, and it DESTROYS the public services we hold dear.

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Conservative Cuts Cause Care Crisis

Reading Council is facing unfair and unprecedented cuts in its budget in the next few years. The revenue support grant that funds Councils from central Government is to be cut by 92% over the next 4 years. This leaves the Council over £5m worse off than expected, and with £100m slashed from the budget from 2011-2020, this is around a third of the Council’s overall budget. Meanwhile inflation has raised Council costs, National insurance contributions have gone up and demand for many statutory services has risen.
Reading’s Labour Council has continued to strive to improve the lives of residents despite these cuts. A School expansion programme has provided desperately needed new school places, the award winning Council owned and run Reading buses continue to provide low cost transport and the Council will soon be building the first new Council houses in years to add much needed housing to the town.
But these things are becoming increasingly difficult to do. Services the Council has to legally provide such as schools, adult social care and refuse collection take up around ¾ of the Councils budget. The lower the Government funding to Council’s goes, the less money we have for things we’d like to provide for residents such as parks, leisure and pot holes. Reading’s two MP’s consistently vote for these cuts, it’s about time they stood up for Reading residents and not their own parties interests.

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Tory cuts underfund social care

As the tipping point fast approaches when the number of older people with care needs is predicted to surpass the numbers of working age people available to provide unpaid care, the role of the state in helping should be rising up the agenda. But the Conservative party continues to cut budgets and ignore the issue, chancellor Philip Hammond did not mention it once in his Autumn statement. The Government has failed to listen to urgent calls from Councils, the NHS, charities, MP’s and care providers about the critical funding crisis in social care. They refuse to acknowledge let alone fund the £2.6bn funding gap the country faces by 2020. The crisis is real and its happening now, the social care funding crisis is one of the main reasons the Royal Berks is at breaking point. Around two thirds of the Council’s budget is spent on adult social care. These are the elderly and most vulnerable in our society and the Government should adequately fund this. By providing better care services locally we can also reduce hospital admissions and therefore pressured the NHS. Between 2010-2020 the Council’s budget would have been cut by 40% whilst the number of people requiring and deserving of social care has risen. The position this Government is putting Coucnils and vulnerable residents in needs to change and fast.

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Autumn statement failure

This week the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his autumn statement.  As an economics teacher these statements always intrigue me.  He went through with the usual sound bites.  First up was “Fiscal discipline”, this apparent fiscal discipline includes scrapping the surplus target for 2019 and borrowing more money than ALL Labour Governments ever put together. Whilst your National Insurance went up last year, they can still find room to cut tax on big business. Next up was being “Match fit” for Brexit.  This match fitness apparently includes a huge one month rise in the trade deficit by £0.9bn to £5.1bn.  The crash in sterling does not mean we suddenly import less, it just means the cost of our petrol and weekly shopping basket rises. Match fitness also encompasses a downgrading of future growth in the upcoming years. Then there was “record employment”, firstly with population level at an all-time high this is a given.  Then we need to consider the “2.7m new jobs” & “security for working people”. Nearly 5m of these jobs in “record employment” are self-employed jobs, which the resolution foundation recently discovered were paying less now than in 1995. The recent court ruling against Uber and press around work practices of Deliveroo show that these jobs are anything but secure. With less panache than his predecessor, Hammond delivered the same old smoke & mirrors budget, the Just About Managing households, will be no better off than before.
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Let teachers teach

At the Full Council meeting this week the issue of schools is to be discussed, regarding funding, curriculum changes and school structure changes.  I have been a teacher for nearly ten years and before that spent two years as a teaching assistant.  I am also on the ACE committee which takes in education & children’s services, a Governor at a local Primary school and Union rep at my school.  I meet and know a lot of teachers from many different schools. Not once have I heard any teacher ask for Grammar schools to be brought back, teacher training budgets to be slashed or for class sizes to rise to help improve education in this country.  I do meet a lot of teachers who are fed up.  Fed up of pay cuts (as I’m sure is much of the country), fed up of school budgets being cut, fed up of meddling from bureaucrats on everything from Sat’s tests to costly academy conversion, fed up of a constantly changing curriculum and assessment methods, and fed up of an ever increasing workload. If the Government really wants to help, treat teachers like the professionals they are, trust us and let us do what we do best which is to teach young people and improve their life chances.
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Government failures

As one of the 500,000 people who has taken out one of the Governments fabled help to buy ISA’s only to learn this week they are not exactly what they seemed it got me thinking of the many other news buried Government policies that are affecting people.
If you are a disadvantaged young person you are now less likely to attend University, the first time in a generation this fell after grants were cut. But don’t worry student fees for everyone can now be charged at £9250 a year and you will pay interest on this after the student loan book was privatised.
You can then go to work where to get there your rail fare has gone up more than your wages despite payouts to rail company shareholders rising. You will be lectured by the Government to save only to receive no interest on any savings or be lied to about a help to buy ISA. The size of initial house deposits in Reading are around £30,000 but don’t worry, second home ownership is soaring under this Government and £9.5bn a year is going straight  from taxpayers pockets to landlords pockets.
Whoever wins the Labour leadership contest, this country needs a united opposition who will shine a light on these damaging policies and fight for a fairer country.

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Lets help not hinder Reading students

Reading Council recently received an ill timed and poorly delivered letter from Ofsted about the performance of Free school meals pupils in the area. This was seized upon gladly by Reading East MP Rob Wilson. Let’s be clear, we have a lot to do still in education. The Council’s recently set up school led improvement strategy has a clear plan to help this and targets our schools to be in the top 25% of schools within a couple of years. Some things need to be set straight however. The data quoted is from one year in isolation. Not a trend. It was also a pattern across the South East as the Government had yet again changed GCSE grades and curriculums. The two secondary schools that the local authority has direct control over either saw an increase in free school meal attainment or it stayed at the same level. The fact is this Government has been attacking education ever since they were elected. As a teacher and Councillor I am in a fairly unique position but little angers me more than politicians attacking our students and our teachers. If you want to help Mr Wilson rather than criticise,  here is some advice. Don’t vote to cut teachers pay, don’t vote to cut schools budgets, stop meddling in costly academisation, leave our curriculum alone and most importantly back our teachers and students.

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Reading Banner coming soon

The new Reading Banner

The new Reading Banner

The latest edition of the Labour Party Reading Banner wikl be arriving through your letter box soon. The special election edition includes aspects of Labour’s local election manifesto where as usual we will be fighting for the residents of Reading.

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Osborne’s budget failure

George Osborne inflicted another Conservative budget on the country this week that slashes funding, hits the poorest hardest and increases inequality. On top of all of the cuts Reading Council has already had to find, more is set to come after Osborne says a further £3.5bn of cuts are needed. What for you might ask? This Government have borrowed more than any previous Government and all we are promised is more slashing. All pain and no gain. Our NHS is being starved of funding, school budgets are squeezed and this week they want to take £30 a week from disability allowance. With all this pain you would think national debt is falling. It isn’t. It is still rising. With inflation at zero and interest rates at near zero this would be an ideal time to invest in our countries future, building  hospitals, improving schools and updating transport. But no. Investment is falling also. Debt is up, wages are stagnant, our future is now more uncertain than ever thanks to Osborne’s lack of vision for a future where we all benefit and not just the super rich.

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Reading Council budget

On Tuesday at Reading’s Full Council meeting the Labour and Conservative Councillors voted through a budget that meant cuts to Council services and a rise in Council tax for Reading residents. This is not a decision taken lightly. I have lived in Reading all of my life and these cuts will hit people I know and care for. The Council tax rise will also mean an increase in what residents have to pay in Council tax by about £2-3 a week on average. This increase still does not fully plug the massive funding cut that George Osborne and central Government inflicted upon Reading. It does mean we can still educate our children, we can still care for our elderly and disabled, and we can still collect your bins. The Council is evolving and changing to cope with these cuts but some things will not be possible and for many we know this will be tough. The Council and Councillors will continue to work with and consult with residents on any changes that are occurring. And unlike the Reading MP’s we will fight for Reading residents. Whilst Rob Wilson may not think you are worth fighting for extra funding for, we do. Cuts in Council services and a rise in Council tax may not mean much to a man who is able to claim £177,000 in expenses and who is enjoying an 11% pay rise this year. But most of us do not have that luxury and would urge the Tory MP’s to lobby their Government to stop the unfair treatment of Reading.
Continue reading

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Osborne’s cuts to hit Reading families

Despite the bluster in George Osborne’s Summer budget, he once again failed to realise the issues of families across Reading. £12bn in welfare cuts will see working age benefits (tax credits and child benefit included) cut in real terms, the public sector will see pay rises capped at 1% (compared to 11% for our MP’s), maintenance grants for poorer students to attend University have been scrapped and 18-21 year olds have been hit with draconian measures on housing benefit. The Chancellor did manage to find money to cut corporation tax for big businesses, but not business rates for small firms.

For Reading, the issues of high housing costs were ignored.  There were no plans for a desperately needed house building programme or to deal with sky high private rents but subsidies for social housing are to be phased out. Reading Borough Council will see further unfair cuts to its budget, with funding per head cut by £103 in Reading compared to £38 per head in Wokingham. The Council will have to deliver vital services such as social care and educational improvement, with less and less money. The Government say they are helping families, whilst taking money away from them in tax credits. As usual with this Chancellor, the rhetoric was somewhat different to the reality.

Get Reading have more here

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