Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond faced strong criticism from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn for delivering a ‘broken promise budget’ saying that eight years of austerity has ‘damaged our economy’ and ‘delayed the recovery’ and that it had not ‘undone the damage done by the squeeze on spending”. Here in Somerset Local Labour Leaders joined in the attack calling it a budget for the rich which gives nothing to hard pressed communities.
Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) said “Austerity is not over and the Budget presented by the Chancellor yesterday was more about BREXIT than helping people locally. If Austerity was over then where was the money to reverse the recent cuts by Somerset County Council for services such as GetSet to support your parents and children. For Local Government there will have to be a further wait until the Spending Review in 2019. The increased funding for Universal Credit did not go far enough, there should have also been a suspension of the migration to the new benefit system, to make sure that recipients were not forced into debt. For many local people receiving Universal Benefit, they are already in work and still finding it hard to meet everyday living. The increase in the Living Wage is still not keeping up with the cost of living and should have been moved to £10 per hour, if working people were really going to be released from the benefit system. Phillip Hammond reminded everyone that if there was a no deal BREXIT then there would have to be a further budget early in 2019, which would lead to further Austerity for years to come, while the Britain recovered from the economic shock.”
Mick continued “To remove the borrowing cap from the Council’s Housing and Revenue Account will be welcomed by Sedgemoor District Council, because there will now be an opportunity to build the much needed Council Houses for both social and affordable rent. Many Councils having been waiting years for this announcement and could have been building and expanding their housing stock. Labour would maintain the rise in the personal tax allowance brought forward by the Chancellor to 2019 to that of £12,500 and £50,000 and then review the tax system when in power. The 400 million one off payment for schools will not provide the teachers necessary to reduce class sizes and pupils will not receive the extra teachers needed in schools. High Streets cuts in business rates will be a useful tool to regenerate Town Centres, but this will also mean a loss of income to Councils, that is not being replaced by the Chancellor, which will only add to further Austerity”.
Don’t expect a Tory budget to deliver anything
Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) added “The budget is a Tory budget so no one should really expect anything for working people. If you look at the so called income tax cuts for ‘millions of workers’ these will largely benefit richer households while welfare cuts will continue to plague the poorest households. So no change there. Most of the £12billion welfare cuts which the Tories brought in after 2015 are still government policy. The richest fifth of households gain some £390 and were not affected by austerity in the first place while the poorest fifth have an average loss of £400 and in fact have been bearing the brunt of austerity. I suspect in fact this is just a minor adjustment to austerity to try to head off civil unrest.”
Local Government on the front line
Somerset County Labour Leader cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) said “ In his budget the chancellor had a chance to help councils like Somerset that are on a financial precipice, they are at #BreakingPoint, he failed, This Government’s budget is a mess and they are struggling to cover up the problems that their previous budgets have caused for local councils. This budget will do nothing to stop tory councils falling like nine pins. Of course any money is welcome and especially towards social care, but these are half measures and sticking plasters to cover up their own past failings. This budget will make the gap bigger, those with will get more while those in need of help will get a pittance, universal credit is wrong and he has had to bail the idea out before those that care fight back, More children being taken into care than ever, and councils forced to spend an extra £800m on children’s services last year. The Chancellor announces a pathetic £4.5m extra for children’s services – but then allocates £420 million for POTHOLES. Don’t be fooled by the Chancellor’s claim of an extra £650m nationally for adult social care – they’re also making a £1.3bn CUT to council budgets next year. So overall they’re still actually CUTTING £650m. The Somerset community is no better after this Budget unless you already had money. A budget for the few not the many!!!