A number of residents have contacted me over the past few weeks to express their anger that the Government is considering cutting the 50p tax rate at a time when they are feeling the pinch.
After the increase in VAT, they have told me they have seen their costs go up. After being told that we were ‘all in it together’ by the Chancellor last year, they feel a real sense of injustice.
And there are signs that things are getting worse. Unemployment has shot up in the area in the last year. For every job there are 15 people chasing it. Nearly 7,000 people in Barking & Dagenham are unemployed. That’s 1,000 more than this time last year. And young people are being hardest hit with one in four out of work locally.
We continue to read reports about the crisis in the housing market. A survey carried out by the local council of local letting agencies and private landlords has confirmed that the availability of private rented accommodation has shrunk dramatically.
At a time when the Government is planning to cut access to social housing this could have disastrous consequences for families seeking to be housed.
And the pressure on local services is beginning to show. The 500 or so local businesses in the borough which provide about 10% of the jobs are facing real challenges as the pound in our pocket continues to shrink.
At the beginning of last year the economy was growing again and unemployment was falling. But that’s changed. Over the last twelve months the UK has grown more slowly than any leading economy apart from Japan.
Many of my constituents have told me they want to see the Government taxing bankers’ bonuses more, and using that money to kick-start house-building which will help create jobs, and invest in education or training for our young people.
As the economy wobbles, it’s becoming more obvious that we need a plan for growth and jobs. It may be that cuts were going to happen but they’ve been made too quickly and too fast. But above all we need to share the pain fairly.