The Budget 2018

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01 November 2018

Budget 2018

Austerity suspended, but not ended… but for now it continues to proceed, dragging almost a decade of damage in its wake. The Chancellor has delivered this year’s budget, with a misleading promise that this is the beginning of the end of the era of austerity.

Unfortunately, as always, the devil is in the detail and reading through the budget it is clear that these are warmer words than actions. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that public services will continue to feel squeezed for some time to come and that there are still £4 billion of cuts to welfare spending working their way through the system.

Here’s a brief summary of what has (and hasn’t) been promised:

NHS and Mental Health: Let’s start with the good news. The Chancellor has announced that there will be £2bn allocated towards mental health, including a new 24 hour mental health hotline. This is long overdue and should be welcomed. However, although the NHS budget is set to increase, spending on public health, and doctors' and nurses' training in England, is set to fall next year. The Health Foundation has said that it is ‘simply not enough’.

Tax and Universal Credit Changes: We all know the shambles that has been the Universal Credit roll out and the Chancellor was under pressure from all sides to make tangible changes for the thousands who have been negatively impacted. His budget increases work allowances in Universal Credit by £1,000 per year but there are still families who will be up to thousands of pounds a year worse off under this rolled out system. The £1.7bn promised for Universal Credit is less than a third of the £7bn of social security cuts still to come. Meanwhile, headline income tax cuts for millions of workers are welcomed, though the Resolution Foundation, has calculated that this is a policy for the rich, with poorer families about £30 a year better off from the tax cuts, with the top 10% earners £410 better off.

Policing: Police, teachers, nurses and doctors have had no reassurances that the public sector pay squeeze will end this year. Outside of counter-terrorism policing, not a single new penny was put aside for our police forces, with budgets and resources clearly stretched across the country. We all know that we need more bobbies on the beat in order to keep our communities safe, with 21,000 police cut and violent crime on the rise.

Schools: Under this Government, schools in Merton are set to lose a staggering £1,820,818 between 2015 and 2020, despite 40% of primary schools and 60% of secondary schools in the borough having had to cut staff since 2014. The total of just £10,000 to each Primary School in this budget is pennies in comparison to the challenges that they face.

Worker’s Rights: The Chancellor stated that ‘delivering higher wages for those in work is core to his mission’, but my question to him would be: at what cost? For our National Living Wage is littered with loopholes, and used by some of the biggest organisations to cut terms, conditions and salaries. A toxic combination of falling real wages, frozen benefits and insecure work has resulted in 8 million people in working households living in 21st century poverty.

Housing: For a supposed Government priority, I was expecting a little more than the few lines that we heard considering a staggering £1.1 billion of taxpayer’s money is spent on temporary accommodation every single year. I welcome the lifting of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) cap, but what about those Councils like Merton who do not have a HRA? We should welcome all new promised measures and money but the small changes offered by the Chancellor are simply not of a scale that will make the difference that we all know is so desperately needed to solve our housing crisis.

Council Budget: And don't be fooled by the Chancellor's claim of an extra £650m for adult social care – he is also making a £1.3bn cut to council budgets next year. So, overall, he is still actually cutting £650m! This for Councils that already face a funding gap of £7.8bn by 2025!

You can watch my speech at the Budget debate here: