Frustratingly, I was too far down the speaker list in today’s Budget debate in the House of Commons to be called to speak, so I’ve published the speech I had prepared instead. We need a Budget for a green, inclusive recovery, which rebuilds the foundations of our economy, recognises the immense sacrifice of Covid-19 key workers with a decent pay rise, provides the support to help our children and young people to catch up and the funding our NHS and social care sector desperately need. Attempting to rebuild our economy on broken foundations means the cracks will soon open up again. You can read the full speech here >>
"Over the past year, my constituents, like millions of residents across the UK, have suffered in multiple different ways. Many have lost loved ones or suffered long term health problems directly due to coronavirus. Others have seen their income drop, lost their jobs or faced continuing uncertainty about what will happen when furlough or the self-employed income support scheme ends, and some have fallen through the gaps in government support.
My constituents who are NHS and social care workers, transport workers, shop workers, delivery drivers, teachers, school support staff and early years workers have put their own health and safety aside to provide essential services and keep the country going during this national emergency.
Children and young people have lost out on education and precious time with their friends, seen employment and training opportunities drain away, and suffered the anguish caused by the exam results scandal last year and the continuing lack of clarity about the arrangements for this year’s exams. And all this time the education attainment gap has grown.
All my constituents, whatever their experience of this past difficult year, needed a Budget focused on recovery, from both the pandemic and from ten years of austerity. A budget to rebuild our economy from its foundations, and to address the inequalities that the pandemic and the last decade have laid bare.
We needed a Budget for children and young people, tackling child poverty, investing in the education, mental health support and curriculum enrichment our young people need to get their lives back on track and narrow the attainment gap once again.
Our town centres, the hearts of our communities, needed a Budget to support independent shops and hospitality businesses, creating local jobs and restoring local economies.
We needed a Budget for a green recovery, taking the opportunity not to go back to business as usual, but to rebuild a low carbon economy. Instead, the Chancellor’s Budget continued to incentivise the use of fossil fuels.
We needed a Budget for our NHS and social care, putting additional resources into services like cancer treatment to help our NHS through the backlog created by the pandemic and placing social care on a sustainable financial footing.
Most importantly the Budget should have delivered a decent pay rise to the Covid-19 frontline key workers who have seen us through the pandemic. This is not sentimental. The NHS and social care sector faced a recruitment and retention crisis before the pandemic. With many staff now exhausted, burnt-out, and traumatised by what they have experienced during the past year, decent pay is vital to the recruitment and retention of essential key workers.
A real-terms pay cut for NHS staff is utterly disgraceful, and the Chancellor should explain why he thinks anyone would keep working in a stressful, high skilled social care role, when they can still earn more at the local supermarket.
The Government’s delay in announcing the extension to the furlough scheme, and the extension of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit had caused needless additional anxiety for thousands of people. Confirmation that these would both continue is welcome.
But this was not the Budget we needed. It did not deliver the support our children and young people need. Families reliant on Universal Credit still face a cliff-edge cut of £1,000 a year to their income in a few months’ time. The amount of additional funding for schools to deliver catch up learning is pitiful, it doesn’t make up for years of Tory cuts to education, and simply won’t deliver the support that is needed to close the attainment gap.
Most staggering of all, the Budget contained not a single mention of social care. For more than a decade, the Tories have known that social care in Britain is not sustainable. There is not enough funding to provide the social care support for everyone who needs it, too many of those who do receive support don’t get enough help.
The Tories continue to ignore social care. Yet millions rely on social care support every single day, older people who have raised their families, worked hard all their lives, who need support to stay well and live with dignity in later life, and working-age adults who through illness or disability rely on support to live life to the full.
The Tories abandoned the social care sector at the start of the pandemic, leaving staff unprotected without PPE, while allowing Covid-positive patients to be discharged into care homes. It is incomprehensible that they continue to ignore the urgent need for funding and reform to deliver a social care system that is there for everyone who needs it, in which staff are properly paid for the important work they do.
This Budget provided an opportunity to set out a vision for a green, inclusive recovery which left no-one behind. Instead, the Chancellor opted for more short-termism. Attempting to rebuild the economy on broken foundations means it won’t be long before further cracks open up. Our communities deserve far better than this."