View from the Commons – Budget

The Chancellor’s emergency budget was one of those great House of Commons occasions. The chamber was packed to the rafters, and a full and expectant press gallery eagerly hung on every word. Though it took the Chancellor just an hour to deliver his emergency budget on June 22nd, the implications of it will be felt by all of us for several years to come.

When I spoke in the Chamber in the budget debate late on Thursday evening, the benches and press gallery may have been considerably less packed, but the arguments on the measures continued to rage.

The Chancellor famously claimed that ‘we were all in it together’ when setting out his stall for the vast cuts, so he and his Liberal Democrat partners must be judged by that measure, and as the full details of the budget have emerged, Chesterfield people may be forgiven for wondering if some of us are taking more of the pain than others.

VAT was acknowledged during the election campaign by politicians of all parties as a tax that hit people in poorer households the hardest, with nearly double the percentage of the poorest people’s income being spent on VAT than the wealthiest.

Cutting Corporation tax for larger companies at the expense of allowances for firms involved in manufacturing will reduce the chance for us to reshape our economy in favour of industry and stimulate growth, and instead lead larger firms to aim for bottom line profits rather than invest in the future. Our Corporation tax was already at its lowest level in the last 20 years.

Measures to increase the tax free threshold, re-link pensions and earnings were welcome, but anyone who works or relies on schools, social services, council housing or any other public services will fear that the huge 25% cuts in these areas will fundamentally alter our country.

I argued that this budget was an anti growth budget that could cut off the recovery, would increase the gap between rich and poor and was unnecessarily savage. To do it in a way that makes the most vulnerable pay most does not suggest that we really are ‘all in it together’.

To travel from Westminster to Chesterfield on Thursday night was to exchange theory for practical, as my weekly surgery brought me face to face again with people and groups on the front line who face the reality of the measures talked about so glibly in London.

I met a man who could barely make it up the stairs who was being told that he was fit to return to work on a building site, a local manufacturing firm worried about the lack of help that British manufacturing was getting and a Chesterfield shop owner who feared the rise in VAT would be the final straw for his firm.

Then on Saturday, dozens of elderly people turned out to protest at their local community rooms being closed in Dunston  and Newbold, and at Galas in Brimington and Old Whittington, I saw the very best of our town in the dozens of voluntary groups showing off their work and raising money to keep going in tough times. People giving their time and their money to support causes they believed in, who could not have been more removed from the greedy bankers who brought the financial crisis to us.

Meeting volunteers from charities, youth groups and clubs at the galas it was impossible to shake the thought that these organisations may well be amongst those hit by the cuts in spending on which they rely.

Their example was inspiring as was the news that the plans for an asbestos transfer station in Old Whittington had been thwarted, a great example of community action defeating corporate interests, now we hope for a similar result on the Dunston incinerator.

So all in all, an exciting, worrying and inspiring week that may be viewed as momentous in historical terms and have implications for people right across society that, as yet, we don’t fully appreciate.

Meanwhile England lost to Germany to bring our World Cup campaign to a disappointing climax- like Tory budgets, some things never change!

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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