Hartlepool ‘will still lose out’ after cuts u-turns in Autumn Statement

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright

Hartlepool is still losing out as a result of the Government’s Spending Review, says the town’s MP.

Chancellor George Osborne revealed the Government was dropping much-lambasted plans to axe Tax Credits, cut free schools meals and slash police budgets nationwide.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright welcomed the moves but said his constituents would still be worse off as a result of Government policies.

“As with most budgets and autumn statements, this was a mixed bag, although I’m concerned that the bulk of pressures will fall on communities like Hartlepool,” he said.

“On the one hand, I’m pleased the Chancellor has bowed to pressure and announced that there will 
be no cuts to the police budget.

“People want to feel safe in the streets, and the tragedy in Paris shows how much the police can be at the forefront of national security and intelligence. I also welcome the U-turn, in the face of pressure from the House of Lords and Labour MPs, to abandon cuts to tax credits, although the small print suggests there will not be a full reversal of cuts.

“I have voted all along for the Chancellor to scrap this, as I believe it penalises working people.

“But the Chancellor is still taking money out of people’s pockets and penalising places like Hartlepool.”

Changes to the way councils are funded would see those in wealthy areas flourish at the expense of those in less affluent parts of the country.

“The changes to business rates will benefit rich places like Westminster while making it even harder for councils in the North like Hartlepool to receive the monies they need to provide essential local services,” said Mr Wright.

“There is a need to fund properly social care, but the announcement that councils will be allowed to charge an extra 2% for social care will no doubt hit Council Tax payers hard if implemented.”

Unions and business leaders react

There was a mixed reaction to yesterday’s Spending Review from unions and business leaders.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “George Osborne’s reference to an industrial policy will come as something of a surprise to the workers in key industries like steel and solar who have lost thousands of jobs in recent months.

“The Chancellor should come to our region to explain what his plan is and explain how it has failed manufacturing so badly. Unemployment in the North East has increased by 13,000 in the last six months and there was little we heard from the Chancellor to suggest things will turn around in our region any time soon.”

North East Chamber of Commerce Director of Policy Ross Smith said the statement has been short on detail on the Government’s much-trumpeted Northern Powerhouse vision. He said: “The Spending Review was the opportunity for the Chancellor to put meat on the bones around the Northern Powerhouse and to confirm how the North East can play a significant part in it. The devolution deals announced last month were a big step towards this. However, what we heard today has mostly been said before and there was not enough to confirm real economic change.

“What we had hoped to hear was a significant and lasting change in measures affecting the pattern of government investment and to direct private investment to the North East. A series of initiatives badged under the Northern Powerhouse brand, while welcome, are not enough to achieve this.”

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg welcomed the news that feared cuts had not materialised. He said: “I am pleased the Government has responded to the calls from PCCs, Chief Constables and the public who know how important local police forces are for keeping communities safe.

“We will need to wait for the detail to be announced in December to find out exactly what this means for Durham Constabulary.

“However, the police cannot work alone. They must work in partnership with communities and other organisations, particularly local authorities.

“The Chancellor has announced major changes to the way councils are funded and we will need to work together to understand the implications for our communities.”