So much for the much-hailed end of austerity. The Chancellor’s budget on Monday meant only one thing: offering nothing more than sticking plasters after a vicious assault, Brighton and Hove’s communities will go on bearing the brunt of the Conservative government’s cuts.
Essential public services- adult social care, children’s services and schools– will continue to be eroded even while they struggle to make ends meet as demand continues to soar. The scraps of cash thrown at ailing services in the budget go nowhere near truly reversing the impact of austerity- a figure the Institute of Fiscal Studies says would take £19bn.
Only a quarter of the amount needed to ensure adult social care “stands still” in one year has been committed. Something the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services called “both inadequate and temporary.”
A figure of £50,000 for each secondary school was trumpeted as an opportunity to fund ‘those little extras’– when 9 in 10 schools in Brighton and Hove are cutting staff and equipment. What an insult this budget is to every teacher, pupil and parent. Northamptonshire has gone bankrupt and many other councils teeter towards a cliff edge. With 60p out of every £1 cut, the funding black hole that councils are facing could have been completely plugged on Monday. Tellingly that’s smaller than the amount the Chancellor has made available in the case of a disastrous ‘no-deal’ Brexit orchestrated by his own party.
So why the announcement at all? With 270 English councils going to the polls next May this was a pre-election budget full of pre-election spin.
Far from the end of austerity, communities will continue to bear the cost of the failed austerity experiment. In the world’s sixth richest economy, it doesn’t have to be like this. Greens will continue to call out the government decisions that continue to see our communities deprived of the funding we need. We continue to push for support for preventative services that save money further down the line. Instead of scraps, on Monday our communities deserved a budget that will invest long term in their futures.
Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council