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Small Gains Don’t Hide the Impact of Damaging Cuts

March 9, 2017 5:04 PM

Announcements made by the Chancellor in the 2017 Spring Budget do not mask the devastating impact of cuts driven by the Conservative Government. Liberal democrat MP for Leeds North West has criticised the impact many of the announcements will have on Leeds, whilst cautiously welcoming some of the Chancellors' concessions on business rate rises.

The budget, running to only a meagre 64 pages, failed to get to the heart of many of the issues facing individuals and families and saw the Conservatives break promises they made in their election manifesto that where they vowed not to increase National Insurance contributions in this Parliament. In crucial areas, including education and health, surface level promises of investment do not come close to making up for previous, and planned cuts.

A commitment to invest £216 million in to education comes just two weeks after it was shown that the Free Schools Programme has overspent by £9 billion. In Leeds North West our schools will see huge cuts in their funding between now and 2019. Local examples include Brudenell School losing £113,000 and Spring Bank Primary School facing a budget cut of £70,000, nearly £90,000 cut from St Joseph's Catholic Primary School and over £500,000 slashed from Prince Henry's Grammar School. These are cuts that will harm the education of our young people and make it more difficult for teachers to ensure that every child is getting the best possible education. Despite this, the Government plans to press ahead with its ideologically driven plans to reintroduce a grammar school system when the money should be going in to our existing schools.

The decision by the Chancellor to attack the self-employed is not welcome though and will negatively affect the more than 60,000 self-employed workers across Leeds. The rise in National Insurance payments for the self-employed attacks entrepreneurial spirit and will cost the average self-employed worker £93 more a year by next year. Yet, cuts to corporation tax will go ahead, supporting the biggest businesses whilst penalising those simply trying to make a living. The Chancellor did not even speak about the effect of Brexit on the economy and businesses.

The promise of £90 million investment in to transport in the North of England is a positive but only if it is spent in sensible ways that bring genuine benefit and address the needs of major cities like Leeds. The Government is still going ahead with its inefficient £46 billion HS2 scheme which will not tackle the problems of commuters outside a few, select, cities.

On business rates, Greg Mulholland MP has campaigned hard as Chairman of the British Pub Confederation for a cap on the rise in business rates for pubs, similar to that introduced in Scotland recently. Whilst the £1,000 reduction in business rates for pubs with a rateable value under £100,000 shows that the Government has listened to the concerns of the pubs sector, it does not go far enough and Greg will now continue to fight for the cap on business rate rises which is needed to protect our pubs.

Greg has also long supported calls for fairer business rates for small retailers who face an increasing pressure from online retailers. This issue was not addressed by the Chancellor. Local shops also play a crucial role in local communities and local economies, as well as maintaining variety in our towns and cities. We should be doing more to support well established independent retailers who are often part of our heritage.

Prior to the budget, the Liberal Democrats had called for a £4 billion investment in to health and social care to avert the ever growing crisis in the NHS and social care. The Government refused to give proper funding to the NHS and the amount of national income that is spent on NHS is set to fall. There will now be a £2 billion black hole in funding for social care, an area which is already badly underfunded.

Reacting to the budget, Greg Mulholland MP said, August 2015, blank

"Behind the odd headline here and there, the clear message from this budget is that the Government do not understand what individuals and families are facing and are not interested in helping those who are just getting by."

"To punish those self-employed people who are trying to make their way and who add so much to our local economy in Leeds, whilst again cutting taxes for big business is plainly unfair."

"Our schools will suffer and our services are being cut. Ideologically driven vanity projects such as grammar schools are being put ahead of real investment in to our existing system which would benefit those young people going through our education system now. One again with this Government, the most needy suffer and the hardest working are the hardest hit."