Grahame Morris MP

Member of Parliament for Easington

Budget Speech

March 20, 2015 Speeches 0

Commons ChamberA lacklustre and underwhelming budget that makes no real or practical difference to the lives and living standards of people in the North East and East Durham.

Trumpeted as the kick start of the Tories General Election campaign it did nothing to address the failings of the last five years.

The Chancellor has demanded more of the same, with deeper and more extreme cuts in public spending that will damage every service we value, the NHS, education and policing.

This was confirmed by the Chancellor’s own OBR which warned his budget will mean “a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than anything seen over the past five years”.

We cannot afford five more years of Osborne-economics, with all of it’s false promises.

We know what a promise means from this government from tuition fees to VAT, the promise to protect the poorest then introducing the bedroom tax, from a promise to make work pay to the pledge to balance the budget within a single parliament.

The Chancellor cannot erase the last five years.

The Government promised to “make work pay” with the Prime Minister telling people “the best route out of poverty is work”.

These words are meaningless to the two thirds of children in poverty who live in working households.

There are over five million low paid workers in the UK, earning less than the living wage, a figure up from 3.4m in 2009.

The number of people in work claiming housing benefit is up 59% since 2010, costing an extra £5 billion, and wages have fallen on average by £1600 a year under this Government.

And yesterday the Chancellor had the audacity to claim that there was no cost of living crisis, and living standards have risen.

They might have risen for his friends in the city who continue to enjoy the top rate tax cut he delivered them.

While making millionaires richer, real people in communities like East Durham have seen their services cut, an increase of insecure employment through zero hour contracts, and 24 tax rises, making their families £1,127 a year worse off.

Not only has the government hit people directly through spending cuts and tax rises, they are failing to deliver the investment needed to grow our economy in the North East.

The much vaunted “Northern Powerhouse” is empty rhetoric for people in my community as the Chancellor has failed to grasp that the North does not end at Leeds and Manchester.

Where was the promised “Northern Powerhouse” in 2010 when their first act in Government was to abolish our successful Regional Development Agency – One North East, or when they took away our voice in government by removing the post of Minister for the North East.

Where is our investment, for every £1 spent in the North East, the Chancellor spends £24.33 in London.

How does the Chancellor plan to create a Northern Powerhouse when he inflicts disproportionate cuts on Northern Councils. My local authority – Durham County Council have had cuts of a quarter of a billion pound.

In response, the Council delivered an ambitious County Plan aimed at delivering jobs and growth only for it to be rejected by his government and the planning inspectorate.

Under what scenario does the Chancellor believe these decisions will rebalance the economy and promote growth in the North East.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to the North East when major infrastructure projects the Government announce as of national importance, such as HS2, do not include our region, again stopping at Leeds.

Network Rail suggest the benefits to my constituents would be a cut in journey times from Durham to London of eleven minutes by 2033, at the potential cost of direct services to the capital and slower journey times to major Scottish cities.

I cannot think of a policy which costs so much, with estimates ranging from £50 to £80 billion, and delivers so little to my community.

The priority in my constituency is to improve our connectivity to major lines and increase rail services as we continue to work towards a new rail stop at Horden, Seaview.

I would like the Government to show the same sense of urgency for my constituency and get behind these plans, which are a tiny fraction of the cost of HS2, but would see our communities connected to neighbouring cities, and the UK rail network, helping us to create new economic activity and opportunities for our communities.

The Northern Powerhouse is empty rhetoric while the Government continue to prioritise short term cuts over the long term interests of people in East Durham.

The Government have broken their promise to young people – they trebled tuition fees, abolished EMA, pledged to open more free schools leaving a £4billion black hole while schools like Seaham School of Technology continue to wait for their school to be rebuilt.

As education minister the Government Chief Whip attacked East Durham Schools, however, while they continue to deliver improved GCSE results his free school pet projects which have wasted taxpayers money are failing and his successor has been forced to close Durham Free School, a school which I was once told represented value for money.

I hope the Chief Whip might take the time to explain what he means by value for money to the children of Seaham School of Technology during the election campaign as they continue to wait for their new school building.

However, this is an equal opportunities government when it comes to education.

No matter if you are young and just entering the school system, or if you are leaving to go to college or university, you may be in work or out of work and need to retrain – no matter what your age when it comes to education this government will kick away the ladder of opportunity.

I have recently joined East Durham College’s campaign against funding cuts for adult further education.

The Government has announced a 24 per cent cut to adult further education from 2015/16 affecting all colleges. In addition to previous cuts which will mean that over the lifetime of this parliament funding for adult students in further education has been reduced by 35 per cent.

This means there are one million fewer adults’ receiving skills and training compared to 2010, removing opportunities for adults to receive the qualifications they require to access local employment opportunities.

It is short sighted cuts like these that will cause long term and lasting damage to our communities. With fewer people remaining in the same job throughout their working life people must have the opportunity to retrain and obtain the skills they need to compete in a changing labour market.

I am therefore disappointed at the lack of emphasis in yesterday’s budget to support life long learning, and I have no confidence that after the next election a Tory Government can support and promote educational opportunities in my constituency for people of any age.

Finally, yesterday’s budget promised yet another assault on Social Security after the election while failing to tell us what the Government will cut next.

People are rightly worried as the government’s record to date has been to hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society with no policy more cruel than the bedroom tax.

The Bedroom Tax has affected 1,300 families in East Durham. It has cost low income families £850,000 in East Durham, money that would otherwise have been spent in the local economy, supporting jobs and services. The Government left people with no option but to pay, as they knew there were not sufficient smaller properties for people to move.

However, the impact of the bedroom tax has been felt by the wider community particularly in Horden and Blackhall in my constituency which lost out on millions of pounds in regeneration funding after Accent Housing ended their planned investment because their properties were no longer financially viable due to the lack of demand caused by the bedroom tax.

The Government’s economic record, social security cuts and policies of austerity are scarred across the communities of Horden and Blackhall in the boarded up properties that Accent can no longer let and will no longer invest in, which are an eye sore and a drain on the community.

When people say that we are all the same, and voting does not make a difference it is these properties I will point to, the damage it has done to our communities and the pain and suffering people have experienced as a result of the bedroom tax.

It is an unfair policy which has hit over 400,000 disabled people and 60,000 households with carers, something the Government have always known.

Conclusion

The Budget delivered nothing for East Durham except more of the same policies of austerity and more damaging cuts for our community.

The simple question everyone should ask in fifty day is can you afford five more years of Cameron and Osborne.