There has been a great deal of speculation nationally around whether the Government will u-turn on their hike in National Insurance, which is a tax on working people and businesses in Bury and across the UK.

Let’s not forget that this tax hike from the Conservatives is already a u-turn from their manifesto pledge not to increase National Insurance.

Despite the speculation, however, the Government have so far confirmed they plan to go ahead with the tax hike. This is wrong for several reasons.

Firstly, we can all see a massive squeeze on household budgets already in progress. Inflation at its highest level in years, pay levels falling way behind this increasing cost of living, Universal Credit being cut, energy prices rocketing up, fuel still very expensive, council tax rises and talk of interest rates on the rise, potentially hitting those with mortgage payments.

Over the weekend, I joined a campaign weekend promoting Labour’s plan to immediately reduce energy bills by around £200 by cutting VAT and raising a one-off windfall tax on North Sea Oil and Gas profits.

Those most hit by energy prices rises would receive up to £600 off in this plan too. Sadly, Conservative MPs – including Bury North MP James Daly – voted against this. A missed opportunity to show some real leadership.

Secondly, we need to avoid a squeeze on household budgets to ensure we have a strong and fair economic recovery for Bury. There are different ways in which we can give our economy a boost, but surely the most effective way is more money in Bury people’s pockets.

This was part of our thinking at the council around paying the Real Living Wage for our staff and those in social care. This pay boost gave more than £2,000 extra a year for our lowest paid key workers, money that will very likely go back into our local economy. Now much of this increase, if not all, will go towards cushioning the impact of Government tax increases and rampant cost of living increases that the Government are incapable of reversing.

The squeeze is also being felt on the council’s budget. Our local services have felt this squeeze for 12 years now, ever since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. Not only have we been cut by over £110m during this time, but the demand for social care services has also almost doubled. A perfect storm.

Is it any wonder when the Government claims to have “increased the spending power for councils”, that they mean council Tax must rise to slightly plug the gap? This year alone the Council must cut a further £5.6m with a much bigger gap the following year. If the Government claims to be serious about 'levelling up', they must start by reversing how they have deliberately “levelled down” our council services for the last 12 years.