Budget does '˜very little' for Hartlepool says town MP

Hartlepool's MP has slammed Chancellor Philip Hammond after yesterday's budget.

Thursday, 23rd November 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:54 am
Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his Budget in the House of Commons,

Mike Hill said the measures unveiled at the despatch box had ‘done very little to improve the lot of people in Hartlepool.’

He said: “With a £6billion cut in Social Care to date, underinvestment in our NHS and the prospect of the Council losing 80% of direct funding by 2020 this budget was a lost opportunity to reinvest in our communities, tackle poverty and restore fair funding for schools.”

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

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He added: “While I was pleased to see Philip Hammond make concessions on Universal Credit, which will address some of the problems faced by constituents, the Chancellor made no provision for Social Care, provided no extra funding for schools except for a pet project around mathematics, did not address underfunding in local authorities and the public sector, made no provision to increase police budgets, failed to tackle mental health and the public sector pay cap.

“This was simply yet another austerity budget from the Government and does nothing to tackle the problems faced by our communities and the people of Hartlepool.

“Vital services will continue to struggle and the most vulnerable have been hit hard yet again.”

Mr Hammond bowed to mounting pressure when he announced changes to the Government’s flagship Universal Credit welfare scheme, with the wait for the initial payment cut from six to five weeks.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

MPs, unions and charities have been warning that the six-week wait for claimants before receiving their first payment is unfair and has caused hardship.

Mr Hammond told MPs he had earmarked £1.5billion to cut the waiting period and announced moves to make it easier for claimants to receive an advance.

He said he would remove the seven-day waiting period so entitlement starts on the day of the claim, adding any household needing an advance could access a full month’s payment within five days of applying.

Mr Hammond said the repayment period for these advances - effectively a loan for struggling claimants - would also be extended from six to 12 months.

“Universal Credit delivers a modern welfare system, where work always pays and people are supported to earn,” he said.

“But I recognise the genuine concerns on both sides of the House about the operational delivery of this benefit.”

Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “These are the beginnings of a rescue package for Universal Credit. But by God does it need a rescue package.”

The Chancellor confirmed the tobacco duty escalator will continue at inflation plus 2%, with an additional 1% duty on hand rolling tobacco this year.

Simon Clark, of smokers’ group Forest, said: “This is the second increase this year. Tobacco duty is already punitively high. A further hike discriminates against smokers who are less well off.

“The Prime Minister famously said her Government wanted to help those who are just about managing. Instead of helping, the Chancellor will push more people into poverty unless they quit smoking or turn to the black market.”

Motoring groups expressed frustration at the decision to raise taxes on diesel cars, stating that those meeting current Euro 6 emissions standards are a vast improvement on previous models.

AA president Edmund King said: “It is unnecessary to realign the VED bands on new sales of diesel cars.

“The current batch of Euro 6 diesels are much cleaner than Euros 1 to 5. This just adds to the demonisation of diesel.

“Sales have slumped which shows drivers are voting with their wheels. Consumers are already making a conscious decision to buy cleaner cars, so the new sales tax is unnecessary.”

Mr Hammond decided against increasing fuel duty, which has been held since March 2011.