This evening I spent an enjoyable time discussing current issues with several young people.
This week has seen the continued evidence of the weakening of the economy, youth unemployment nearing a million people, inflation RPI up to 4.8% with annual pay rises at 2.1%, although in reality less skilled people receive lower pay rises. The VAT rise and the fuel increases adding to the low paid misery.
The final nail was put into the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), all parties supported this allowance before the election, but the Lib Dems and Conservatives finally voted against it, this helping poorer young people to stay on in education. Never mind the £40million penalty fee to capita for doing so.
Another example of the cuts to supply side measures is the scrapping of the Future Jobs Fund and Aim Higher to help the youth back into work or training, it is well known if young people do not find work they stay long term unemployed.
The Conservatives claim 'we're all in this together' a smooth one liner, but we're not, when the cuts arrive in April, we will see the most vulnerable hit the hardest and this week we've seen despite big words by the government the relentless paying bank Bonuses this year are expected to total around £7 billion, and it looks like, just three years after the global financial crisis, bankers can breathe a sigh of relief, with their bank balances – if not their reputations – intact.
With this government only taxing these bonuses at £1.2billion under Labour raised £3.5billion in tax from bank bonuses.
This week saw the launch of Justice for All a campaign against the Legal Aid cuts, about £350 million worth, these changes effect the poorest most disadvantaged the hardest, but despite this, this week the government sneaked out in a written answer in parliament, only spotted by the Legal Action Group, the entire financial inclusion fund has just been axed, funding nationally 500 Citizens Advice and other debt counsellors, just when more families fall into debt crisis.
It looks like there will be a 50% cut from the County Council in the Bus service budget, this likely to put pressure on the local bus service, six years ago we fought off the loss of Sunday and evening bus services on rural routes including the 161 service, the 668 Shepton to Street bus so we must suspect these services will now be in jeopardy.
The National Government has cut the Bus Operator Grant by 20%, this transferring the subsidy into higher fares. Passenger growth has seen between 3-8% growth this year. The subsidy to the bus pass has also been cut from 64p a ticket to 34p, this effecting the viability of the bus service.
The alternative to the cuts agenda is there, invest in the supply side of the economy, tax fairly, tackle tax evasion, boost growth. With the deficit being tackled slower, but tackling it in a way that doesn't cast aside the young, the vulnerable aside.
That's the difference between the Conservative led government and Labour.