Autumn Statement 2013: Delayed growth is passing most people by
Listening to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement today, it’s clear that the Chancellor has failed to deliver anything like the bold action we need to deal with the UK’s living standards crisis.
Growth may be returning but families are still getting poorer. The official forecasts show that Britain’s living standards squeeze is to get even tighter (a point curiously absent from the Chancellor’s address). It’s a major blow to the hard-working people that so regularly get name-checked in government statements these days.
Looking at today’s forecast against the (much revised) original from 2010, economic growth is still two years behind schedule. It won’t be until 2015 that the UK economy will reach the level of growth that the OBR originally forecast for 2013.
Far from being a cause for celebration, we could have had this level of growth two years ago if the government had not followed the policies that have made this the slowest recovery from recession in living memory.
And the growth we do have is being accompanied by even weaker pay rises, proving that the recovery is passing most ordinary people – and most parts of the country – by.
It’s good that the Chancellor has finally acknowledged his failure to get youth unemployment down. But with a million young people out of work, we think he is wrong to make them wait until 2015 before they’ll receive any help.
And also with good reason to be fearful today are Britain’s growing army of low-paid workers. The Chancellor will no doubt present his new welfare cap as an attack on so-called scroungers. But we know that a considerable chunk of the welfare budget for working age people goes to low-paid workers. Not only are these workers set for more wage pain in the coming years, they could have tax credits and housing benefit cut too – making it even harder to pay those energy, credit card and childcare bills.