The Budget, as we all know, delivered a pathetic £400 million for schools, which many professionals have said is an insult when they are facing staff redundancies and cuts to pastoral and special needs services. Indeed, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said:
“Many public services are going to feel squeezed for some time to come. Cuts are not about to be reversed. If I were a prison governor, a local authority chief executive or a headteacher I would struggle to find much to celebrate. I would be preparing for more difficult years ahead.”
That needs to be seen against the backdrop of an 8% cut to school funding in real terms since 2010. As the National Audit Office has made clear, £6.7 billion is needed to bring English school buildings up to a satisfactory standard. That capital funding shortfall is made worse by the £3.7 billion cut from the capital budget since 2010. This has left three schools in my constituency—Belmont Community School, St Leonard’s and Framwellgate School—in urgent need of replacement, but the Government continually say that there is no money to pay for replacement.
This is not just about cuts in capital funding. In September this year, the cabinet member for children and young people’s services in Durham County Council wrote to the Secretary of State for Education. In a very detailed letter, she set out the impact in Durham of the cuts to education, estimating that the council had lost £46 million from the schools budget, which equates to a loss of 15 teaching staff in a secondary school. She pleaded with the Government to listen to authorities such as Durham and to provide more funding, so that young people in Durham can get the education they deserve.
We know that further education fares even worse from this Budget. There has been a 45% cut in real terms to adult education and apprenticeships and a 12% cut to student funding for 16 to 18-year-olds. The Government need to explain how much of the figure outlined for skilled jobs and apprenticeships will to colleges to support them as they seek to do the important job of skilling and reskilling adults and young people, so that they add to a dynamic workforce for the future. Even if they get all the £125 million, FE colleges will still have lost £3 billion since 2010.
I am also concerned that the Chancellor has done nothing to reduce the burden of debt on university students, particularly to lower the crippling interest rates applied to student loans. Some of the money in the Budget for start-ups, research and development of technology might end up in universities; again, that is not clear. It would be good to know how much will go to the HE sector, and we especially expect more detail about university funding after the post-18 review has reported.
In the last minute or so of my speech, I want to say something about cuts to local government. We all know that local government has borne the brunt of cuts, losing 60% of its funding. It is absolutely outrageous that the Government did nothing in the Budget to try to bring about a fairer system of funding for local government. Councils such as Durham are dealing with increasing pressures on social care and on young people’s and children’s care services. There was hardly a mention of that in the Budget, despite the massive cuts to and the shortfall in local government funding, which is estimated to be £7.8 billion by 2024-25. The Exchequer Secretary is not listening at the moment, but I do hope that he will read this speech in Hansard and come back to the House with a commitment on how the Government will make up the shortfall to local government funding so my constituents can get the services they deserve and need.