The Young Greens have heavily criticised the government’s “ideological commitment to austerity”, following Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.
George Osborne renewed the government’s commitment to control welfare spending by “freezing Universal Credit work allowances for a further year, cutting tax credits when overpayments are certain, and ending unemployment benefits for migrants with no prospect of work.”
The Chancellor also reiterated David Cameron’s pledge to freeze working-age benefits for 2 years, if the Tories win a majority in the next general election.
Georgia Elander, of the Young Greens’ National Committee, said:
“It’s clear that austerity isn’t working for anyone. The government borrowing forecast for this year has been raised from almost £87bn to £91.3bn, and Danny Alexander has attributed this to falling tax receipts due to people being in lower-paid jobs.
“Meanwhile, young people across the country are struggling to get by on low wages and zero-hour contracts, seeing their benefits stripped away, and being forced into workfare in order to claim any welfare at all.
“This isn’t good for the economy, young people, or the rest of the country. George Osborne’s dogged insistence on pursuing the spending cuts and deficit reduction policies of the last five years, despite their clear failure, illustrates this government’s dangerous ideological commitment to austerity.
“Osborne’s continued refusal, too, to raise taxes on the wealthiest in society shows once again that this government operates for the benefit not of the many but of the wealthy few.”
She added: “The Green Party would implement a wealth tax on the top 1% and a financial transaction tax, to make sure that it is the richest individuals and corporations and not the poorest who contribute the most to funding vital public services.”
The Young Greens say austerity measures are also having a wider impact on young people’s mental health, with low wages, unemployment and welfare cuts leading to an increase in stress, depression and suicide.
They welcomed the government’s pledge to invest £150 million in tackling mental health problems, particularly for children who suffer from self harm and eating disorders, but added:
“Mental health provision in this country is grossly underfunded, and while this funding pledge is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done.
“We need to improve access to mental health services, and work to remove the stigma around mental health, so that children and young people with depression and other mental health problems can be diagnosed and treated before they resort to self-injury.”
What about child poverty?
Responding to today’s Autumn Statement, Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“It’s striking that the only giveaway for children was for families who can afford to fly them abroad on holiday. For millions more children, today’s Autumn Statement is about staying the course for poverty rather than prosperity.
“The Chancellor once again failed to mention child poverty – it’s now two years since an Autumn Statement or a Budget mentioned child poverty, despite the Government’s binding legal obligation to reduce it and IFS projections warning that the Government is on course to rapidly increase, not reduce, child poverty.
“By cutting Universal Credit once again, the Chancellor is in very real danger of torpedoing Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy. Freezing the work allowance will harm work incentives and hit low paid families hard. Two thirds of poor children live in working families; we should be redistributing help towards them, not away from them.”
Britain needs a pay rise
Responding to the Autumn Statement, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The living standards crisis has wrecked the Chancellor’s strategy.
“He has failed his deficit reduction pledge as low-paid Britain is paying much less tax than expected. And businesses won’t find the customers they need if consumers do not have money in their pockets.
“Nothing in today’s Autumn Statement will give Britain a pay rise, and Conservative plans to effectively outlaw strikes will help make Britain permanently low-paid. Wrapping up last year’s infrastructure presents and giving them to us again will not give the economy the extra boost it now needs.
“Today should have seen policies for growth, but the Chancellor has boxed himself in with a rigid and artificial deficit reduction timetable. If he continues in office that will mean eye-watering spending cuts straight after the election. These would knock the recovery sideways, deter investment and lead to great damage to our social fabric.
“The way to heal the public finances is to build a strong growing economy in which successful companies and well-paid workers pay fair taxes. Pre-election giveaways today under this Chancellor will lead to even bigger spending cuts now that the global economy looks increasingly fragile.
“This is economic self-harm, threatening a vicious circle of further decline. That would be Groundhog Day all over again – the same mistake that the coalition made in its first two years.”
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