Chancellor Philip Hammond changed the date of the Budget to avoid a clash with Hallowe’en but still managed to produce a fright night package that does nothing to deal with the serious problems facing the country.
His declaration that austerity is coming to an end and our public services are safe in Tory hands will not ring true locally.
As I revealed in a parliamentary debate last week, poverty is striking at the heart of our city and devastating the lives of too many people. You can see the full debate by clicking here and read coverage from the Liverpool Echo by clicking here.
During the debate, I challenged the government to produce a Budget that supported people out of poverty rather than forced more into destitution. It has failed.
Liverpool City Council has seen a two-thirds cut to its budget – £444 million – since 2010. It has suffered more than most because the cuts come on the back of changes to funding formulas that mean the poorest areas are hardest hit.
The Budget could have marked a real end to austerity by offering a fair and transparent funding formula based on people’s needs and bolstering local economies to drive inclusive economic growth. Instead, the Chancellor offered some sticking plasters to patch up some potholes but otherwise left our city to fend for itself.
It is the most vulnerable in our city who are being hit hardest.
For instance, Liverpool City Council has a £7 million overspend this year on vital services to vulnerable children and young adults because of Whitehall cuts. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services calculates that the number of responsibilities placed on councils by government has increased by 50 per cent since 2011, without the extra investment to pay for them.
The Chancellor should have launched an urgent review of the financing of statutory services to ensure councils have the money they need to support the most vulnerable.
As I said during the poverty debate in Parliament, the threat of Universal Credit is now hovering over constituents in Liverpool Wavertree.
Wherever it has been rolled out, food bank use has shot up, people have fallen into debt and homelessness has increased. Rather than a promise of a little more money to ease the worst abuses, we needed the Chancellor to call a halt to the roll out until the fundamental flaws in the system are fixed.
Of course, we were all waiting for details of how the promised £20 billion of extra funding for the National Health Service was going to be paid for. It certainly won’t be coming from the Brexit dividend as was promised during the referendum debate in 2016. In fact, we learnt from the Budget books that the divorce bill plus spending in lieu of EU funding will be far higher than our current payments to the EU.
Two years on, the Chancellor could only offer up some suggestions on how the money will be spent – £2 billion towards mental health crisis services, far short of the £4 billion that experts say is needed to bring about real equality between our mental and physical health services.
It is a sleight of hand Budget that fails to meet people’s needs.