As I write this column, the Chancellor will soon deliver his Spring Statement to Parliament.

Unlike the tax and spending announcements we expect from the Autumn Budget, the Spring Statement is the government’s chance to provide an update on the state of the economy.

With all eyes on the Prime Minister’s latest crushing defeat over Brexit, I won’t be surprised if Phillip Hammond’s big speech slips under the radar. But we shouldn’t be distracted from the government’s total failure to live up to its promise that it is “building a country that works for everyone.”

We’ll soon hear confirmation from the Chancellor that growth forecasts are down – a result of ongoing financial uncertainty, largely down to Brexit.

I’ve argued before that damaging Tory policies will lead to a lost economic decade in our country.

We’re now almost nine years into austerity, and there is no sign that it will be over any time soon – despite the Prime Minister’s claims.

Instead, life has only become harder for too many local people. From devastating cuts to our public services, to the catastrophic welfare reform that is Universal Credit, the Tories have failed the North East.

A chronic lack of investment has led to police numbers being slashed while crime goes up. Waiting times in our hospitals and GP surgeries continue to rise. Schools now receive less funding per pupil than they did in 2010, which does nothing to improve our children’s life chances.

Our region has the potential to thrive, but has been tragically let-down by a government that is failing to eliminate the North-South divide.

We face rising levels of child poverty, too few highly-skilled jobs, and there has been a failure to provide the right support to allow people to gain the skills and training they need to do well.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If the Tories really want to see an end to austerity, and a thriving economy that works for all, then we need much more than rhetoric.

We need a government committed to addressing the problems we face as a country, with a strategy for long-term investment, and a plan to unleash the potential in regions like ours.

I fear the Chancellor’s Spring Statement will only reveal more of the same, rather than the plan for change our country desperately needs.

Read this on the Sunderland Echo website here.

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