Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Thanks to the 10 years of austerity Budgets and spending statements, our key public services have been cut to the bone and beyond, which means that they and the amazing people who work in them, who are already struggling with the day job, will now face incredible pressure and uncertainty in the weeks ahead. Although pouring money into the NHS is essential at this time, the crisis has exposed significant gaps after years of inadequate annual spending rounds. It has also exposed the state-sanctioned poverty policies of this Government.
The Government could learn from France, where households and businesses are being protected from going under with a €300 billion package. In Hounslow, after £140 million of cuts over 10 years, our council, like all local authorities, has simply no headroom available to address the covid-19 crisis in social care, in public health or through support for volunteering to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in self-isolation.
In the short and ever-diminishing time available, I will cover issues that have dominated my postbag and that, unless the Government address them, will continue to do so and continue to be relevant, even once we are over this crisis. There was nothing in the Budget to enable councillors or the London Mayor to properly serve our communities at this time. The growing number of children with special educational and development needs have no or inadequate additional specialist support, which could make a difference for their future. There was nothing in the Budget to address mental health, and specifically young people’s mental health, an issue raised with me at just about every secondary school I visit and in my constituency survey last year. The Government need to end the postcode lottery of mental health treatment and provide adequate funding for child and adolescent mental health services and for local early intervention services.
Another missed opportunity in the Budget was tackling violent crime, especially among young people, given the loss of 20,000 police officers, who are not going to be replaced quickly, and the new recruits who do have the innate knowledge of preventing and addressing crime that can only be learned over many years on the job. Alongside policing, council funding cuts mean that youth services have been cut by 70% since 2010, with the loss of the vast majority of experienced youth workers.
Although I welcome the £1 billion in the Budget to address cladding, I regret that there is nothing for those at the sharp end of the housing crisis. Purchase and even private rent are out of reach for many thousands of my constituents. More than 2,000 households are homeless in Hounslow and more are living in overcrowded or unsuitable housing. They will get permanent and adequate housing only with substantial and sustained Government action.
The elephant in the room in the Budget was the climate crisis. Billions for new roads were found and the freeze on fuel duty was upheld, but there was nothing for active travel or for solar, tidal or hydro power, which scream out for investment. I of course appreciate the fact that the Budget was delivered at a time of extreme uncertainty and that funding has gone to the NHS, but this is not a Budget for the people of this country and did not address the continuing underlying problems facing our society.