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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Tameside Deserves Better Than This Budget

Thursday, 28 October 2021



Yesterday afternoon the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the Budget Autumn for 2021. As I’ve written in this blog before, we stand at a critical point for Tameside and the country as a whole. The decisions made in this Budget would help to determine whether we emerged from the pandemic moving forward with a commitment to radical action and inclusive growth, or falling behind by repeating the mistakes of the austerity decade.

As always with the Budget, the devil is in the detail, and there may very well be things buried in the small print that will not become clear for some time. That being said, here’s my brief opinion of the three priorities the government needed to address and where they’ve fallen short:

1. Confronting the Cost of Living Crisis

 

 
It’s no secret that we’re entering a cost of living crisis unprecedented in recent history. The cumulative impact of inflation, disruption to supply chains and the cut to Universal Credit – the largest in the history of the welfare state – mean that many more families will soon be struggling to make ends meet.

While on first glance the Budget appears to tackle this by increasing the minimum wage and lowering the “taper rate” of Universal Credit (the amount of money that is taken away from claimants for every £1 they make from work) these pale when compared to the scale of the problem. The Resolution Foundation predicts that British households will be up to £1,000 worse off next year as a result of the cost of living crisis, meaning that even with the new rate a full-time worker on minimum wage will still be out of pocket by the time of the next Budget. On Universal Credit, the taper rate reduction only makes up for 33% of the income lost by working families as a result of the devastating cut announced last month, and it will do nothing at all for the millions of people looking to work or unable to work.

An immediate increase of the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and a root-and-branch review of the entire Universal Credit system, would have been the least needed to rise to the cost of living crisis. Anything else is too little, too late.

2. Taking the Fight to the Climate Challenge

 

As all eyes turns towards the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow next month, now would be the perfect opportunity to put Britain at the cutting-edge of the transition to the green economy. For all the supporters of austerity talk of the “unfairness” of passing down debt to future generations, the consequences for our children of not acting to prevent climate change will be apocalyptic. Furthermore, going green now will pay for itself through more jobs, higher productivity, lower energy bills and cleaner air.

This Budget should have recognised that taking the fight to the climate challenge is the only moral and financial choice, by investing hundreds of billions (at least) in green policies such as insulating homes, building the infrastructure to promote walking, cycling and public transport, and kick-starting renewable industries such as electric vehicles, hydrogen batteries and wind turbines. Instead, the most significant thing in the Budget in regards to green policy was how little it was mentioned at all. Many of the measures, most notably the slashing of taxes for domestic flights, will actively set us back in building the environmentally-sustainable country we, and the planet, desperately need. 

3. Investing in the North

 

To give credit where it is due, it should be noted that this Budget has provided funding for some projects in Tameside, including £20 million for the restoration of Ashton Town Hall and £50,000 to develop proposals for a new rail link between Ashton and Stockport.

But we cannot ignore the fact that Britain remains the most geographically unequal country in Europe. Local authorities across the country lost over £16 billion of funding during the austerity decade, and there is a direct link between higher cuts to health and social care in the North and increased death rates as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Much of our remaining public spending – particularly in growth areas such as R&D and transport – remains overwhelmingly concentrated in London and the South-East. Ending this unfairness, or “levelling up” in the government’s words, is apparently one of their highest priorities.

But once again, when it comes to large-scale, transformative investment for the North this Budget speaks louder when it says nothing. There was no mention at all of HS2 Phase B, the proposed high speed rail route from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, nor anything about the Northern Powerhouse rail line from Liverpool to Hull via Bradford. Despite the new funding we’ve received, when you look at the big picture it seems like this is yet another Budget where Tameside, Greater Manchester and the whole North is forced to take crumbs from London’s table.

At a time where we needed unprecedented action to put more money into people’s pockets, protect our shared environment and unleash the potential of the North, this Budget promises more of the same. It is the Budget of a government unwilling or unable to deal with the challenges ahead, and I only hope that their inaction does not come back to haunt us all in the years to come.

Posted by: Executive Leader


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