The Chancellor’s today delivered one of the most arrogant, out-of-touch and misjudged Budget speeches I have heard. People in Bedford and Kempston simply won't recognise the picture the Chancellor has painted. People I speak to every day tell me they have less money to spend than they did five years ago, and the figures reflect that – with working people on average £1600 a year worse off than in 2010.
The boom the Chancellor speaks of isn't reflected in the local jobs market, with 15 times as many long term unemployed people in Bedford and Kempston as there were five years ago. Almost three times as many people under 25 have been jobless for a year or more in this town, compared with when the Coalition came to power. The number of young people in apprenticeships across the region has also gone down and the total in exploitative zero hours contracts is up 20%.
’Shockingly, after 5 years of austerity, there is worse to come. The OBR says that there will be ‘a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than anything seen over the past five years.’ That will place even greater pressure on the NHS, Bedford Hospital, care of the elderly, the police and other public services which will be bad for residents and the local economy.
I want to see more support and investment for local businesses, to create sustainable local jobs – and a boost in the numbers paid at least the Living Wage as well as a rise in the National Minimum Wage. We need more quality apprenticeships to help people create worthwhile careers, and an abolition of the nasty Bedroom Tax, which has hit the disabled and their carers. We must halt the privatisation of the NHS, and start putting patients before profits once more.
Long term unemployment in Bedford in Kempston (source: ONS):
12months+ and aged 24 and under – 20 in May 2010, 55 in Feb 2015
24months+ and aged 25 or older – 25 in May 2010, 390 in Feb 2015