Today’s Budget was a chance to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our country today, and as a result of Brexit. It should have been time to:
- invest in the largest housing-building programme the UK has ever seen to end the current crisis, in partnership with councils being able to build to meet needs;
- provide the policing and security our communities need; and
- ensure our children and all young people are equipped for a future with a weaker economy outside the EU and with the education funding required.
Instead the Government is frozen in the face of Brexit.
We will see continued pressure on police, with London officers unable to meet existing crime levels or address knife and moped-related crime with a further £400 million cut from the Met by the Home Office.
We will not get the genuinely affordable homes required, and may see councils weakened in relationship to developers with other announcements from the Chancellor. The Coalition and current Government axed over 80% of the Homes and Community Agency resources to build affordable homes and have contributed to the slump in home ownership, doubling of homelessness, rise in rents and crash in house building. The commitments made today tinker round the edges – and come on top of at least seven broken promises on tackling the housing crisis which you can see here.
I am concerned that the Government also suggested after Grenfell that ‘money was not an issue’ in ensuring the safety of tenants in other tower blocks. Southwark Council has seen over £200 million taken from it by central Government since 2010 but has 174 tall buildings. The council – and all Southwark MPs – have asked the Government to help retro-fit sprinklers. Not a penny was announced for fire safety to help our council.
After the London Bridge and Borough Market and other recent terror attacks, the Government also announced that ‘the terrorists will never win’ but are yet to provide a penny of support for the people and businesses who lost out in our area in June. For almost three years, the Treasury has known that Terror Insurance still needs updating to reflect vehicle/knife attacks and their impact but failed to tackle the issue in the Budget.
The Government told us just a few weeks ago that there was no need to pause and fix the failing Universal Credit. Today, the Chancellor says he will try to do that: in 2018. No extra help has been pledged for the people already affected or facing new claims today who won’t see any income till after Christmas. The Government's plans will not solve the main problems either – leaving many people facing continued long waits for help, inaccurate payments and still indebted to landlords.
The biggest revelation in the Budget was the ever-growing cost of Brexit. With jobs going, investment and production falling, research funding rescinding and opportunities falling, the Chancellor admitted to already having set £3 billion aside to deal with Brexit preparations. Now that wasn’t on the side of any bus.