This week, the Chancellor presented his Budget to the Commons and the British people (writes columnist Fiona Onasanya, MP for Peterborough).
The biggest laugh of his speech was when he said that austerity measures over the last eight years were not based on ideology – when it is clearer now than ever before that these policies were completely ideological: a political choice as opposed to an economic necessity.
Despite the claim that austerity is coming to an end, we here in Peterborough are still feeling its effects. Peterborough City Council has just announced swathes of cuts to local services and the Budget made no mention of redress for councils such as ours.
To me, this week’s Budget was like the Emperor’s new clothes – where the Emperor seeks to describe the elegant, flamboyant gown that he is wearing when he is in fact completely naked. What use is knowing the cost of everything, yet the value of nothing?
I wish to stand up for Peterborough because we cannot continue to do more with less! The £2bn for mental health is of course welcomed, but this is not new money or new resources: but rather a financial gimmick that won’t fix the fundamentals of patients having to travel across the country for inpatient services and treatment.
When I consider the bids we put in for our schools, which were rejected by the government in comparison to the £400m pledge offered to schools to cover “the little extras.” I am flabbergasted! Does the Chancellor really think a bit of stationery, some glitter glue, and the odd projector is really going to make up for the fact that school funding has been cut by 8% since 2010?
Not a penny for regular policing, despite tens of thousands of officers losing their jobs and a concerning spike in violent crime. Not a penny for our fire service, who are seeking to protect us, but are also having to fight for funding and are still not properly paid.
Is this how the government plans to alleviate and redress the devastating impact that austerity has caused?
In Peterborough, there has been a real-terms cut of 10.6% in adult social care – almost double the national average.
The fact that the government considers their announcement of £650m for social care as an accomplishment is a slap in the face of the 1.5million elderly people not getting the care they need, particularly when the King’s Fund has stated this is less than half of what is required.
Peterborough’s needs have been attended to on the cheap for far too long, and this budget fails to buck the trend. We deserve more than a slapdash, short-term fix. We need a budget that will rebuild Britain, and provide investment and opportunity to every corner of the country.
The late Audrey Hepburn once said: “As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands, one for yourself and the other for helping others.”
Wise words which should be considered by the government.