The Chancellor may have avoided a Halloween Budget by holding it on Monday, but his tinkering at the edges of the serious problems faced by public services, businesses and families unfortunately doesn’t alleviate the ongoing funding nightmare for High Peak’s health services, schools, nurseries, councils and families who are struggling.
We were supposed to be seeing the end of austerity, but the Budget offered no good news on that front. No reversal of cuts to public services, to welfare or pensions, and no end in sight for the deficit, which we were promised would be eliminated by 2015.
There was no support for Derbyshire health services – almost £100m in the red and facing further similar cuts next year. The much-quoted extra £20bn for the NHS over 4 years from 2020 will come too late for many of the voluntary sector services and long-term support we face losing.
At first, I was delighted at the extra £2bn a year announced for Mental Health. But on closer inspection, it is simply part of the £20bn long-term NHS plan. So, it won’t start until 2020 nor build up to £2bn until 2024. A cruel trick on the thousands of people who need mental health services, and on their families, who suffer alongside them, as I see in my surgeries so often.
From the complete lack of support for our police, to the pretence that schools which have suffered 8% real terms budget cuts since 2010 need only “little extras”, this was a Budget to paper over the cracks.
The 3.2 million families who face losing an average £2,500 a year under Universal Credit won’t be much reassured that some families will be £630 less worse off. There was nothing for people with disabilities or carers who can’t work, and those who can will still be on average over £2,000 a year worse off.
But it’s no good being negative without offering an alternative. After almost a decade, it is clear that austerity isn’t working. Countries which invested to grow their economies and increase productivity have fared much better since the global financial crash and Britain needs to do the same.
A Labour government would fund public services by reversing the £110 billion of tax giveaways from this government to the richest corporations, increasing income tax for people earning over £80,000 a year, and closing tax loopholes as we proposed in last year’s Finance Bill, but which the Conservatives rejected.
Only with proper investment to tackle poverty and in our infrastructure, in research and in education can we grow our way out of the mess that eight years of austerity has left. We will all benefit from helping the millions of people reduced to poverty.