We were promised an end to austerity, but this budget is just a sticking plaster over the staggering cuts to our vital public services. Read my full speech below:
I thought I would start by picking out a few key points from the Office for Budget Responsibility report, which might have a slightly different emphasis from the points that the Chancellor would pick out. Let us start, on page 64, with household disposable income:
“Real household disposable income fell by 0.2 per cent in 2017”.
On page 65, the report says:
“We expect relatively weak growth in per capita real earnings and real disposable incomes… In 2019, real per capita disposable income growth is flat”.
On household saving and debt, on page 67, it says:
“We expect unsecured debt to rise steadily as a share of household disposable income”.
On household net lending and balance sheets, on page 70, it says:
“the ratio of household debt to income has risen steadily since the start of 2016…we expect the ratio of household debt to income to continue to rise steadily…with the ratio reaching just under 150 per cent by the start of 2024.”
On business investment and stockbuilding, on page 72, the report says:
“The latest data suggests business investment fell in both the first two quarters of this year…we expect a modest rise in business investment as a share of real GDP over the forecast period—less than would be typical at this stage of an economic cycle.”
On UK exports as a share of GDP, on page 77, it says:
“In August, the Government announced an ambition to increase the UK’s exports to 35% of GDP, but has not specified the date by which it believes that this can be achieved. The Government’s previous aspiration was to increase exports to £1 trillion by 2020—our forecast suggests that this will be missed by £320 billion. The Government is not on course to meet its current ambition in our forecast”.
On risks and uncertainties, on page 81, the report says:
“The outlook for productivity growth remains hugely uncertain.”
On page 83, it says:
“the probability of a cyclical downturn occurring sometime over our forecast horizon is…high”.
On assumptions regarding the UK’s exit from the EU, it says:
“we still have no meaningful basis for predicting a precise outcome upon which we could then condition our forecast.”
On page 91, it says:
“Real GDP Growth has been revised down in 2018”.
Now, the Chancellor, of course, would and did choose to cherry-pick a different set of headlines yesterday, but I think this is a more balanced picture than that presented by him.
I can assure the Chancellor of two things in relation to this Budget. First, the people of Enfield are sick and tired of austerity. Secondly, we have no confidence that the Government’s programme of austerity is coming to an end. The Government’s £1 billion cut to the Metropolitan police budget since 2010 has resulted in 230 police officers and police community support officers being removed from the streets of Enfield. Over the same period, violent crime has surged locally by 85%. Where was the Chancellor’s announcement to reverse those cuts, put more bobbies on the beat and help create safer neighbourhoods?
How can the Government have the cheek to say austerity is over, when they are still planning cuts of £1.3 billion to councils next year? By 2020, the Government will have slashed funding to Enfield Council by 60% in just a decade.
There is a better example in this Budget of the Government’s misguided priorities. The Chancellor announced more funding for potholes than for our schools. Pothole funding is welcome, but surely education should be a higher priority. Does the future of our children not matter? This is a slap in the face for many schools in my constituency, which are having serious problems paying for basic items such as pens and paper, let alone retaining and recruiting teachers.
Austerity is not coming to an end, and nor, as the Chancellor asserted, is the “economy working for everyone”. This year, we have seen household debt rise to its highest level on record. Over-indebtedness in Enfield is higher than the London and national averages, and we have more than 14,000 residents in real financial difficulty. One in three workers living locally does not earn a living wage, and the average worker is £800 a year worse off than they were a decade ago.
The Government’s abject failure to address the housing crisis means local families are struggling to cope with soaring rents and a lack of affordable homes, with our borough having the highest eviction rate and the second highest level of homelessness acceptances in the capital.
The last Labour Government lifted 1 million children out of poverty, but child poverty rates under the Conservatives are getting worse, not better. Some 34,000 children in Enfield are now living below the poverty line. This is a shameful record for the Government, and a record that could deteriorate still further as a result of their disastrous universal credit roll-out.
My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does she agree that the failure to say anything considerable in the Budget about early years support and education and Sure Start centres yesterday represented a glaring omission, and addressing those issues would have helped families in constituencies such as Bristol South and Enfield North?
My friend is absolutely right. In fact, in Enfield, we now see a real problem, as we do in many other parts of the country, with children not being ready for school at the age of five. This has a significant impact on their achievement throughout their school careers and on their future.
North Enfield Foodbank has said that food bank usage continues to increase, with Enfield having the fourth highest rate of food bank usage in London last year. The main reason for that increase is delays in the payment of benefits and changes to them.
The Chancellor said that the Government were
“delivering on the British people’s priorities, supporting our public services”—[Official Report, 29 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 668.]
There is no public service or institution more important in our country than the national health service. Huge pressure has been placed on doctors’ surgeries. Well over half the residents who replied to my GP services survey said they had difficulty getting an appointment to see a doctor, and we know that, going forward, Enfield is short of 84 GPs to serve our growing population.
The Government’s chronic underfunding of our national health service since 2010 means that North Middlesex Hospital, like so many other hospitals across the country, is operating with a substantial financial deficit. NHS England is trying to deal with a deepening staff crisis, while hospitals are trying to recruit doctors and nurses. This is an impossible situation. We cannot square this circle. On public health, which warranted no mention whatever, we in Enfield are facing another £1 million cut by 2020, and everybody knows the link between poverty and health.
The Government have failed to address eight years of devastating cuts to our communities, and they are failing to deliver on the priorities of the British people. Austerity is not coming to an end. Yesterday’s Budget proves it. There is no hope here that I can take to the people of Enfield from this Conservative Government. I will not be supporting this Budget.