Pre-Budget Report

Last Friday I visited the Ibstock brick factory at Laybrook.  With 84 staff, it is part of the UK's largest brick maker, Ibstock Brick Limited.

The construction industry has been particularly hard hit over the last two years, so the visit was a timely reminder of just how severe the economic downturn has been.

The number of homes being built is now at its lowest level since 1924.  Ibstock Brick Limited has seen production fall by 40 per cent since the start of the recession.  The construction industry as a whole expects output to fall by 15 per cent this year.  It also believes that it could take until 2021 for output to get back to 2007 levels.

I saw a graph showing that national brick sales started to plummet in the autumn of 2007 - a year before the banking crisis broke, a reminder that the economic mess we're in can't be attributed to this international event alone.

Britain now has the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history.  We are the only G20 economy still in recession, despite Gordon Brown's claims that we would lead the world in coming out of it.

Yesterday's Pre-Budget Report completely failed to set out how we tackle our eye-watering £178 billion deficit.  Avoiding the tough decisions on spending now will only mean higher taxes and higher interest rates later.

Incredibly, the Chancellor's proposal to get the economy moving again was to raise National Insurance, a tax on jobs which will hit everyone earning over £20,000 a year.

And his benefit rises transpired to be temporary increases before the election, to be followed by a cut afterwards.  That is the kind of cynical politics which people rightly loathe.

I cannot see how the solution to a recession which has been exacerbated by debt is more debt.  Local people and businesses know that everyone has to live within their means, and that includes governments.  I'm afraid that is a lesson which Gordon Brown still hasn't learnt.

Michelle Taylor