29 Nov 2011

Backward budget - a formula for failure

Here's the Green Party's response out a few minutes ago...


- Cash boost for big polluters shows Osborne 'dangerously colour blind on the green economy'; Britain needs a Green New Deal
- Chancellor reveals plan to 'rip up environmental and social protection laws'
- 'Government failing to address UK's biggest crisis: the jobs deficit'
- Ruling out Robin Hood Tax on financial sector is 'huge mistake'

Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement today, setting out the Coalition Government's strategy to deal with the UK's stagnating economy. The announcement coincides with a number of pessimistic predictions which set the British economy on course for a double dip recession next year (1).

Responding to the Statement, Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green party of England and Wales, said: "Today's budget announcement exposes just how dangerously colour blind the Chancellor really is when it comes to the green economy and the low carbon industries which can help lift us out of recession. And the fact that the Osborne is taking £250 million away from hard pressed families to fund a big cash boost for some of this country's most polluting industries - whilst also rushing through major cuts to the flourishing solar industry - simply beggars belief. Why agree on a much needed carbon tax to drag the UK's energy intensive industries into the 21st century and pay for their contribution to the climate crisis, but then be scared into giving millions back because a few vested interests like Tata call your bluff?

"This backwards and expensive merry-go-round shows that the Government is completely clueless on how to manage the low carbon revolution - and risks relegating the UK to the backseat when it comes to climate change and renewables. Furthermore, the decision to scrap the 3p rise in fuel duty is scandalously short sighted and will set back our efforts to tackle transport emissions and air pollution. Instead, the Government should reverse the increase in VAT brought in at the beginning of the year - a better way of helping those finding it hardest to cope, as well as helping the economy to recover."

'Threat to our natural heritage'

Lucas continued: "What is also clear from today's statement is that our valued countryside and environmental heritage is now seriously under threat from this Government's bias towards big business. The Chancellor's intention to scrap the so-called 'red tape' which protects the UK's forests and fields from over-development, and reform the planning laws in favour of developers, is a call to arms for anyone who cares about conserving our natural heritage."

On inequality: 'Nothing to see here'

"This budget package - which looks suspiciously like a panicked Plan B rather than a Plan A Plus - does nothing to address the deepening inequality which is harming hard working people up and down the country. Osborne refuses to address the vast gulf between the haves and the have-nots, and the persisting culture of entitlement in the financial sector that has allowed the earnings of top Barclays executives, for example, to increase by a stratospheric 4899.4% since 1980, whilst wages for the average worker have only seen a threefold increase (2).

"The fact that the Government has confirmed it will not support a financial transactions tax such as the Robin Hood tax, or offer anything new to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, tells us all we need to know about the commitment to social justice amongst the Cabinet's millionaire ministers. And ripping up social protection laws is not the way to value our workforce and generate new jobs - indeed, industrial relations experts have shown that there is no 'clear-cut link' between employment protection and levels of unemployment."

On public infrastructure spending: 'Missed opportunity to switch to green quantitative easing'

"Construction and road-building corporations are lobbying for more Government spending rather than austerity cuts - but the Chancellor lacks the courage or political vision to channel this billion pound spend into the job rich, green industries of the future. If we invested heavily now in a major Green New Deal programme to create new state-owned renewable energy and an increase in energy efficiency measures to help bring down bills, we could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as remain internationally competitive in the green technology race."

The 'jobs deficit'

The Green MP concluded: "Ultimately, the constant downgrading of the UK's growth forecasts is the clearest proof we need that the Coalition's cuts plan is completely failing even on its own terms - with the Chancellor merely tinkering around the edges on our most urgent problem: the jobs deficit. With unemployment at its highest rate since 1994, and more than one million 16-24 year olds out of work, the myth that the private sector would step in when the Government scaled back public spending to magic up jobs out of nowhere has been exposed as nonsense."

1) The Office for Budget Responsibility has downgraded its growth predictions for the UK economy in 2011 to around 1 per cent - while the British Chambers of Commerce has slashed its growth forecast in 2012 to just 0.8 per cent from 2.1 per cent previously, and the Bank of England expecting only 1% growth in 2011 and 2012.
2) High Pay Commission report: http://highpaycommission.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/HPC_final_report_WEB.pdf

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