AT last, great news, the Government has finally decided to help an old age pensioner with the renovations to her house.
Like millions of other people struggling on a small pension, she must be really happy, especially on the day of the announcement of the 2016 Autumn Statement. As we all wait to see what meagre pittance we will be given, this lovely old lady will have a £369m revamp of just one of her many houses.
I find this really hard to swallow at a time of enforced austerity as the public debt rises to £1.64 trillion, the pound falls to $1.24 and petrol rises 15p since the April budget before supermarkets like Morriosns announce reductions as part of their temporary pre-Christmas promotions. Today, I am not expecting anything spectacular from the words of Chancellor Philip Hammond. The man with the looks of an accountant will deliver a sober grab at the income of Middle England and hit the workers provided with a company car, mobile phone, health checks and gym memberships.
Mr Hammond will want to use his first Autumn Statement to break away from the years of Osborne economics. There is an expectation that there will be a freeze on fuel duty and a ban on pension cold calling. Both are very welcome, but don’t go far enough.
What the Government doesn’t seem to realise is that a lot of working and retired people out there really are struggling. Those who are just about managing are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Their cash isn’t going as far as it should as interest rates rise and prices in the shops get higher. The post-Brexit price con, as companies profiteer and hike prices for no reason, also hasn’t helped.
Many old people are having to make serious choices on how they spend their money. It really is a choice between heating or eating. The state pension just doesn’t go that far any more and old age poverty will become a very serious problem as people live longer.
The Government has to realise that the state pension isn’t a benefit but a right. People have paid into it all their lives. Their employers have also contributed. All that pensioners are asking for is their money back. At the moment it is a bit like saving all your life, putting away a few quid every week into the bank. Then, when you get to 66, the bank starts to dictate when you can have your own money and how much you can have. It just isn’t fair.
I would like to see Mr Hammond address this. The Government complains about the black hole in the pension scheme of BHS, but what about the black hole in the pension scheme of the British Government?
If the Chancellor is serious about helping people, then he has to bring in measures to get Britain working. It is great to see unemployment falling, but it is not quick enough.
He has to make this island of ours an attractive place for business. He could easily do this by offering large employers a significant cut in corporation tax to 12 per cent or even lower. Investment has to be concentrated on health, education and entrepreneurship.
Rather than giving £1.6bn to private companies to assess disabilities and costs more than the amount saved kicking really sick people off benefits, Mr Hammond could use the money to help people get back into work.
It is the same with the ludicrous annual mass immunisation of infant children with the flu vaccine.
The only people who benefit from this are the pharmaceutical companies. Millions of pounds wasted putting future lives at risk.
Rather than giving billions of pounds for roads that Mr Hammond has promised, this money should be allocated to health, education and pensioners.
The cutting of road congestion will only benefit those who commute and live in the South. We in Yorkshire will still have to suffer the misery of a morning journey on the M62.
I know it will never happen, but I would prefer to see an Autumn Statement that was truly bold in its actions. We are often told about caring conservatism. If this is the case, let’s see this Government put its money where its mouth is.
How about a decent pension for all those who have paid in all their lives? Help with child care for working families worried about paying their bills? A nationalised railway network where profits are reinvested and not shipped offshore into some French bank?
Mr Hammond should announce a total cut in the millions of pounds of foreign aid and put that money into the pockets of the British working class and not into the coffers of the Indian space programme.
It is time for the British Government to start taking care of British people and renovating and reinvigorating all our lives and not just the palaces of the privileged few.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.