“the era of austerity is…coming to an end.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 648, c. 653.]
We can argue about the semantics, but the reality was captured by something the Prime Minister said some time ago: “Nothing has changed.”
We have also seen little to undo the cuts that have stripped away local services in our communities. Having been a councillor during some of the worst years of this Government’s austerity, I can tell the Chancellor that there is no more fat to trim in local government and no more “efficiencies” to be found. This Budget does little to reverse almost a decade of underinvestment that has brought councils to the brink, including Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council, which has been pushed into bankruptcy.
This is a broken-promises Budget, with its most reassuring moment being the WASPI protest in the Gallery. Those women should not have to protest in Parliament; the Government should be listening to them. I have been working closely with 1950s-born women in my constituency over the past few months, and I have heard some heart-breaking accounts, including stories of women who have died while waiting to receive their state pension. However, I have also seen steely determination and their unwavering commitment to continue fighting for what is rightfully theirs. The issue is not going away and these women are not going away, and the Government had better listen sooner rather than later.
Of course, many WASPI women will have to turn to universal credit while they wait for their state pension. The Chancellor completely lacks contact with reality on that issue, as does Luke Graham. He pointed out that more money has gone in, but there is not enough money. What do the Chancellor and the hon. Gentleman expect me say to my constituents on universal credit who come to my surgeries, struggling to get by? Do I tell them that is all right, and that more money is going into universal credit and austerity is coming to an end?
We heard the chorus of Tory MPs chanting along with the Prime Minister at yesterday’s PMQs as she rhymed off things that have gone up under her Government, but I noticed a few things missing from the list: child poverty up; food bank use up; and homelessness up. This Budget does absolutely nothing for my constituents and I cannot possibly support it.