Budget 2017: Bad for workers, bad for Sheffield

Louise Haigh, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Heeley, gives her response to Budget 2017:

Today was the budget of a cornered Chancellor which had unfairness at its heart. The decisions announced will hit Sheffielders hard for years to come.

The test of any budget has to be whether it will make people better off in this, the most unequal country in western Europe. We live in the city with the highest number of people on low-pay in the country; they are shop-workers, care-workers, cleaners and yes, the self-employed who take the risk to start a business.

They will feel betrayed by today’s budget.

Sheffield has one of the highest proportion of self-employed and small businesses in the country. It’s what makes our city special and unique and one of the reasons why people from outside come here and fall in love with the place. Today, the Government said to them ‘thanks but no thanks’. Regardless of their promise to the British people at the last election, the Tories went ahead and announced a £2bn tax hike on the self-employed.

Frankly, their promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

And the small print was even more devastating and revealed that the Tories are presiding over an economy where for most financial security is just a distant dream. 5.6 million people are paid less than the living wage and we are the only country in the developed world were workers have got poorer while the economy supposedly gets richer.

By the end of the budget period, household income will be £900 lower than expected just one year ago.

Household debt revised up year-on-year and families trying to make ends meet will now look into their accounts and find the lowest levels of savings faced by British families since the 1960s.

This is an economy, seven years into a Conservative Government where work doesn’t pay. And this is a Government which couldn’t care less about the grafters and those who work so hard to keep our economy moving.

That’s why today they chose to tax the workers and not big business. In 2020, the tax bombshell will become crystal clear:  while the self-employed will be footing a £600m tax hike, massive global corporations making millions in profit will be getting a £2.6bn tax cut from our Government. It is a Corporation Tax cut which even big business feel uncomfortable about, such are the embarrassment of riches. This was a political choice and it is one Sheffielders will pay for, for years to come.

And on investment which will be the lifeblood for a Northern revival; investment in transport, in small-business start-ups, in training, in flood defences. No commitments on HS2 to Sheffield City Centre; no commitments even on completing the electrification of the Midland Mainline to Sheffield – the last mainline in the country not to have been electrified, some 60 years after the first. No commitment to bring superfast broadband to the 15% of Sheffield left in the slow-lane, the highest proportion of any city in the country.

The truth is, just like in the 80s, Sheffield is being neglected by a Tory government packed full of Ministers who do not understand the challenges of people here.

We need a real living wage for workers here boosting the local economy by millions of pounds a year; we need proper protection for our social care service this year, not an IOU from the Government which council’s will only feel the full benefit from a couple of years down the line; and we need a government which backs small business owners and the self-employed.

In truth, this was a budget which proves the old adage; the Tories are not on your side.