Let us face it: schools are faring badly. The Chancellor’s gift of £400 million in the Budget for some “little extras” was frankly insulting in the context of billions of pounds of cuts. If the Institute for Fiscal Studies is right, capital spending on schools has fallen by £3.5 billion—a 41% real-terms cut. I can see it in my constituency every time I visit a school. They are struggling, and they are also struggling to keep their students safe from grooming and crime at a time when young people’s services are disappearing, again due to cuts. Violent crime is rising and destroying the futures of increasing numbers of young people in my constituency, but the Treasury’s only response is to announce £170 million for our neighbourhood police services. That sum would cover less than 40% of the police pensions black hole, so it is unlikely to stop the fall in the number of officers on our streets. Reports suggest that half of that £170 million will have to come from elsewhere in the massively overstretched Home Office budget, so what will be cut to make up for it? Will it be firefighters? Will it be Border Force?
The next generation will not thank us if we leave them more vulnerable to fire, crime and terrorism. The cuts to councils have ensured that children’s services are under threat. Sure Starts and libraries are closing. We are charging for sporting activities in communities that help keep children healthy. There is not enough money to employ the youth workers that we need to teach my children resilience against the groomers.
Since 2010, the Government have claimed that austerity is working to bring down the debt and make spending sustainable, but that is simply wrong. They have missed every deficit target they have set themselves. They said they would eliminate the deficit by 2015, but now the Office for Budget Responsibility says that even eliminating it by 2025 will be challenging with the current approach. To the extent that the central Government deficit has reduced, much of that has been done by passing debt and problems to the future, where they will require more spending to fix. The Government are passing problems into the lap of our underfunded schools, hospitals, local councils and police forces. That does not make the next generation more secure or our public debt more sustainable.
Future generations are not being protected by austerity; they are being harmed by it. We need public investment to repair the safety net, to improve the public services that underpin the life chances of the many and to drive growth that benefits the whole country. In fact, we need a Labour Government to rebuild Britain.