Kanwal Toor meets prominent British-Asians to get their reaction on Osborne’s Spending Review. Most of them are impressed with the Chancellor’s U-tun on tax credits and tough stance to spend within the means but there are more issues like student grants
This wasn’t a Spending Review, that displays an attitude of cutting a little bit here and there, moving money around the balance sheet to try to smooth out the pain. Instead it’s programme of strategic cuts that, while difficult, add up to something: a country where work is rewarded & taxes are low….
But where are the government’s priorities? Is it security, international relations, stability, economy, surplus funding, looking after the working class? Chancellor George Osborne & Prime Minister David Cameron say UK is a country that lives within its means. Therefore cuts and increase in budgets across sectors will be the order of the day. Government is committed to putting Britain’s security first.
Whether that’s to do with securing our borders and people from ISIS and other terrorist groups or securing lives through stringent economic plans. But safeguarding our borders indeed depends on securing our economy echoed by the Prime Minister. We cannot have a slack economic policy but strong borders. Hence 2% of our national income will be used on defence and there will be no cuts in police. An announcement much welcomed today.
Our Economy is in rude health. Deficit is set to fall in the next few years. We are borrowing £8 billion less than we expected overall. The country is set to reach a surplus of £10.1 billion by 2019/20. Unemployment is down by 2.7%. Doubling the housing budget, public spending to be £756 billion, NHS gets a huge budget, state pensions set to rise, £15 million raised from tampon tax to be used in funding women’s charities. All this is sign of an economy which is flourishing. But what does it mean to the normal person on the road – you and me. I asked a few people. And this is what they had to say.
Ameet Jogia – Councillor, Harrow
The Chancellor’s Spending Review gave hope that the Government’s long term economic plan is working with the deficit continuing to fall. We still have a long way to go but the Chancellor has demonstrated that he has the strength to take the difficult decisions to ensure we don’t live beyond our means again. As a Councillor I welcome the announcement that local government will be allowed to spend 100% from the sale receipts of council assets to reinvest in local services. By the end of Parliament local government will also be able to keep all revenue from business rates. All these changes pave the wave for further devolution giving local authorities the powers to better serve local residents.
Rishi Kapoor – Banker/Radio Presenter
Current tax credit decisions do not really help Professional Middle class families with 1 / 2 children. We tend to continue not to benefit from the benefits available out there as we just about touch the High Earners group. Scrapped grants for student nurses and introduction of loans may hinder future students to take up Medicine / Nursing and we will be infused to having more nurses from abroad. I am happy that there are no reductions in Education funding and the introduction of 30 hour free childcare will hopefully help the working parents out there. But at the same time, the Spending Review can mean that some people working in the Police for example, will not work for the Forces any more, and families (I know similar to mine) will need to take a hit to our incomes as a result of the changes of Welfare where the number of individuals constantly overdrawn and in debt are rising day to day.
Parul Goel – Deputy CEO, CFO Zee Network Europe
Today’s spending review showed healthy signs of an economy that is picking up. If the economy picks up it directly affects the industry I am in – media.
Pay TV is luxury and with a booming economy people’s purchasing power increases. And that eventually leads to more jobs, less borrowing! Also the announcement on the education budget to be increased is excellent. I have a young child and children are indeed building blocks of any nation.
Shailja Sakhuja – Head Executive Committee,
Pratham. Founding member, Asian Circle of Oxfam
For me as a mother what’s important is how all this transcends into securing my school going child. Knife crime is increasing by the day. I appreciate that today the announcement was made on NO cuts in police but will that help the situation? Also the migrant crisis, how is the government proposing to sort that?
Before the chancellor’s speech today – The Prime Minister said that “families are the best welfare state that we have and we need to support them whole heartedly, especially welfare for children”. That is indeed sentiment of a lot of people. Tax credits, budgets, spending reviews are not dealing with practical issues only but also ideological and to some extent emotional issues. The money is intended to be dispersed across all classes. “Welfare system has to be fair for who need it and for the ones who pay for it” said Osborne in his speech today. But will it? Only time will tell. One thing that was evident after his speech was that George Osborne is looking to move away from the gloom of austerity, tax cuts and make this a sustainable & progressive economy “Fixing roof when the sun is shining!!”He said.
(Kanwal Toor is a social activist and a former Miss India International)