Chancellor Philip Hammond today presented the Government’s Spring Statement in the House of Commons.
Even though the UK was the world’s slowest-growing major economy in 2017, the Chancellor used the Statement to congratulate himself on surpassing meagre economic forecasts. But his statement made it clear that the government is oblivious to the desperate situation of many public services in Bristol West.
Education was largely absent from the Chancellor’s statement – even as budget cuts are leading to a tragic reduction in services in Bristol. Head teachers across my constituency tell me that they are having to reduce staff and increase class sizes, as a result of budget cuts. As a consequence, help for students with special educational needs has been cut dramatically in some schools.
Indeed, the Statement was notable in what was missing. There was little mention of productivity, which has been stagnant for 10 years. The government should be investing in the skills and training to make the UK more productive, ultimately helping us compete outside the EU.
There was almost nothing on funding for the NHS, which is facing life-threatening staff shortages. And there was no recognition that services for some of the most vulnerable people are threatened, with more than 40% of children’s services across the UK are now unable to fulfil their statutory duties.
The Spring Statement not only ignored current crisis in our public services – it also ignored the huge investment challenges of the future as well. In the South West there is a huge opportunity for government to invest in the solutions to climate change, including green jobs, electric vehicle charging points, a scrappage scheme for the most polluting diesel vehicles and clean energy projects in the Severn Estuary.