It’s been a busy few weeks in Parliament! After nearly two years of campaigning, the announcement that the tampon tax will finally be scrapped is a huge victory for common sense and for all the women who have fought on this issue for so long.
I’m proud that, last week, the government made the unprecedented announcement that they will accept my amendment to the budget resolution on the ‘tampon tax’ – the first time in parliamentary history that a backbench MP has seen an amendment to a Budget resolution successfully adopted.
We now need the Chancellor to guarantee secure, long-term funding for the vital women’s charities and services that were receiving the money raised by VAT on sanitary products.
The test now will be for producers and retailers to pass the savings on to consumers, and to work with the Government to make sure the charities which had a funding boost from the tampon tax don’t lose out. I have written to manufacturers and retailers to ask them to meet with me very soon to reach an agreement on that, and hope for government support.
Whilst I am delighted to have forced the Tories into action on this issue, sadly, this doesn’t stop this being a deeply unfair Budget and moreover, one that is in complete disarray. Just days since his Budget announcement, the Chancellor has been forced to back down on his plan to cut up to £150 a week off the income of 1,160 disabled people in Dewsbury and hundreds of thousands more across the country, causing unnecessary worry to those who are often amongst the most vulnerable, and then leaving a £4.4 billion black hole in his Budget.
Unbelievably, having failed to achieve his own fiscal targets by every meaningful measure, deficit, debt, growth and productivity; those on the highest incomes are still set to get a tax cut, at the same time as local families are losing tax credits and universal credit.
Not only did this Budget reveal cruel cuts to social security that are, in the words of the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, ‘deeply unfair’, but the decision to withdraw this key policy within just days of its announcement, exposes a shocking level of incompetence and ineptitude.
Locally, whilst I’m glad that the government is finally planning something to help small businesses with business rates, this measure alone (even with doubtful assurances that the cost will not be met at the expense of cash strapped local authorities), is not enough to bring the jobs and skills needed to boost our local economy. We need a serious plan to bring much needed investment to our area. Unfortunately, the government’s inability to explain the missing £4.4 billion in the Chancellor’s Budget, has instead left everyone wondering where the axe will fall in order to pay the price for the Tories’ failure.
The government have made it clear in their £110m cuts to council funding over the past five years, and in their failure to deliver on a promised ‘Enterprise Zone’, that they have little time for Dewsbury or Kirklees. Nevertheless, I will continue to lobby the government for a fair deal for Dewsbury – sadly another omission from a deeply unfair Budget.