Today’s budget was paper thin and comes after seven years of Tory economic failure on the debt, the deficit and public services. With breath-taking complacency, it made no mention of the greatest economic challenge this country faces in Brexit.
Eliminating the UK’s deficit by 2015 used to be their overriding goal; now that target has been dumped and public debt is climbing to almost £2 trillion.
Our public services have paid the price with longer waiting lists in the NHS, social care facing a huge funding black hole, fewer police officers keeping our streets safe, funding for our schools falling. Our economy faces major weaknesses including underinvestment in infrastructure, low productivity, and pressure on living standards as prices rise and low paid, insecure employment persist.
Brexit and the risks it poses to trade and investment makes the problem worse. The Tories are set to borrow £100 billion more than they said before the Brexit vote. It should have been the centre piece of the Chancellor's budget but incredibly it got barely a mention.
The Chancellor’s announcements today failed to face up to Britain’s challenges and offered nothing for people here on Teesside who have seen well paid industrial jobs disappear and are seeing their living standards fall as prices rise.
Our area’s self-employed workers won’t be happy to learn their national insurance contributions will now rise, despite a manifesto promise by the Tories not to do so.
The extra funding promised for social care is too little, too late. £4.6 billion has been cut from the care system since 2010 so the new cash will not plug the shortfall. Our councils on Teesside can’t just negotiate a sweetheart deal with the government as Surrey has done. Instead taxpayers have borne the burden of the Tories’ social care levy.
Lots of local small businesses including pubs have been in touch with me about the huge impact of the Government’s business rates revaluation. The Chancellor’s measures to soften the burden are welcome but will still mean a rise for most. We know from past experience that when the government announces discretionary funding formulas, Tory voting areas of the country come out on top.
On International Women’s Day, with WASPI activists from Redcar & Cleveland campaigning for fairer pensions outside Parliament, disgracefully the Chancellor did not even mention the huge pressures the fast tracked changes to the state pension age are having on older women.
The wrong priorities were at the heart of this Budget. It should have focused on preparing for post-Brexit Britain, tackling poor regional infrastructure investment, supporting our industry, and tackling the lack of skills that is holding our country back.
Sat listening to the Chancellor’s budget speech today, I did not hear a vision for Britain or for our region.