Comprehensive Spending Review Response
This week the Government presented the "Comprehensive Spending Review" (CSR), which outlines all Government spending for the next five years. This will have a big impact on Hull and so below I have outlined the major decisions made in the CSR and what this means for us.
Here we had some good news. The Government's plans to cut tax credits which would have meant more than 10,000 families in Hull losing an average of £1,300 next year have been scrapped. This is great news and thanks to all the people who campaigned against this cut.
However, the news isn't all good. Tax credits are currently being phased out to be replaced by 'Universal Credit', families are being moved over gradually, with everyone on Universal Credit by 2021. Unfortunately, those people in work but on low-pay will still lose out on Universal Credit, by about the same amount. All the Government have done is defer the cuts. This is explained on this blog:
Hull City Council
Here we had really bad news. Local Government which has already been cut more than any other Department is to have more massive cuts. Councils will lose nearly a third of their budget (29%) over the next five years.
We are waiting to see how these cuts will be distributed between councils. In the last Parliament the Government cut Hull City Council's budget by £279 for every person in Hull, while increasing the budget per person for some councils in wealthy areas. We cannot afford for this to happen again. The cuts already announced are going to impact on the services we all rely on like bin collections, road maintenance and leisure facilities. It will also cut services to the most vulnerable like protection for at-risk children.
There is a social care crisis in the UK, but it is particularly acute in Hull because of our larger than average cuts to council funding. We need more, and better, care homes which pay their staff a living wage but instead the care homes we do have are faced with closure because they cannot afford to keep going.
The Government didn't announce any additional funds for social care. Instead they are allowing local areas to increase council tax by 2% to fund a social care levy. But even if Hull did this, because we have lots of homes in a low council tax bands, we would not raise enough money. The East Riding would be able to raise twice as much as Hull from this levy because they have more expensive properties which pay more tax.
Here we had some good news. The Government had been threatening 20% cuts which would have put an end to neighbourhood policing. Instead the Government are freezing the Police budget. However, we still have the lowest police numbers since the 1970s, Humberside Police is the only force in England rated as 'inadequate' and I am getting increasing numbers of complaints how the police respond to anti-social behaviour and child protection issues.
I also have concerns about how the cuts will be distributed, with rumours that London will get extra resources taken from other areas. The Government recently revealed that they had made a mistake with how they calculated police budgets which mean that next year Humberside Police will have £5.4m less in funding that then were told they would have.
Nurses and Teachers
The Government announced the end of student bursaries for nurses. This is a small cut which will have a massive impact on our local health service. In Hull we have always struggled to recruit nurses, and bursaries were vital in allowing local people without the money to go to university to become the nurses, midwives and psychiatric nurses that we desperately need. This was particularly important for allowing mature students to train or retrain. The end of these bursaries will mean less chances for people in Hull and make our NHS more reliant on overseas and agency staff. This is a really bad policy. I am still trying to find out whether the funding for maths and science teacher training will also be cut.
Again, here we had some good news. The Government are increasing the NHS budget by under 2% a year. But with demand increasing, this still means the NHS needs to find £20billion worth of "savings" in the next five years. I am worried that this won't be possible because of the extra pressure put on the NHS by the crisis in social care.
The Chancellor announced £2.3billion for flood defences. But on closer inspection it turns out this is money already committed to other flood schemes. The Government turned down the bid for Humber flood defences and this week confirmed no other schemes will be funded until 2021. Next week I am meeting with other Humber MPs from both parties to discuss how we can lobby for the flood defences the Humber desperately need.
After massive cuts to solar, on-shore wind and other forms of renewable energy we badly needed the CSR to send a positive signal that the Government would support the renewable energy industry. Unfortunately we didn't get this. Instead the Government cut the budget for energy and climate change and exempted some industries from the feed-in tariffs which subsidies renewable energy like off-shore wind.
The Government announced five new 'national colleges' to train 20,000 people a year in the 'industries of the future'. The Humber area had put in a bid for a national college for wind and renewable energy, but instead the Government decided to open a college in the North West for "Shale Gas and Oil" (fracking). I am waiting to find out whether the national college for renewables may be approved at a later date but it looks increasingly unlikely.
City of Culture
The Government announced £1m for Hull City of Culture to enable a legacy project. This is very welcome, but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the £100m for an arts campus in Battersea and a £150m for (already well funded) London museums. The majority of the City of Culture funding will still have to come from Hull City Council's budget, which is being cut by £31m between now and 2017.