It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Jim McMahon.
I have to say that I am disappointed by the Budget, although I am not surprised by its failure to set out any meaningful change in policy. As other hon. Members have said, this is a broken-promises Budget. Austerity is not over and there is no sign that it will be over any time soon. Cuts to social security will continue and there are no guarantees that other Government Departments will not face cuts as well. The Government have presided over eight years of economic failure. Their failed austerity agenda has deeply damaged our economy, delayed and weakened our recovery, and endlessly postponed fixing the deficit. It is important to see beyond the deliberate attempts to distract the media and voters with relatively small sums of money spent on one or two high profile items. Frankly, I have to say that even many of those are derisory. Instead, I would like to focus on what is missing from the Budget.
First, it is significant that there are no guarantees that Departments will not face further cuts. That the Chancellor has raided capital budgets to fund day-to-day spending makes matters even worse. The £1.7 billion promised for universal credit is less than a third of the social security cuts still to come and the Chancellor’s announcements on work allowances reverses just over half the cuts made in 2015. The roll-out of universal credit has now been delayed for the seventh time. On this measure, universal credit is clearly failing. It is clear that it needs to be scrapped.
What about the NHS? Under the current Government, the NHS has experienced the slowest spending growth in its history. The £20 billion promised for the NHS is “simply not enough” according to the Health Foundation. It is clear that there is a real need for much greater spending just to keep pace with the needs of our ageing population.
What does the Budget have to say about schools? The Chancellor’s plans did not include a penny for the day-to-day costs for our schools, even though school funding has been cut by 8%. The “little extras” announced by the Chancellor will be seen as a drop in the ocean and something of an insult to many hardworking teachers, parents and children. It will not stop schools having to send begging letters to parents to cover basic expenses, which in my area includes paper and printing.
What about local government, policing and public sector pay? Local councils face a funding gap of £7.8 billion by 2025. There was not a penny for policing, even though 21,000 police officers have been cut and violent crime is on the rise. Police, teachers, nurses and doctors have had no reassurance that the public sector pay squeeze will end this year. Indeed, the Budget failed to address the very real needs of my constituency. My constituents will not be helped by this Budget. It is a budget that fails even on its own terms.
The Chancellor has tried to distract us with a shower of gimmicks. This failed and divided Government claim that austerity is ending when some of the deepest cuts are yet to come. The Government are failing to deliver a fair economy, failing to end austerity and failing to agree a Brexit deal. It is high time they made way for a party willing and able to address the very real problems facing our country today.