‘We’re still lacking industrial strategy’ says Tees MP

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tom blenkinsop

Tees MP Tom Blenkinsop says the government is still lacking a “comprehensive strategy” for the steel industry as he criticised Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement.

Mr Osborne surprised critics by doing a U-turn on tax credit cuts and vowing to protect police budgets in his spending review.

Millions of low paid families will not now see their benefits cut in April, although the relief for many will be temporary because tax credits will be phased out by 2018.

But there was no mention of Teesside in Wednesday’s statement.

And even though Mr Blenkinsop welcomes the tax credits move, he insists the “devil will be in the detail”.

The Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said: “George Osborne’s fanciful claim that the North is growing faster than the South is completely devolved from the realities of the job losses Teesside and East Cleveland has suffered in the last couple of months.

“The government still lacks a comprehensive strategy for the steel industry and the industry is still waiting on compensation for the carbon price floor tax introduced four years ago.

“The tax credits cuts U-turn is a welcome one and will come as a relief to thousands of families across Teesside. However, I fear the devil may be in the detail. I fear that the cut hasn’t been completely abandoned and is just a transitional measure, deferred to tax credits form part of the Universal Credit.

“As the details of the Chancellor’s spending review are poured over the full extent of Osborne’s plans will become clearer – the massive cuts to local councils, cutting £360m from adult skills and the climate change tax exemption that will leave steel companies no better off in cash terms are just a few of the gremlins revealed so far.”

Mr Osborne pushed ahead with £12bn cuts to the welfare budget, with a fresh squeeze on housing benefit – and £20bn in departmental cuts.

But he said higher tax receipts and better public finances had enabled him to rethink the tax credits cuts.

The NECC’s director of policy Ross Smith said: “The spending review was the opportunity for the Chancellor to put meat on the bones around the Northern Powerhouse and to confirm how the North-East can play a significant part in it.

“The devolution deals announced last month were a big step towards this. However, what we heard here has mostly been said before and there was not enough to confirm real economic change.

“What we had hoped to hear was a significant and lasting change in measures affecting the pattern of government investment and to direct private investment to the North-East. A series of initiatives badged under the Northern Powerhouse brand, while welcome, are not enough to achieve this.

“We are pleased that a significant number of smaller businesses will not be required to pay an apprenticeship levy and support is available to those who need it, although we look forward to hearing more details on this in the future.”

 

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