It's not only about cuts
T HE decision by chancellor George Osborne to scrap plans for a 3p rise in fuel duty will be welcomed by motorists here. It was the one tangible positive to emerge from his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons yesterday. True, he also announced changes to income tax personal allowances and thresholds and a small rise in basic state pensions. But that was largely where the good news ended, as the chancellor announced a fresh benefits squeeze and a raid on the pensions of the wealthy. And he was forced to admit the UK economy was struggling and austerity measures have been extended to 2018 after debt cutting targets have been missed. However, he insisted the country was on the right track and turning back now would be a 'disaster'. And he repeated that much-mocked Government mantra: "We are all in this together."
Y ou'd have thought someone would have told Tory top brass to ditch the phrase – because it's just not true. But Mr Osborne was in confident mood in the Commons because he believes the public are with him and, as long as they perceive the problem with the British economy to be borrowing, then they will see cuts and austerity measures as the solution. The Government believes its targets for cuts – squeezing bureaucrats, benefits and the better off – are popular. But that misses the point. Families are fearful of what may be just around the corner. That the at-best stalled UK economy may well claim their jobs next. And, with that in mind, many haven't the confidence to spend the kind of money which will help stimulate the housing market and the high street. What the chancellor failed to deliver yesterday was a vision of a future economy that can offer stability, decent jobs and living standards. There's just too much stick and not enough carrot.
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