Green Councillors in Shropshire say that last week’s Budget Statement by the chancellor fails to tackle urgent issues that are making life difficult for their residents.
The budget rewards the well-off and not the low earners and Shropshire is a low wage economy. The income tax cuts will cost £2.7bn next year and line the pockets of the better off far more than those on lower incomes. Three-quarters of the winnings from raising personal tax allowances flow to the top half of earners.
The budget announcements fail to give the NHS enough extra money to make sure that our hospitals are well-staffed, well-equipped and ready to deal with the annual winter crises. This adds to the well-documented problems at RSH and PRH. Here’s an idea to reduce waste in the NHS – scrap the internal market and you’d save £4.5bn a year. Constant tendering is expensive and wasteful as is the resulting fragmentation.
The Chancellor’s allocation of an extra £650 million fails to deal with the scale of the crisis of adult social care so that large numbers of elderly patients are trapped in hospitals occupying beds when they do not want to be there and do not need to be there. Adult social care budgets have been cut by the Conservative Government and by the Conservative administration at Shropshire Council. The pressure on already overloaded A&E and GP services will therefore continue.
It fails to deal with our very poor quality rail and bus services in Shropshire. Bus funding has been cut and many rural residents without a car are isolated in communities without buses to take them to work, hospitals, education opportunities and training. Since 1980 bus and coach fares are up 64% in real terms; rail fares have increased 63% but motoring costs are down 20%, leaving many people with no choice but to use their car. This Budget perpetuates this situation.
It fails to deal with the crisis around Universal Credit and the damage done to all those recipients of benefits in Shropshire who will be deprived of much-needed funds. The Universal Credit announcement doesn’t begin to repair damage caused by yearly welfare payment freezes, the welfare reform act & austerity. Witness the reliance nationally on over one million emergency foodbank parcels every year. Wages aren’t where they were when the Conservatives came to power… they’re not even where they were in 2006! Low pay is putting many working people into destitution. Family incomes have been relentlessly cut – this is no budget for strivers, grafters & carers no matter what the Chancellor might claim.
Schools have lost £2bn per year since 2015. The £400m promised is for capital funding only – buildings and equipment. School capital funding budgets are already down by 30%. Schools are at breaking point, teachers are leaving the profession in droves, parents have to pay for books and pens…and this Government is giving more additional money to sorting out potholes than to education.
The eye-wateringly large £30 billion package for roads is of no value at all to Shropshire and just adds to pollution and climate damaging CO2 emissions
Shropshire needs a cash injection of millions to repair potholes and improve neglected rural roads and on past performance very little money will trickle down to Shropshire and most will be swallowed up by large cities. £420 million for all council highway budgets in England will produce very little for Shropshire. The Asphalt Industry Alliance says that, nationally, £1.5 billion is needed.
The budget statement totally ignores the urgent climate warnings from the United Nations just two weeks ago. We desperately need cuts in CO2 emissions and yet this government has signalled its intention to build more roads, continue subsidies to fossil fuels and aviation, and expand airports in addition to encouraging fracking. All these activities add seriously large amounts of CO2 to our national inventory and wreck any chance of dealing with climate change. If the Chancellor cared about our future he would have ended airport expansion, introduced a frequent flyer levy and ended the £10bn per annum subsidy to the aviation industry. Fossil fuel subsidies are currently more than 30 times higher than investment in renewable energy. We needed an emergency budget to tackle the greatest crisis we face – the climate crisis – but instead we got climate complacency and a complete failure of political leadership.
Commenting on the budget speech, Hilary Wendt, Co-ordinator of the South Shropshire Green Party said:
“This budget is remarkable for dodging all the issues that urgently need sorting out. Cars: £9bn, Roads: £30bn; Trees: £60m. Mentions of climate change: 0 .This was a truly disastrous budget for the planet. After the IPCC climate report, not even a single word on climate. Our children won’t forgive us. In addition to damaging our chances of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, it has almost nothing to offer to Shropshire and very little to deliver the promise of the Prime Minister at the Birmingham Conservative Party conference to end austerity. Measuring success in terms of growth alone misses the point of a sustainable economic policy – well-being, fair pay for all and living within our environmental limits. This Budget is bad for climate, bad for the environment, fiscally irresponsible and continues to deprive public services of much needed cash. The proof of the pudding is the long list of cuts in Shropshire Councils’ budget for 2018-19”
For further information please contact Hilary Wendt, Co-ordinator of the South Shropshire Green Party on 07531 306011