Last week’s Budget should have been the moment when our country was put back on the path to growth. It was an opportunity to put in place the building blocks of a recovery that benefits every part of our country, and give people hope that a better future lies ahead.
But instead, we learned that the Chancellor announced a Budget that was full of sticking plasters, that offered no long term solutions to the challenges we face.
There was no plan for jobs, even though our economy is in crisis.
And it was there in black and white: our economy took the biggest hit of any major economy because we had longer and stricter restrictions than other countries because the government failed to get the virus under control.
The Levelling Up Fund put wealthier areas, including the Chancellor’s own seat in Richmondshire high up the priority list for funding, and let others down. It pits regions against each other for vital funding, rather than ensuring proper funding for every community on a transparent and fair basis.
It wasn’t just a plan for jobs that was missing.
The Chancellor promoted his Budget with many a photo opportunity, but there were some important things he conveniently left out. There no mention of schools or teachers, or restoring Britain’s high streets. Not a word on the future of social care.
During this crisis, it has been our NHS that has kept the country going.
But the reward for NHS staff isn’t the promised pay rise, instead the Conservatives are now giving NHS staff a real-terms pay cut.
This is on top of nurses’ pay falling in real terms by £840 since 2010. And when there were already 40,000 nurses’ vacancies and 7,000 doctors’ vacancies.
It’s nothing but an insult to their tireless work and dedication to saving lives.
Worse, still, there isn’t even a plan or funding to tackle the backlog of cases and waiting lists that have built up over the course of the pandemic.
Instead, it’s the same old Tories, with the wrong priorities: we got stamp duty cuts for second home owners, a Council Tax hike, and a cut to Universal Credit just as families will need it most as unemployment peaks later this year.
Our country should take a different path. I want a future in which Government supports the creation of good, secure, clean jobs. Where we ensure opportunity and prosperity in every region of the country – so that no matter where you happen to live you can expect a good job, a reliable wage and a roof over your head. This is the future that our country deserves, and it is the future for which Labour will fight.