Spin can’t mask the grim reality

Ronnie Campbell, Blyth Valley MP.

One of the biggest myths perpetrated on the British people is that the Tories are better at handling the nation’s finances.

In Philip Hammond’s second budget this year, we saw the chancellor’s package unravel within hours as it became clear that the implications of continuing austerity would cause misery for people across the country.

He has failed to reduce the deficit, failed to tackle a rise in rough sleeping, failed to produce extra cash to end the pay cap on nurses, and failed to address pensioner poverty.

Mr Hammond ended stamp duty for first-time buyers on sales up to £300,000, but that fell apart when the Treasury admitted that no one has worked out how the formula will work.

Jeremy Corbyn put it well in his response: “The reality test of this budget has to be how it affects ordinary people’s lives. I believe as the days go ahead and this budget unravels, the reality will be a lot of people will be no better off and the misery many are in will be continuing.”

Referring to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) economic and fiscal outlook, Mr Hammond admitted that his 2017 forecast for growth had been cut to 1.5 per cent from 2 per cent in March. A TUC analysis shows that wages are set to be worth £800 less per year in 2021 than had been expected.

And the battle against austerity cuts to public services will continue.

Northumbria police commissioner Dame Vera Baird has highlighted the cuts imposed on crime-fighting budgets.

Since 2010 Northumbria has had to deliver savings of £123.4m, with savings of £31.7m to come. The majority of the budget is people-related so most savings are through reductions to the workforce.

She told me: “Without a fair funding settlement for policing and real terms protection for police budgets, workforce numbers will continue to fall.”

That is the grim reality, and no amount of Tory spin can disguise it.

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