City politicians split over Autumn Statement

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Political rivals have been split over their opinions on what the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement means for the people of Milton Keynes.

The Statement, delivered yesterday by George Osbourne, was hailed as a massive success by the Conservative party as they hailed the positive impact the news will have on young people trying to get into work and those starting at school in September, with the announcement of free school meals for those in Years 1 and 2.

They were also supportive of moves to help commuters with a freeze on fuel duty and a lower cap on rail fare increases to be in line with inflation.

However, the Labour party’s Parliamentary candidates were scathing in their criticism of the announcements made, saying that working people will be £1,600 a year worse off due to the cost of living rising faster than wages.

Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North, Mark Lancaster, said: ““The Autumn Statement was good news for young people in Milton Keynes. Employees under the age of 21 will now no longer attract National Insurance which will be a major incentive for business to get young people into employment, great news for a city like Milton Keynes.

“With more apprenticeships being offered, it is great to see this popular scheme going from strength to strength. Milton Keynes is a young city with many schools producing pupils who are ideal candidates for apprenticeships, we can get the young people of Milton Keynes working and our businesses thriving.”

Mr Lancaster’s Milton Keynes South counterpart, MP Iain Stewart, said: “There were many things I was pleased to hear but I particularly welcome the Government’s action to curb rail fare increases.

“Fares have risen at a substantial rate over the last decade and limiting the potential increase in train fares will be welcome news to commuters in Milton Keynes. It is fairer and will help people and their finances.”

His Labour party challenger for the Milton Keynes South seat, Andrew Pakes, said: “The Autumn Statement was a sober reminder that the economy is not out of the woods yet with the Chancellor acknowledging that growth is still half what he forecast in 2010.

“With prices rising faster than wages for 40 of the 41 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street, this was a missed opportunity to help families worried about heating bills, the cost of childcare and living costs.

“Despite pledges to help commuters and cut energy bills, people will still be paying more to travel by train or heat their homes this winter.

“The Government has been forced into action to help small businesses after an effective campaign by business organisations and Labour MPs.

“Business rates are the top priority for many small firms in the city but it looks like the discount does not cover all businesses, and excludes small manufacturing, workshops and hi-tech firms that are vital to growth. I would like to have seen an across the board cut for our smaller firms.

“Although the government has not said how it will pay for an increase in student numbers, it gives Milton Keynes a real opportunity to fight to expand UCMK and expand our higher education offer as a city.”

Emily Darlington, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Milton Keynes North, said: “David Cameron’s cost-of-living bombshell has left working people on average £1600 a year worse off since the last election. After three damaging years of economic flat-lining, prices are still rising faster than wages. For most people in Milton Keynes, there is still no recovery at all.

“The Autumn Statement from George Osborne missed the opportunity to help families and businesses. Instead of freezing energy bills, they failed to take on the energy companies. Instead of a cut to small business rates, they are putting them up.”