SDLP Leader and MP for South Belfast Alasdair McDonnell has said that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement demonstrates the government’s continued failure to deliver for those hit hardest by the downturn.
Dr McDonnell was speaking after Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons today:
“This Conservative led government has once again made its priorities clear. Those priorities lie not with hard working families, struggling to make ends meet. Nor do they lie with young people struggling to secure employment in Northern Ireland who continue to consider emigration their only option. They lie only with Tory self interest groups, with big business and the well off.
“The Chancellor told us today that the economy is getting better. There may be some truth in that but it refers only to those at the top of the economic tree. Those who find themselves at the bottom continue to endure the harsh fiscal climate that has seen many small enterprises close their doors; many families endure long, cold winters while they struggle to keep their homes warm.
“While George Osborne confidently claimed ‘the plan is working’, more and more people are realising that the plan the government are working from is far from that which they promised 3 years ago.
“This statement is little more than smoke and mirrors. Policies like the abolition of National Insurance for under 21s are completely undermined by others such as raising the state pension age. Those young people who receive a small short term benefit will pay that back with interest as they’re forced to work well into the Autumn of their lives.
“Even the increase in the Northern Ireland block grant is undermined by this government. We’re promised an extra £136m over two years but the government’s insistence that we adopt their draconian Welfare Reform legislation was estimated earlier this year to cost the Northern Ireland economy £750m per year. “The Chancellor’s statement may well be an exercise in optics but it will be cold comfort to those who have suffered most since downturn began. We will continue to oppose the government’s policy of slashing services and inflicting pain on our most vulnerable.”