“Today’s Budget saw all the indicators of a strong economy – productivity, business investment, and GDP growth revised down. A damning indictment of seven years of Conservative rule and a worryingly weak position to be in as we approach Brexit.
We are facing one of the biggest squeezes on living standards in living memory. Real wages have fallen well behind the cost of living and more people are doing insecure jobs. People on Teesside have been bearing the brunt of this squeeze for too long and there was nothing in this budget for them.
More people are becoming reliant on rising levels of personal debt, with Redcar Citizens Advice taking on extra staff to deal with it. The Tory Government’s failure to invest in skills and in infrastructure has hit UK productivity, a key driver of economic growth and wage rises, leaving us well behind other European countries. On top of that, the Government’s haphazard management of the Brexit negotiations is discouraging private sector investment.
A modern industrial strategy is a crucial step towards addressing our country’s weaknesses and we have long been calling for the Government to commit to one. They have finally started to give some detail and there were some welcome announcements today. The increased infrastructure investment for the regions is positive, but with London already sucking up 54% of English infrastructure spending compared to 20.1% for the North, this will be only a drop in the ocean. Some of the funding doesn’t even begin until 2022-3.
Investment in digital industries and electric cars is also a positive; digital is one of Teesside’s thriving sectors and important for futureproofing our economy. But green technologies like carbon capture and storage were suspiciously absent. Government backing for CCS is a must if our industries are to stay competitive and a commitment to a CCS project here could have brought thousands of jobs to Teesside. I was hoping for a strong commitment today but it didn’t arrive. We can’t afford anymore complacency.
Our call on Teesside for more resources for the police to get more bobbies on our streets has also fallen on deaf ears. The government are still expecting local forces to fund pay rises from existing budgets which only adds to the pressure on frontline police. We also learned this week that despite claiming to protect police budgets, the Government are slashing them by £500m in real terms by 2020. Anti-social behaviour, vandalism and burglaries are just some of the issues causing havoc in Redcar and Cleveland. I fear this will only get worse as funding pressures put neighbourhood policing at risk. This reckless Tory approach to public safety has to stop.
The changes to Universal Credit which include removing the 7 day waiting period applied at the beginning of a claim also do not go anywhere near far enough to fix the flaws in the system. People will still have to wait weeks without any support, at risk of falling into debt and arrears.
This Budget should have relieved the pressure on struggling families and given the economy a much needed shot in the arm. It has failed to do both.”
Commenting on the funding announcement for the SSI site, Anna added:
“The £123 million for the SSI site, as trailed by the Tees Valley Mayor earlier this week, is welcome. But when you look at the details in the Red Book, there is only £5 million of new money. The rest has already been committed and is just the inevitable cost of their bad decision to close it in 2015. We warned them it would cost more to manage the closure of a toxic site and keep us safe than to keep it running.
There is nothing new in this announcement that will create new jobs and attract investment. Proper resources need to be put into that task through the South Tees Development Corporation so we can get moving on the ambitious masterplan. It is time to back up warm words and glossy brochures with some real substance and I am disappointed the government don’t seem to have put their money where their mouth was today. The site should be the go-to place for investment in the UK right now and the government needs to invest further to unlock jobs. It is the least they can do for Teesside given their complete failure to save our steel industry.
The Chancellor is obviously desperate for a positive story from this flailing budget but it’s wrong to use money already committed to Teesside to pretend we are getting a boost.”