Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
It’s been barely a fortnight since the General Election and events at Westminster continue to move at breakneck speed.
This week the Prime Minister unveiled her pact with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which she hopes will keep her government afloat in the choppy waters it now finds itself.
The arrogance of this deal beggars belief. The Tories have spent years telling us that there was no alternative to cutting spending on vital public services, social care and the NHS.
They’ve frozen wages for public sector workers for over half a decade, slashed council budgets across the country, and reduced the number of police, firefighters and paramedics that keep us safe every day.
Their planned cuts to schools funding are forcing schools to send out begging letters to parents to cover the cost of support staff, extra subjects and after-school activities.
Yet after seven years of “difficult decisions” and “living within our means”, Theresa May has suddenly found £1 billion for extra spending in Northern Ireland.
Let’s put this deal in perspective. Giving £1bn to Northern Ireland is the equivalent of a spending increase of almost £60bn across the UK.
It’s more money in two years than the north east was offered over a thirty-year period in the government’s devolution deal, despite the fact that Northern Ireland has a much smaller population.
Nobody doubts that Northern Ireland needs this investment, but so does the north east.
Since 2010, Northumbria Police has had to make more cuts than any other police force. GP numbers in Sunderland have plummeted by 25% since 2013 and NHS waiting times are soaring.
The north east is also facing the biggest cuts to schools budgets in the country, and we are being overlooked when it comes to infrastructure investment.
It’s clear that the Tories will do anything to cling to power, even it means doing a dodgy deal with ten DUP MPs.
I don’t begrudge the people of Northern Ireland protection from Tory cuts, but it is scandalous that taxpayer money is being used to keep Theresa May in Downing Street.
That is why I will do all I can to fight for a better deal for our community.
Just over two weeks ago, I was honoured to be re-elected to serve the people of Houghton and Sunderland South. I was given a strong mandate to keep fighting our corner in Westminster and standing up for our region.
I will not let you down.
This article was first published in the Sunderland Echo on 29 June 2017. You can read the original version here.