Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

A Budget That Fails to Deliver

Thursday, 01 November 2018


 
On Monday afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Budget for the coming year. Standing in the dispatch box at the House of Commons, he declared that “the era of austerity is coming to an end”. After spending some time going over the facts and figures, my reply to him is now “Who are you kidding?”

Let’s put the rhetoric to one side for the moment and see where the numbers take us.

Since 2010, local government funding has been decimated to the tune of almost £16 billion. Where we had £1 to spend in 2010, we have only 40p to spend eight years later. We know as well that the government has already penned in a further £1.3 billion in cuts next year. When you put everything together, the Local Government Association has estimated that by 2025 councils in England will have £7.8 billion less than they need to operate at the level they’re at right now.

When you’re dealing with amounts of that scale, the sums of £650 million for adult social care or £84 million for children’s services announced in the Budget start looking a lot less impressive. At best, this Budget offers sticking plasters on years’ worth of gaping wounds. At worst, it threatens the ability of local government to keep running the vital services that millions of people up and down the country, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, depend upon.

It wasn’t just local government who spent the start of the week finding out that “the end of austerity” is a mirage.

The mental health funding crisis in our NHS is now so severe that some patients are being sent hundreds of miles away from home to access basic treatment. The government’s response in the Budget has been to try and pass off £2 billion as new money, when in actual fact it’s coming from previously announced NHS funding.

The government seems to think that all schools needed in the Budget was a one-off payment of £10,000 each for primary schools and £50,000 each for secondary schools to cover “little extras”. Yet we know that school buildings up and down the country are facing a maintenance backlog of £6.7 billion, and that a wholesale neglect of professional retention and development has meant that over half our teachers are considering leaving the sector entirely.    

Despite tinkering around the edges with Universal Credit, 75% of the cuts to working age benefits announced since 2015 remain. Even more alarming is the fact that the government seems to be intent in ploughing ahead with Universal Credit as a whole, despite the almost overwhelming evidence that the serious problems in its design and implementation remain unresolved.

The true cost of austerity can no longer be denied, even by a government that has spent eight long years wilfully ignoring the damage it wreaked. But actions always speak louder than words, and this is a Budget that has failed to do what needs to be done. If the government had really wanted to end austerity, they would have put the money in place to start reversing the cuts to public sector funding. If they really wanted to end austerity, they would have addressed the funding inequalities that have left some parts of the country flush with investment and other parts barely keeping their heads above water. If they really wanted to end austerity, they would have taken responsibility for the UK having the worst economic growth in the G20 nations and the slowest increase in wages since the Napoleonic Wars.

The government says that they are ending austerity, but all they’ve given us is more of the same. Every Tameside resident, every public sector organisation and worker, anybody who cares about the future of our country deserves better than what they were offered on Monday.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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