A People’s Budget for the 21st Century:

A Liberal Democrat Alternative by Kirsten Johnson, Lib Dem PPC for NorthJean Foster and Kiirsten Johnson at South Molton Food Bank Devon

Across the South West, people are worried as the services they rely on suffer cut after cut, while the Conservatives are infighting over delivering a Brexit which will make the country poorer.

The wealth gap between the richest and the poorest is larger than ever. Vital public services, schools, hospitals and police stations are buckling under the strain of being underfunded and understaffed, while large corporations are making huge profits and not paying their fair share of tax.

During my recent visits to schools across North Devon, Heads tell me that school funding and support is at a 28-year low.

The current Conservative MP for North Devon pledged to oppose these cuts and asked people NOT to vote for him if he did not do so. By voting for this Conservative Budget he has, once again, broken his promise to the parents and children of North Devon.

But the way things are now are not how they have to be. The Liberal Democrats demand better than this, and North Devon deserves better.

Over 100 years since a Liberal Government brought forward plans to tax the land and incomes of the wealthiest in order to bring power and prosperity to everyone, a People’s Budget for the 21st Century is needed to heal our divided country. Liberal Democrats will:

  • Fix our broken tax system to help businesses invest, support struggling communities, fund our public services, and ensure the wealthy and businesses pay their fair share
  • Invest in our communities by reversing school cuts, putting more police on the streets and properly funding and reforming Universal Credit so that work always pays, and everyone gets the support they need.
  • Demand that people get the final say on the Brexit deal. Our communities have been divided by this vote, and it is the people, not politicians, who should decide whether the final deal is acceptable.

We are the only party that will stand up to power and privilege to bring fairness and opportunity to all, building a Britain in which everyone is able to fulfill their potential.  

In addition to cancelling the Conservative cuts to school budgets, we would reform Universal Credit to boost the incomes of the poorest and reverse the deep cuts to UC’s “Work Allowances” made by the Conservatives in the 2015 Summer Budget. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, restoring them to their original levels would boost the budgets of 9.6 million parents and children, 4.9 million of them in working poverty, and take 300,000 people out of poverty. 

Recent research from the Trussell Trust shows that many seeking help are working families whose wages are not enough to live on. There is a fundamental flaw in our system – hardworking people are not earning enough to put food on the table and pay their bills. The rising use of food banks shows that further cuts by Government since 2015 have led to food poverty in North Devon. I have visited the South Molton Food Bank and have learned first-hand of the difficulties people face. We must pause Universal Credit and fix its major problems before we roll it out further.

I believe we need a real end to austerity, giving public services the funding they need. By properly funding public services can we have a society in which everyone is able to fulfill their potential, and where unemployment, low-paid work or illness do not mean destitution.

A reformed tax system would encourage businesses to invest, support struggling rural areas, ensure the wealthiest companies and individuals pay their fair share, and raise enough to pay for public services. Liberal Democrats would scrap business rates, reform the way we tax wealth, reverse Conservative cuts to corporation tax, and crack down on tax avoidance. We would be honest with voters that taxes will have to increase, which is certainly feasible given that the UK’s tax to GDP ratio is one of the lowest in Western Europe. According to the IFS, an increase in taxes worth just 1% of GDP – or around £20 billion – would allow a real “end to austerity”.

Fixing Britain’s broken tax system would raise revenue that the NHS in North Devon is in dire need of. I greatly support the efforts of SOHS, a local campaign group, to stop further cuts to North Devon District Hospital where the maternity services are currently under threat. Health and care services are struggling to recruit and retain staff, yet the Conservative budget is only investing £1 billion in social care compared to £30 billion in roads. I question our priorities - are not people more important than roads?

I am therefore calling for a People’s Budget, focused on increasing the health and well-being of our communities.

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