Autumn Statement

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement this week was made against a very difficult economic background.  Let's first of all deal with the allegation that the slowing of growth is due to the Government's spending reductions.  This simply isn't true, and in fact the previous Government's plans envisaged spending cuts of £7 for every £8 that is being cut today.   

As the independent Office of Budgetary Responsibility made clear, the downturn has been worse than anticipated.  High commodity prices and the crisis in the Eurozone have caused us extra pain.  Growth forecasts have been lowered worldwide in the midst of a serious financial crisis.   

But the course which the Government has set means that Britain's credit rating has been reaffirmed and our interest rates have been kept low.  Adding debt cannot be the right solution to deal with a debt crisis, and it would risk a rise in interest rates.   

A 1 per cent rise in our interest rates could add £10 billion to mortgage bills each year - the average family with a mortgage would pay an extra £1,000 and businesses would suffer too.  These sums would dwarf any stimulus effect from extra government spending or unfunded tax reductions.   

The Government has been able to take other action.  We have brought forward infrastructure projects, with £30 billion of private and public investment in things like roads and railways.   

Locally, we need to reflect on why the A27 is not on this list of road projects.  The issue is that the A27 schemes such as an Arundel bypass are not even in plans which would enable them to be brought forward.  I will shortly be convening the second meeting of my local group which is working on the business and economic case for a bypass.  We must be better placed in future.  

The Government is also helping families with the cost of living.  Fuel prices are a particular concern in the South Downs.  The Chancellor has scrapped the planned January rise in fuel duty, effectively freezing it for nineteen months, saving families £144 on filling up the average family car by the end of next year.   

Tough decisions are having to be taken, but I believe they are inescapable if Britain is to weather a very severe economic storm.

Michelle Taylor