My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Whatever this Government say, austerity is far from over for the people who require our help through the social security system.
Turning to communities, it was only a few weeks ago, in a speech that began with the Prime Minister dancing across the stage, that we were told that austerity is over. After almost a decade of cuts that have made life difficult for families across the country, I expect that many people welcomed the news coming out of Birmingham and breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would they have to visit food banks after work because they could not afford to eat. No longer would they feel unsafe in their neighbourhoods after 21,000 police officers had been cut. No longer would too many people be left shivering in the cold, unable to afford somewhere to live and with nowhere to turn. No longer would local councillors be worrying about balancing their books, about providing care for vulnerable children, or about ensuring dignity for the elderly people who need the care that their councils should be providing.
Fast-forward to the Budget presented to the House this week, and many people will have been left bitterly disappointed. This is not an end to austerity, but merely more of the same. Two thirds of the welfare benefit cuts planned by the Government will still happen, and headteachers will still be forced to write begging letters to parents to pay for the basics. No wonder that the “little extras” referred to by the Chancellor—a frankly insulting term to schools at a time when the independent pay review body has said that they do not have the resources to give any pay rises to their staff—were so badly received. Teachers’ pay is down £4,000 in real terms since 2010, and headteachers are writing to parents to ask for donations just to keep services at current levels.