It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Karin Smyth. Yesterday, the Chancellor made his Budget speech and told us that the era of austerity was nearly over, that schools would be getting money for the “little extras” and that all would be rosy as he increased tax thresholds, but that it would all be off if there was a no-deal Brexit.
The Budget was telling for another reason, though: the areas that it did not mention. There was no mention of funding for policing. We have lost more than 21,000 police officers since 2010. The Home Affairs Committee, in its recent report, “Policing for the Future”, said:
“Without additional funding for policing…there will be dire consequences for public safety, criminal justice, community cohesion and public confidence.”
The report also told of recorded crime having risen by 32% in the past three years and of the number of charges and summons having decreased by 26%. Why are the Government not concerned about public safety and fighting crime?
There was also no mention of extra funding for local authorities. The Chancellor said that austerity was nearly over. Why, then, does my borough of Enfield, which has had to find £161 million of cuts since 2010, still need to find an extra £31 million? Local councils are embedded in their communities and perform many vital roles—they do not just fill in potholes. Why was there no extra money for youth services, social care and local authority CAMHS to meet the needs of children at school? We know what the Government think about local authorities. Rather than supporting councils, they let councils such as Northampton go bust. They should be ashamed of the way they are destroying local councils, which are at breaking point, and slashing their funding. It is death by a billion cuts.
On education, the Chancellor made mention of additional funding for schools to pay for the “little extras”, as he described them. I wonder whether he has spoken to any headteachers, staff, governors or parents. Many schools in my constituency are facing huge cuts in the hundreds of thousands of pounds to teaching assistants, support services for children, school trips and non-curriculum subjects. The Chancellor is delusional if he thinks that £10,000 for “little extras” will go any way towards stemming the tide of cuts to schools. Those cuts are real, and they are having a detrimental effect on children. I have nothing but respect for the headteachers, staff, governors and parents who are trying to keep things together for their schools. What an insult to provide more money for potholes than for schools—the Chancellor could not have been more patronising if he tried.
On universal credit, the £1.7 billion the Chancellor announced to fix the failing system is a fraction of what his predecessor took out of it. What would he say to a local resident I spoke to who is a single mother—not through her own choice—working part time, who will be £50 a week worse off as she migrates from tax credits to universal credit? Why is he not putting money in to make sure that no one is worse off under universal credit? Why are people who are being migrated to universal credit not being protected? The legacy of the Government’s austerity is the prevalence of food banks, homelessness and poverty across the country.
The Ministry of Justice has had its budget cut year on year. The cost of processing women in the criminal justice system is £1.7 billion a year. One of the most successful ways of stopping reoffending is to provide support in women’s centres, yet they have been cut and do not receive the funding they need, leaving many in a precarious situation. Women’s centres have been picking up the pieces from the failing privatised rehabilitation centres, which have been rewarded for their failure.
There is nothing in the Budget for legal aid, which means that people will not get the representation they need and that there will be more injustices. Having proper representation in criminal proceedings is becoming the preserve of the rich. The Government seem totally uninterested in support for the criminal justice system and content to allow injustices to continue.
The Chancellor may think that the era of austerity is over, but it is not over for schools, for councils, for people on universal credit, for the homeless, for those caught up in the criminal justice system or for victims of crime, and certainly not for those who are poor. This Budget is a façade; it does not stand up to scrutiny, and it could all be scrapped by Christmas.