On the march for a future that works

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

LAST Saturday I joined with over a hundred people from Hartlepool and many tens of thousands across the country to march in London against public sector cuts.

It was a very early start from Church Square, meaning we had to be up at 4 am, and we didn’t get back until 11 o’clock at night, but I was pleased to have been marching alongside Councillor Carl Richardson, as well as former councillors Sarah Richardson and Stephen Thomas and trade union officials Edwin Jeffries and Mike Hill.

It was a gloriously sunny day in London on Saturday and the march from the Embankment, through Westminster, up Piccadilly and onto Hyde Park was peaceful, good-natured yet still angry and determined.

It is estimated that up to 150,000 marched into Hyde Park to hear speeches which asked the Government to think again.

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Every single person who marched will have their own story to tell as to why they felt it important to give up their Saturday to protest about Government policy. I did so for several reasons.

Perhaps most fundamentally, the Government’s approach is simply not working. Although hopefully it will be announced this week that Britain has emerged out of the double dip recession, the fact remains that economic recovery and sustained growth seems very far away.

The Government’s economic policies are pushing recovery further away, not bringing it closer.

I have stated this before, but I think it bears repeating: if you want to cut the deficit, the best way to do so is to encourage improved employment and economic growth: more people will be in work, thereby paying more taxes, companies will be increasing profits, thereby paying more in taxes (unless of course, you’re Starbucks) and the Government’s benefits bill will come down.

That means the deficit can be paid off faster. A deficit reduction strategy without a jobs and growth strategy to sit alongside it is no strategy at all.

The Government is borrowing more than it originally planned, up by about 20 per cent in this financial year, and it seems inevitable that the Chancellor will miss his target of debt coming down as a proportion of GDP by the end of this Parliament in 2015.

Of course the Chancellor will blame outside factors like the Eurozone crisis for the double dip recession and his missing of the targets.

But that adds weight to the notion that this is the wrong time to make the cuts. If the problem is one of demand, where households are being squeezed because of rising food, petrol and fuel prices as well as no pay increases, and the problem of reduced demand is being made worse by the Eurozone crisis, the last thing you should be doing is to depress demand still further by taking further money out of the economy through public sector cuts.

This has a knock-on effect in the private sector too in the likes of construction firms and shops.

The other big message to make is that we haven’t really seen the start of the public sector cuts yet. The Chancellor’s strategy was to impose tax rises in the first half of the Parliament and accelerate public sector cuts in the second half.

That means that we have only had about a fifth of the planned cuts.

In monetary terms, the figures are even more startling: of every £100 that the Chancellor plans to cut, we have only had £6 worth so far.

This will mean profound changes to services for the council, police and other public bodies.

Only last week we heard that some 75 frontline jobs may go from Cleveland Fire Brigade: that, if you pardon the inappropriate pun, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The other reason I marched is because I am angry that the cuts are targeted at our region, our town and vulnerable people within Hartlepool.

Disabled people are being hit the hardest and young unemployed are not being given the assistance they need to get into work.

The poorer you are, the harder you are hit.

I marched because I want to see the town fulfil its potential as a centre of excellence in high value manufacturing and engineering.

I marched to demonstrate to Government, as I do in the House of Commons, that greater priority needs to be given to jobs and growth.

I marched for a future that works.