George Osborne has missed every target he's set himself, says Labour MP Helen Goodman

 
James Nickerson
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Chancellor George Osborne Delivers His Autumn Statement
Osborne's reversal on tax credits was political theatre (Source: Getty)

"The fact is the chancellor has missed every target that he’s set himself,” according to Labour MP Helen Goodman on George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

“He can’t keep banging on about what happened eight years ago because he’s been in charge now for nearly six years – it’s his fault he hasn’t met his targets,” Goodman, who sits on the influential treasury select committee, added.

Labour pointed particularly to Osborne having missed the debt target by 60 per cent, taking a situation where the debt was £900bn to £1500bn where it is now. “The time of reckoning has now come for the chancellor.”

That may be contested, given Osborne said the forecast he presented showed that after the longest period of rising debt in our modern history, and "this year our debt will fall and keep falling in every year that follows".

But, regardless of the targets, one would expect Labour to be happy – or in shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s case claim a victory for his party - that the Autumn Statement and Spending Review surprised many with the u-turn on tax credits.

Read more: Where departmental budgets were cut last year

Indeed, even Goodman, a fierce critic of Osborne, says she’s pleased that he’s eased the problems. She won’t be alone, Osborne under fire even from members of his own party to reverse the policy.

But, ultimately it is just political theatre, because by the end of the five years’ time, what people will have gained in tax credits, they will have more than lost in other benefits, Goodman says.

“It won’t be precisely the same group of people, but there will be a lot of overlap. It was good news in the short term, in the next three years. But by the end it’s basically even stevens.”

But what of the array of housing policies aimed at solving the UK’s chronic housing shortage and helping people get on the housing ladder? Well, “he’s aiming policies at people with above average salaries, not below average. He’s pitching his help too high up the income scale and not assisting people with getting on the housing ladder.”

She isn't alone: Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk, noted the absence of policies to fix the housing market, and the TaxPayers' Alliance's Harry Fairhaid warned Osborne's measures could risk making the housing crisis worse.

Read more: Where will Osborne make the Autumn Statement cuts?

In terms of what Osborne’s actually doing, it’s simple to Goodman: He’s paying for extra house building by taxing buy-to-let and second home owners.

In fact, “in principle, that’s a lot of what the chancellor is doing. He’s outsourcing the funding of the boost to housing by taxing buy-to-let, which actually might reduce the amount of housing available to rent.

And he’s outsourcing the cost of training by raising an apprenticeship levy of £3bn, a “massive levy on businesses”, while “outsourcing social care and local services by requiring local authorities to raise business rates and council tax by a staggering £7bn”.

The problem is, Goodman points out, Osborne has the same “basic strategy today”, which means yesterday’s statement hasn’t done anything to make up for the problems created when he when slammed the breaks on the economic recovery in 2010.

"The economy, just starting to grow, shuddered to a virtual standstill, which the chancellor had to reverse. But that reversal came too late. He got the timing wrong."

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