Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Sheffield hit hard by cuts – is that fair?

Between 1997 and 2008 levels of Government borrowing fell as a proportion of the country’s income. Then the worldwide banking crisis caused a recession which sharply reduced income from taxes and increased the deficit.

Despite austerity measures the Government is still borrowing over £100bn a year having failed as promised to balance the books in this Parliament.

I want to address how fair the cuts are to the people I represent in Sheffield.

Firstly to reduce borrowing taxes have been increased. Most would agree that those with the most should have their taxes increased the most. Is it fair that as working families struggle with the rising cost of living, millionaires’ income tax is cut and the bankers who caused the crisis get bonuses without any extra tax being levied on them?

Most of the effort to reduce borrowing has been by cutting spending. Has this been done fairly? Is it fair that grants to councils have been cut more than twice as much as other spending? Are important services such as help for the elderly and disabled, refuse collection, parks, libraries, sport facilities, and subsidies for buses and trams less important than anything else government does?

I know from listening to constituents that they feel it’s unfair that the elderly and disabled have received the largest cuts. Perhaps it’s because ministers find it easier to pass responsibility for the cuts onto councils rather than doing them themselves.

Finally, there is the issue of whether cuts have been applied fairly. Is it fair that in this Parliament Government will cut the grant to Sheffield Council by half, with more cuts planned after the election? The Prime Minister says “we’re all in this together”, but his local authority of West Oxfordshire, one of the country’s least deprived areas, gets an increase in spending of 3.1 per cent in 2013/14. By 2017 the government plans that Sheffield Council will have less to spend on services than affluent Wokingham. This isn’t right or fair.

As a Sheffield MP it’s my job to fight for a fairer deal for Sheffield. I would like to think the other MPs in the city will be doing the same. I know most of them are.

This article first appeared in THE STAR on 8th May 2014 at

Some facts: all checkable:
  • Between 1997 and 2008, UK government borrowing fell as a proportion of both national income and Gross Domestic Product.
  • The global financial crisis was caused by incompetent, reckless and, sometimes, criminal banking and unsustainable private borrowing and debt.
  • Between 1997 and 2008, the Conservatives had exactly the same net spending plans as Labour; they were only marginally lower in 2009/10.
  • Between 1997 and 2010, the Liberal Democrats demanded net expenditure higher than Labour and the Conservatives in each and every year.
  • Between 1997 and 2008, UK government borrowing fell as a proportion of both national income and Gross Domestic Product.
  • UK government borrowing rose massively from 2008 because we nationalised the banks’ private borrowing and losses to prevent the collapse of the finance system, and because tax income dropped sharply because of the economic crisis.
  • Despite promising to have balanced the books by 2015, the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat government is still borrowing an additional £100bn a year.
  • The vast majority of ordinary working families are much worse off since 2010, because of the VAT increase to 20%, above inflation energy bills and frozen wages.
  • Working families on the lowest incomes have been the hardest hit because of the bedroom tax, and cuts in council tax and housing benefits.
  • Millionaires have been given an income tax cut, on average, of more than £100,000 a year.
  • Bankers’ bonuses have got bigger, without being subject to any extra tax.
  • In 1984, on average, bank executives were paid 16 times the wage of the banks’ lowest paid employees. In 2014, it will be 160 times the lowest wage.
  • The biggest cut in government expenditure has been in grant to local councils. In councils of all political controls, libraries, children’s centres, bus services and youth and sports facilities are closing. Fees and charges for care services, burials, sports and parking are all increasing. More than 500,000 elderly people have lost their care service altogether.
  • The government is forcing a massive switch of resources from the poorer, urban north to the wealthier, rural south-east. For example, Sheffield has had its government grant cut by £226.40 per head, whereas wealthy Wokingham has lost £1.44.
  • The government wants to switch £40m a year of health funding from Sheffield to Surrey and the SE, where people are already wealthier, healthier and live much longer.