Response to the Budget

Responding to the Budget in the House of Commons, Catherine West MP said:

The outlook for the economy is bleak, with the worst five-year forecast of GDP since the Office for Budget Responsibility was set up, against the backdrop of the drop in sterling and the increase in inflation. As the Chancellor stood up to speak, the cost of Brexit was clear—in excess of £3 billion. Let’s put that on the side of a bus!​

Hornsey and Wood Green has been starved of funding over the past seven years. The capacity of our community to educate, house and care for our citizens, as well as keep them safe, has deteriorated and is set to decline further. While London remains, seemingly, a vibrant economy, there is a yawning gap between the haves and have-nots. My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) spoke of his concerns about his region, but there can be inequality within a region as well: in London, we often walk the same streets but inhabit different worlds. Wages are flat, household debt is up, and transport and infrastructure continue to stall, with negative effects on industry and workers alike.

People in three particular housing tenures—those who hope to buy, private sector renters and those who are languishing on social housing lists—are in desperate housing need. Disappointingly, the rough sleeping initiative in the Chancellor’s speech did not include tackling rough sleeping in the capital. I think we all noticed this morning, as we charged in for our meetings and the Budget debate, that there were two homeless men asleep outside the door of the House of Commons. That is what Labour Members want to tackle, but I fear that when we come to the Budget debate next year, there may even be more homeless people lying in sleeping bags outside the doors of the House of Commons.

While London remains one of the top destinations for business and international talent, transport and infrastructure continue to stall, and it is time we all woke up to that. The Borough of Haringey has seen a 40% real-terms reduction in funding since 2010, resulting in £160 million of savings, which have affected disabled people, basic municipal services and children with special educational needs, and have generally had a depressing effect on the local economy. That worrying trend is set to continue, with another £20 million of savings to be found in the finances of one London borough.

A dangerous cocktail of growing demand, cost and inflation combined with funding cuts is putting unsustainable pressure on local government finances. Core funding from central Government is set to have fallen 63% in real terms over the decade to 2019-20. I tell children when I go into schools, “It’s like your mum gives you £1 one day, but only 30p the next. That’s how it is to manage a council these days.” People in Hornsey and Wood Green know the situation well. We have a desperate shortage of housing, but we are also concerned about health.

Instead of wasting all these billions on the whole Brexit shambles, I would rather we had more than £1 billion for the NHS. I am afraid that £1 billion is less than what Simon Stevens says we need.

In my constituency, 37 out of 37 schools will have experienced a 6% fall in funding per pupil between 2015-16 and 2019-20. Headteachers, classroom teachers and teaching assistants are all calling for desperately needed change. Police funding cuts barely got a mention, ​but it looks as though the Home Office will have to swallow a £400 million cut to the police. I was out in the affluent suburb of Highgate on Monday morning, speaking to terrified mothers who had had things stolen from them by youngsters who had ridden up on mopeds and used hammers to smash the windows of the café in which they were sitting; that has happened four times since the café moved into the high street. We are facing a crime wave in London, and it needs to be addressed.

I want briefly to mention the cut of £797 million, or £510 per person, in health funding in the north central London area. Many Members will be aware that there are huge pressures, particularly in mental health, and cuts on that scale will have a huge effect on very vulnerable people with serious mental health problems.

Finally, I welcome elements of the change in approach to small business taxation, but we must go further. As our population continues to grow and people work in different ways, including in small business, we need to be ever mindful of supporting them.

You can watch the full video here.

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Catherine West MP

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