Tonight I was selected to speak in the Budget Day debate. The time to speak was cut down to 3 minutes per person. You can watch my speech below.
I focused on NHS staff not getting the pay rise they deserve; The funding cuts to Halton Council; How our funding bids are treated by government; The WASPI women; The Decks in Runcorn having blocks that the government are refusing to fund to remove dangerous cladding and the fact that our council’s Covid costs are forecast to be £2.2 million more than the government have funded, despite the government promising to fully fund them.
It left a real sour taste when we discovered that the Chancellor had gone back on the government’s promise of the 2.1% pay rise for Nurses and NHS staff. Despite his claims of honesty, the Chancellor did not mention this in his budget speech. The 1% that the government is now proposing is not a pay rise, it is effectively a pay cut. The government should be ashamed of itself for treating these heroes this way. It is a kick in the teeth for those who have served their country in its hour of need. Nurses have worked extra hours, faced real stress and many are traumatised by what they have seen. I would also like to see a pay rise for care workers, who have also had to make sacrifices and have experienced trauma too. Their efforts should be recognised.
Despite Halton being a local authority area which is the 13th worst for the number of areas that are most deprived, it is not a priority one group for Levelling Up Fund and the UK Community Renewal Fund. It beggars belief that Halton is not in priority one. This lists of areas included by the Chancellor suggest this is about who has a Tory MP rather than based on real need. His claims of honesty did not stretch to how the areas were chosen. The chancellor must correct this situation so that it is based on areas in most need.
The Runcorn Town Deal will be an outstanding bid with some fantastic projects such as the Unlock Runcorn project to restore the locks and link to the Manchester ship canal.
I hope the fact that Runcorn has a Labour MP will not count against it. This is of course against a background of cuts to Halton Council budget of £52 million since 2010. Now Halton expects to spend £2.2 million more on tackling the covid pandemic locally than the chancellor has so far provided, despite promises that it would be fully funded.
It seems that the Chancellor and the government are finally aware of the approximately 3 million people excluded from financial support throughout the pandemic. It has been almost a year since the Chancellor first announced furlough and other support measures, but he has failed to meet the needs of the excluded. His budget may have finally helped some of the excluded, but with no help for any of them for the last year, it is too little too late.
The cladding scandal in this country has had a devastating effect. Despite repeated representations, the government are still ignoring those buildings that are under 18 metres tall, despite being covered in flammable cladding. It is the cladding that is the problem. The height of the building should not be the reason why it is not removed. There is no way that the government can justify their position on this. It will cost money, but money is secondary to people’s lives. The residents of these buildings are living in unsafe accommodation and their properties that are worthless. The Decks development in my constituency is made up of 6 buildings, but three of those buildings do not meet the height requirement set out by the government. This is wrong. Are their lives less valuable because they live in a building that does not meet the 18 metres despite having flammable cladding? Their fear is real and is not lessened by the fact they live in a building under 18 metres.
Today we celebrated International Women’s Day, but as shown in The Sunday Times this week, it is women who have suffered most from lockdown. The study showed that women are more likely to be furloughed throughout the pandemic. They are more likely to be dealing with the majority of home schooling. The government talks of levelling up, but it must also ensure that women see levelling up and that must begin as soon as possible. Again we heard nothing about the pensions injustice faced women born in the 1950’s the government appears to be completely indifferent to their financial suffering. These women must be properly compensated and I call on the Government to right this injustice.
Many young people have had to put their lives on hold for a year. As the figures show, The Kickstart scheme needs its own kickstart. The scheme is failing to reach even a fraction of the young people who it is intended for, only helping 2,000 young people across the country in six months. More needs to be done to ensure young people have access to the help the Kickstart scheme is supposed to offer and are encouraged to participate. There must be opportunities for young people to get employment. We can not see a sustained rise in long term youth unemployment. This would have a devastating impact for many years after the pandemic has ended, and more must be done now to stop this problem snowballing out of control.
The budget the Chancellor delivered has failed to meet the scale of the task. From breaking promises to not doing enough to help people who are desperately in need. It is the embodiment of a government that has failed to protect the British people, from locking down too late last year, to the failure of test and trace. The millions wasted on contracts for friends, the exam fiasco, the list goes on. This budget could have been so much better, but instead we are left with the government yet again not doing enough to help the people of this country.